Helping Children to Heal

by Isa Martinez-McDonald, Director, Housing Services

Many of the children who live in our buildings are coping with both the trauma of having witnessed domestic violence, and having been homeless. To help them heal, we use a trauma-informed approach to service delivery including one-on-one assessments, counseling and group activities and workshops for adults and children. Trauma-informed care is an evidence-based approach for working with domestic violence survivors and other populations who have experienced trauma that emphasizes understanding, support and healthy recovery.

To help children heal, our on-site Children’s Activities Specialists offer therapeutic activities for children of all ages. In addition to having fun, these activities foster improved communication skills and help children to better identify and express their feelings. Activities such as If I were a Superhero and What if help them to overcome behavioral challenges that often impact their success at school and in social situations.

Here’s how using a trauma-informed approach helped one child:

The Children’s Activities Specialist at one of our buildings noticed that Carly, a shy 6-year-old, wouldn’t speak when she first started participating in group afterschool activities, preferring to have her older sister speak for her. Drawing on her training, the specialist engaged with Carly one-on-one and worked to gain her trust. After one month, Carly became more comfortable with the specialist and with her peers, and the specialist heard Carly speak for the very first time. The children also noticed the change in Carly, who began to play with them – a huge step since she usually didn’t leave her sister’s side. Carly has blossomed – she now asks the specialist for help with her verbal communication and is more involved in the program activities.

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