As many as one out of five children are sexually abused, according to a Kaiser Permanente study. In addition, it is estimated that over a quarter of all children are mistreated, abused, or witness family violence. With staggering numbers like that, it’s frightening to consider how or if these children get assistance. Thankfully, there are outreach and support programs like Kids in Crisis, a Connecticut nonprofit.
These organizations are necessary for improving the lives of children all over the United States. However, most are financially dependent on donations and grants. get.noblehour.com and its parent company, TreeTop Commons, know that funding concerns are among the leading setbacks for nonprofits working toward social responsibility and cultivating sustained volunteerism. That’s why the company launched a grant competition last fall to mobilize volunteers to address challenges facing local communities. Kids in Crisis was awarded a $6,500 NobleCause grant to support SafeTalk, an assault and bullying prevention program offered for free to K-5 classes in the area.
SafeTalk incorporates the Child Assault Prevention program (CAP) curriculum, an international program that began in 1978. CAP is under the auspices of the International Center for Assault Prevention (ICAP), and is currently implemented in 32 states and 10 other countries. Since Kids in Crisis started presenting the program in 1999, they have reached over 50,000 students.
Kids in Crisis has also offered round-the-clock crisis counseling and temporary shelter in their emergency shelter program since 1978. According to Shari Shapiro, Executive Director of Kids in Crisis, their emergency shelter program serves Connecticut girls and boys, newborns to 17 years of age, of any race, religion, ethnicity, socioeconomic level, sexual orientation, gender identity, and community of origin. All Kids in Crisis programs and services are free. In 2015, over 6,000 children and families received services from Kids in Crisis.
VOLUNTEERS ARE NEEDED
The largest tool for any nonprofit is the number of volunteers they can recruit, and Kids in Crisis is no different. Kristen Tomasiewicz, their Community Services Director, says the NobleCause grant allows them to market the SafeTalk program in new ways, which gets the word out to more potential volunteers and interns. Increased marketing also enables them to reach new schools and more children.
In 2015, SafeTalk was presented to nearly 4,000 students in 14 schools and agencies. Kids in Crisis is hoping that, with the help of the grant money, at least one more school can be added, increasing their student outreach by 350 kids. The directors of the program feel that, by reaching more schools, they can really make a difference in the lives of students.
SafeTalk’s core message is that everyone has the right to live “Safe, Strong & Free.” It teaches children how to make safe and healthy choices, stand up for themselves and for others, and how to seek help when needed. The presentations are lively, with lots of interaction and role-playing between presenters and the children to illustrate threats and protective strategies.
At the end of each presentation, children have the opportunity to meet with presenters one-on-one to ask questions or just talk. In addition to asking questions, some children seek help for personal challenges, family struggles, and sometimes actually report physical or sexual assault. When this happens, Kids in Crisis takes action to secure the child’s safety, and resultant arrests have been made. Kids in Crisis advocates for American youth by providing a safe place and support when kids and families need it most.
CRISIS AND COMMUNITY OUTREACH
Kids in Crisis will use part of the NobleCause grant to bring attention to their emergency shelter program and Crisis Helpline programs. Their emergency shelter program is the only one in Connecticut that provides crisis intervention and emergency shelter to boys and girls, anyone under 6 years of age, and for children who were referred by family, neighbors, or agencies concerned for their wellbeing. This is also the only emergency shelter program in the area that shelters groups of siblings and has an onsite health clinic. The emergency shelter program operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Their capacity is 20 children, with 10 spaces for newborns to 12 year olds, and 10 spaces for 13 to 17 year olds.
Crisis Counselors answer calls on the 24/7 Crisis Helpline (203-327-KIDS) from families, friends, neighbors, teachers, police, social service agencies, and even children themselves. Sometimes, the counselors just give advice or provide referrals, while other times they arrange for meals or a bed, emergency medical care, or meeting callers in person to provide guidance. Last year the Helpline received 918 calls and the Crisis Counselors provided 304 face-to-face interventions. Their amazing counselors also continue to reach out to the families, help them explore other options, connect to services, and provide contact if the families ever need help in the future.
If the Crisis Counselors cannot ensure a child’s safety after evaluating the situation, the child or children are then brought to the Emergency Shelter program where social workers, an Advanced Practice Nurse (APRN), a psychologist, and a psychiatrist are all on call to provide physical and psychological assessments. Social workers help organize family counseling, and connect the child and their family to services that can help the child grow in a much healthier setting. The psychologist and psychiatrist develop treatment plans that fit each child’s mental needs. The nurse helps address any physical or developmental concerns. Last year the Emergency Shelter program had 113 residents for a total of 3,109 nights of stay.
CHANGING CHILDREN’S LIVES
The amount of community outreach this nonprofit is capable of, and has achieved in the past, is astounding. With more resources to put into community outreach through their SafeTalk program, and to generate more awareness of their emergency shelter program and Crisis Helpline, who knows how many children and families they can help in Connecticut?
An eight-year-old named Jessie is just one of the many children helped by the SafeTalk program. According to Tomasiewicz, after a SafeTalk presentation at her school, Jessie shared with her presenters that her parents were going through a very difficult divorce. Her mother had a restraining order against her father, who was violent and abused drugs heavily. Jessie revealed that her father frequently called her whenever he was abusing drugs.
The Kids in Crisis staff immediately developed a plan with the school psychologist to help Jessie navigate the situation. The school psychologist reached out to Jessie’s mother about handling the phone calls, and also invited Jessie to attend her weekly lunch, where kids could just talk about their lives and whatever was on their minds. Because Jessie’s school valued the lessons SafeTalk teaches young children, she learned that everyone has the right to live safe, strong, and free. The Kids in Crisis staff unburdened Jessie of a weight that no eight-year-old should have to endure, and provided her with appropriate, ongoing support.
OUTREACH AND SUPPORT
There are children struggling in your own community. You can help bring awareness to programs just like this one. If you would like to support Kids in Crisis, and help them continue the amazing work they’re doing, click here. Do you want to get involved in your community? Find meaningful volunteer opportunities near you with NobleHour!
The NobleCause grants, organized by get.noblehour.com, were made possible by an anonymous donor within the GiveWell Community Foundation, which serves Polk County, Florida. The NobleCause grant competition, launched in 2015, invited high schools, school districts, colleges and universities, and nonprofits to identify and address a local challenge and to recruit and enrich the social responsibility of volunteers. 100 organizations were awarded $6,500 grants, while seven exemplary organizations were recognized at the $50,000 level. get.noblehour.com is dedicated to using NobleCause to increase volunteerism that raises awareness at the local level and develops community members who can take action.
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By NobleHour Special Contributor:
Latasha Doyle is a writer and long term care volunteer living outside of Denver, Colorado. When she’s not writing or volunteering, she enjoys crocheting, Netflix marathons, and planning her next trip.