Nine-year-old Liam and his 13-year-old sister, Melanie, are playing in the basement. Their lives, up to that moment, have been what every child deserves: quiet, stable, ordered. The gunshots from upstairs end all that. Their mother is critically wounded. Their father is dead by the gun he used on their mother and then turned on himself.
At the hospital, surgeons fight to save Liam and Melanie’s mother. Relatives arrive but no one knows what to do for the children. For Liam and Melanie, everything is confusion and noise and shock. The thing too terrible to be true – replaying over and over and over.
That’s the moment help arrives. In walks an on-call trauma response therapist from ChildSavers, specially trained to intervene at the most unimaginable times in a child’s life.
“Traumatic experiences can have a significant and lasting impact on development, behavior, emotional regulation, and relationships,” says Dan LaCroix, ChildSavers’ trauma response program manager. According to LaCroix, unresolved childhood mental health issues have been linked to poor academic performance, high dropout rates, and an increased use of public services later in life (that is, more tax dollars spent on incarceration and criminal justice, welfare, and the like).
Formed in 1924 as Memorial Child Guidance Clinic, ChildSavers has been serving the mental health needs of children for ninety years. In the 12-month period ending June 2014, ChildSavers’ Trauma Response Team extended nearly two thousand hours of trauma-informed counseling to children and teens that witnessed or experienced a traumatic event.
The Trauma Response Team members are ChildSavers’ first responders. Their timely intervention is an essential first step in a long-term healing process, and ChildSavers has programs to meet these ongoing needs. Counseling services help children like Liam and Melanie process events in an age-appropriate and emotionally healing way. Play therapy, sand trays, and art and music therapy are key components in the healing process.
Beyond trauma response, ChildSavers provides a wide variety of outpatient counseling services for children. Therapy is also extended to the families who support these children. In all cases, services are provided regardless of a patient’s economic circumstances.
A third ChildSavers program, Child Development Services, works with childcare providers across the region to ensure that these providers are properly trained, and their facilities equipped to provide high-quality childcare.
“Every child in our community should be safe, healthy, happy, and ready to learn,” says L. Robert Bolling, ChildSavers CEO. “Unfortunately, for many of our kids this is not reality. ChildSavers is a place where children find healing and hope, and where those who teach our community’s youngest can enhance their skills so that these children can be successful in school and in life.”
Fortunately, Liam and Melanie’s mother survived, and today the family is moving forward. “ChildSavers made all the difference in our lives,” says their mother. “My children were supported and I was supported and taught how to best help them navigate this emotional battlefield.”
There is no cure for the traumas children like Liam and Melanie endure, but there can be recovery. It’s a process that unfolds slowly, over the course of years, but it begins right there in the heart of the devastation, when ChildSavers responds to the call of a child in trouble.
Supper at Sunset is May 24
Enjoy the Richmond skyline at sunset, and an exceptional dining experience featuring an unforgettable, 5-course meal crafted by the chefs of Metzger Bar and Butchery, Brenner Pass, and Saison. This dinner is complemented with wine pairings, cocktails by The Jasper, live music from Church Hill Music Company, and the breathtaking view of Richmond city as the sun sets. Your ticket supports Childsavers crucial mental health and child development programs.