This month we’re celebrating a decade of strengthening the human spirit. The Center for Grieving Children embodies that work.
Childhood is rarely the stuff of television sitcoms. Although we would all like to protect the youngest members of our community, reality is that many children are forced to deal with sorrow and grief at a very tender age. Some are dealing with public tragedies, such as the loss of a popular teacher or coach. Others are enveloped in a private shroud of sadness when a parent or caregiver passes away. Specific circumstances may vary, but the loneliness and anguish are all too common. The Center for Grieving Children, a 2015 Impact100 Philadelphia grant recipient, creates a path to healing for children coping with death while strengthening families, communities and professionals’ understanding of how best to respond to their needs.
The Center is committed to providing services where their clients live, so our funding resulted in the expansion of services throughout Northeast and Southwest Philadelphia. New therapeutic groups have been established in city neighborhoods such as East Falls, West and South Philadelphia and the lower Northeast. Now when children and families are referred to the Center for Grieving Children, geography is not a barrier. The group also provides tokens for public transportation to eliminate remaining obstacles to treatment. They understand that the program is only useful if it is accessible to their neediest constituents.
Grief is frequently a family affair, which is why The Center for Grieving Children runs separate programs for children and their caregivers. Each group is given the appropriate setting and resources required for specific needs. Anyone who has experienced loss knows that there is no single process or exact timetable for healing. When additional services are required, The Center for Grieving Children makes carefully considered referrals to other agencies, partners and, in cases of severe trauma, local psychiatrists. They truly advocate for children and families at the most vulnerable point in their lives.
For many students, schools are the hub of an array of special services, so The Center for Grieving Children has forged a burgeoning partnership with the Philadelphia school system. Children are often referred by teachers and school counselors for in-school programs to facilitate their healing process. In-school grief groups operate eight week sessions, and students are able to enroll as long as they need to participate. Compassionate school staff see grieving children every day, and are an essential piece of the students’ support system. The Center for Grieving Children provides extensive training to teachers and other professionals to make sure the best practices available are utilized. This initiative was also supported through Impact100 Philadelphia funding.
Group activities organized by The Center focus on a wide range of techniques. In addition to traditional group therapy and peer support, The Center for Grieving Children offers healing through professional art, music, movement and play therapy. Grief counselors understand that children express themselves in different ways and, as a result of the Impact100 Philadelphia grant, have expanded their services to include Spanish-speaking therapists.
What’s next for The Center for Grieving Children? The legacy of Impact100 Philadelphia funding has been profound. As a result of our 2015 grant, The Center for Grieving Children has received additional monies from government and private sources in recognition of their fine work. Impact100 Philadelphia support has allowed the agency to expand outreach: in 2017, The Center for Grieving Children served approximately 700 children. Everyday life throughout our city has not made the task easier. Staffers recognize that school safety and community safety are different, so some children may be retraumatized on a daily basis. Death is a fact of life, and The Center for Grieving Children is committed to building relationships, partnerships and establishing new ones in support of the children depending on them. The need for additional comprehensive services continues. More after school programs, an increase in Spanish-speaking counselors and special outreach to adjudicated youth are the focus of future planning. Sadly, there is an unending stream of grieving children who are our neighbors. We know the biggest certainty is the continued need for The Center for Grieving Children in our community.
For more information regarding The Center for Grieving Children or to learn more: https://grievingchildren.org/