Studies indicate that between 10% and 20% of children in the United States are living with intimate partner violence in their homes and thereby having their sense of safety and security devastated. This continued exposure to violence and abuse overwhelms their ability to cope and manifests itself through a broad range of problem behaviors. It’s estimated that 2 million adolescents ages 12- 17 appear to have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (a long-term mental health condition characterized by a variety of behavioral and psychological symptoms), presumably stemming from violent experiences in their past.
The goal of WC&S’ Children’s Program is to provide a safe, nurturing culturally responsive environment where moms can leave their children in the care of competent, caring and well-trained Children’s Advocates. This opportunity allows the mother to attend to other priorities which will assist her in establishing a safe non-violent home for her family. While in the Children’s Program, children receive emotional support through support groups, provision of age-appropriate information on domestic violence and counseling; physical support through on-site access to a pediatrician and dentist and free medications, clothing and eyeglasses provided through Kid Start (on-site); academic support through on-site tutoring, before/after school programming, school advocacy (assistance with enrollment and transportation), access to the Computer Learning Center and disbursement of school supplies; and social support through field trips, summer camp and a children’s festival.
The Children’s Program currently has some great programs and activities taking place on a regular basis, such as the Dreaming Pillow Project, the Zoomobile, Art Expressions, and Institute of International Art and Language (IIAL). Other monthly projects include Lab Rats–a program with the Carnegie Science Center, Therapy Dogs, and African Drumming.
The DJ project is currently underway thanks to a large grant from The Sprout Fund. Amos Levy and Jess Gold of Literary Arts Boom (the LAB) have created a recording studio that will empower teen and tween residents through connected learning in music, writing and recording. Through musical expression, they have the opportunity to address the trauma they may have experienced having witnessed and/or experienced violence in their home. The children will produce podcasts, chapbooks, and a mixtape. In addition to monthly workshops from LAB, staff has been trained on how to use the equipment and facilitate workshops, so they can work on projects with the children throughout the year.
Made possible through the generosity of The Benter Foundation, Eat n’ Park, and the Homeless Children’s Education Fund, WC&S has a therapeutic gardening project in the Children’s Program. This exciting collaboration with Grow Pittsburgh allows residents and their children to grow many fresh vegetables and herbs that can be used for cooking meals. Therapeutic gardening activities in the Children’s Program are deeply embedded in the Sanctuary Model, a blueprint for providing trauma-informed care for helping injured children recover from the damaging effects of interpersonal trauma.
WC&S has also partnered with Family Resources for Parent-Child Interactive Therapy (PCIT), offered on site at WC&S. PCIT is a form of therapy that has two main goals: to enhance a positive relationship between parent and child, and to promote effective behavior management discipline techniques. These goals are accomplished through child-directed interaction and parent-directed interaction in 12 to 20 weekly sessions.
As you can see, WC&S’ Children’s Program is a wonderful environment for children who have suffered the traumatic effects of abuse. Through all of the programs and services offered, WC&S aims to help both mother and child heal and move forward with their lives in a healthy way, violence-free.