With a history of service dating back to 1892, one nonprofit is finding new ways to help children and families deal with very modern challenges.
Gunshots ringing through the streets, one parent abusing another, even the legacy of an epically destructive hurricane — such stress and trauma weigh heavily on some children in our community. They don’t always have the words to express how they feel about it, so the impact can turn up in other ways.
“So the symptoms that maybe school social workers or teachers are seeing with children who are being aggressive or not following directions or struggling in school for whatever reason often have this underlying reason,” says Rochelle Gauthier, a social worker with the Children’s Bureau of New Orleans. “Different kids have different ways that they’re experiencing the traumas that they have been through. So it’s figuring out which ones they’re experiencing the most and how we can help them and their parents to help them sort of get through those things.”
The nonprofit Children’s Bureau works with a wide spectrum of mental health issues, from individuals with severe mental illness to families going through a divorce to an entire school coping with a violent incident. Paulette Carter is executive director of the Children’s Bureau, and she says one of its major programs, called Project LAST, has grown in direct response to what our children are facing.
“In the early 1990s, Project LAST began because there were a lot of kids who were being exposed to community violence,” Carter says. “And really over time this program has evolved to work with children who have experienced any type of grief or trauma. Certainly after Hurricane Katrina we worked with a lot of children who were dealing with those feelings and the trauma of Katrina. We also are currently working with a lot of children again who have been exposed to community violence. I think a lot of the children in our community are exposed to it on a regular basis.”
To remove some of the barriers that can keep people from getting help, the Children’s Bureau has developed community-based services, where social workers and therapists visit children in their schools or in their homes.
“It’s really about making sure that all children and families in our community have access to mental health services, not just those who have transportation or those who have child care,” says Carter.
By bringing its services to people’s doors, this approach sidesteps the all-too-common stigma attached to seeking help from a clinic. At the same time, the group uses grants and other funding tools to make counseling financially accessible too. As Gauthier has seen, this home- and school-based approach can yield more effective therapy. That’s good news for children and their families, and for the whole community.
“A lot of research shows that children who are exposed to community violence, domestic violence, abuse of any sort, sexual, physical, emotional, neglect, end up not doing as well in school, maybe not graduating, ending up also becoming more violent themselves,” she says. “So we’re able to offer services to the children who probably need them most in the community, who wouldn’t be able to be provided with quality services otherwise.”
Learn more about the Children’s Bureau at www.childrens-bureau.com or call (504) 525-2366.