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WC&S Children's Program

A Day in the Life of a Child at Women’s Center & Shelter

“Mom seems really upset lately. I asked her what was wrong, and she didn’t answer me. She used to always greet me with a smile when I got back from school, which I never see anymore. I think she’s afraid of Dad; he always gets really angry when he’s around her. They always tell me to go up to my room but I can hear the yelling from there. Mom never seems to yell back and just listens. I want to ask and know what’s wrong, but Mom would never tell me. It’s hard to fall asleep sometimes; usually I’m worried that Mom is sad. Being at home makes me sad too, because I’m scared of all the yelling. I want to help Mom, but have no idea what to do.”

Domestic violence affects children, too. At Women’s Center & Shelter, the goal of our Children’s Program is to help children feel safe and explore their feelings in a positive environment. While the mothers are discussing housing, employment, and other pressing concerns, children are able to feel safe and cared for. The Program has many activities that promote physical, emotional, interpersonal, and social wellness for each child, all while giving them the  support they need to cope with trauma and heal in a steady and positive manner. Here at WC&S, we help children all the way from birth up to and including age seventeen (for young men). What are the different types of support we offer for the children?

WC&S Children's ProgramEmotional support

Children talking about the way they feel is instrumental in the recovery and moving forward from witnessing domestic abuse. Our Child Advocates provide daily check-ins with the children so they’re able to express how they’re feeling and receive the help and support they need. The children also receive information about domestic violence; however, all of the information is age-appropriate and provided to the children only at the right time. If extra counseling is needed, the children are referred to counseling resources to help them cope with their emotions. Some types of therapy we provide here at WC&S are music and writing therapy.

Academic support

On-site programming is offered before and after school through the Homeless Children’s Education Fund, to help make sure kids are performing to the best of their abilities. There is access to tutoring, reading programs, a Computer Learning Center at WC&S. We also offer a library full of books and school supplies for those who need them!

Interpersonal and Social support

To help the children socialize, have fun, and just be kids, we offer field trips and summer camps, letting kids build connections and friendships. In August, we host our annual Children’s Festival, as well as ongoing events scheduled with our partner organizations such as Lab Rats, Carnegie Museum, the Dreaming Pillow Project, and Beverly’s Birthdays. Volunteers at WC&S often host children’s parties, with games, arts and crafts, treats, and activities. Many of the activities include celebrating cultural diversity, which allows the children to recognize and embrace their diverse backgrounds!

Advocacy and Referrals

Many of our community partners allow for connections to medications, clothing, prescription eyeglasses, and other necessities. We offer contact with school advocacy services, and facilitate school enrollment and transportation. We also provide access to a pediatrician and dentist for children staying in Emergency Shelter.

“Mom seems so much happier now. There is no more yelling, so I can finally get a good night’s sleep. I saw her smile for the first time in forever; I missed her being happy. I was finally able to talk to someone and tell them how the entire situation at home made me feel. They understood how scary it was and taught me ways to make myself feel better. I still get to do all of my schoolwork, and get help from people when my homework is too hard. I have met some other kids here, and look forward to the fun field trips we get to go on together! Most importantly, I feel safe here at the Shelter, as does Mom, and we don’t have to live in fear anymore!”

Want to be a Corporate Volunteer? Here’s how!

Have you ever wanted to give your employees the chance to bond outside of the office? Have you wondered if there was a way to participate in team building while having employees do meaningful work? Do you and your employees want to make a difference in the communities where you live and work? Our corporate volunteer program can help! Volunteering as a company at Women’s Center & Shelter (WC&S) provides corporate teams with opportunities to create and implement volunteer projects that not only support the WC&S mission but also help to build camaraderie and boost morale. In fact, 629 corporate volunteers donated 1,594.7 hours in the last year!

Volunteers at WCSAt Women’s Center & Shelter, we work with companies of all sizes and focus areas. There are three main types of corporate volunteering opportunities that we offer: meal prep, cleaning and maintenance, and children’s parties. However, we’re always willing to customize something special based upon your goals. Most volunteer projects are ideal for groups of four to 10 volunteers.

Meal Prep

Preparing meals for residents and their children is a great way to help. Volunteers are asked to provide the ingredients for the meals which can be prepared on or off-site as long as safety guidelines are followed. We do suggest preparing the meal here on-site as it promotes volunteer engagement. Meal prep is our most popular corporate volunteering option!

Cleaning and Maintenance

A huge priority at WC&S is keeping the building clean and neat for residents and their children, as this helps them feel safe and secure. Depending on the day of the week, you will be able to assist with cleaning, landscaping, and/or general building maintenance.

Children’s Parties

Let kids be kids! Host a children’s party by putting together a pizza party, ice-cream social, or arts and crafts project. Or, use the toys and activities already available in the Children’s Program to create your own fun. These parties can take place Mondays, Tuesdays, or Thursdays from 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm.   

Participating in our corporate volunteer program is a wonderful opportunity to get to know your coworkers, while letting our residents and children know that others care. The possibilities are endless! No clearances are required for corporate volunteers as these projects are typically one-time and not ongoing. Men are also welcome to volunteer! To learn more about our corporate volunteering opportunities, please email phillipsj@wcspittsburgh.org.

Abuse is Abuse: Recognizing Domestic Violence in LGBTQ+ Relationships

Abuse Still Happens in LGBTQ+ Relationships.

Put yourself in the shoes of a victim of an abusive relationship. Imagine the feelings of hopelessness, powerlessness, fear, and desperation. Think about how it would feel to be trapped, yet too scared to ask for help to find a way out. What if people didn’t think your relationship was valid? What if no one knew that you’re gay? What if you had to choose between seeking help and outing yourself and your sexuality? Abuse in LGBTQ+ relationships happens at the same rate as in same-sex relationships and is just as damaging and hurtful. In fact, in some cases, LGBTQ+ people experience IPV at even higher rates than others. But in these relationships, there are often extra obstacles when seeking help.

Abusers in LGBTQ+ relationships may use the same methods to gain and maintain power over their partners as in opposite-gender relationships, such as sexual and emotional abuse, physical abuse, isolation, financial control, and others.

LGBTQ Domestic violenceThese batterers may also exploit their partners’ LGBTQ+ identity to reinforce their control. One tactic involves the threat of “outing” a partner’s sexual orientation to others and claiming negative consequences will follow. Another tactic of abuse is claiming that a partner does not really qualify as LGBTQ+, which further isolates the victim from community support. In the transgender community, some methods of abuse include refusal to use a partner’s preferred pronoun, or withholding medication like hormone therapy.

The LGBTQ+ community has fewer specialized resources and they may struggle with shame or embarrassment, too, because of internalized homophobia. Batterers take advantage of this shame. Victims who choose to report abuse may fear that no one will take them seriously because of the stereotype that abuse in LGBTQ+ relationships is always mutual, or simply doesn’t exist. Victims of domestic abuse in same-sex relationships are 30 more times likely than victims in heterosexual relationships to be arrested alongside their abusive partners once law enforcement is involved, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Moreover, many fear that IPV services are not inclusive of LGBTQ people, since the rhetoric of the domestic violence movement has historically centered on heterosexual, cisgender women.

All people deserve the right to be in safe and healthy relationships. At Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, we offer a safe environment for anyone in an abusive relationship who is seeking help regardless of their sexual orientation. No one is turned away because of whom they choose to love; no one is judged. We know and understand that intimate partner violence can happen to anyone. At WC&S, you are believed and you are welcome.