Children are among the most vulnerable people in our society. And, sadly, children may find themselves in crisis at some point in their young lives, whether it be due to family environment, mental health, the loss of a loved one or other trauma. In Oregon, the child welfare system has become overburdened, putting already vulnerable children at risk for experiencing additional trauma. While Oregon’s governor recently assembled a task force to address the crisis in the child welfare system, government isn’t the only sector working to improve services for vulnerable children. Many Oregon nonprofits dedicate their missions to this service and are important players in bringing hope and healing to children in crisis.
Therapeutic intervention. Teachable moments. Understanding. A stable environment. All vital components of healing and growth for children seeking mental and emotional wellness. In rural coastal Oregon, there is an urgent and growing need for mental health services for children. Recognized nationally for developing innovative supports and services for children in crisis, Kairos Northwest, based in Southern Oregon, met that need by building a new facility in Coos Bay, in close collaboration with other Coos County partners who work in that arena. Its residential treatment program is now housed in two beautiful spaces known as the New Beginnings Center, where children and youth receive the vital treatment they need during times of crisis.
Foster care is a large part of the child welfare system. More than 11,000 children are placed in foster care every year in Oregon, and the foster care system is sadly overburdened by this great need, combined with diminishing resources and a shortage of foster homes. Fortunately, nonprofits like Morrison Child and Family Services provide safe and positive support for foster children and foster families. Morrison, based in Portland, is especially geared toward working with children who have experienced severe trauma, providing therapeutic foster homes and treatment for addiction, abuse trauma and mental health crises. Morrison also steps in for children who are at risk of being displaced from their homes to provide respite to their parents and treatment for the children in temporary out-of-home placement.
An often-overlooked source of trauma and vulnerability for children is the loss of a loved one. The impact of grief on children, especially due to the loss of a parent, is immense, greatly increasing the risk of long-term depression and anxiety. The Dougy Center in Portland offers a safe place where children and youth can share their experiences of grief through peer support groups. A pioneer in its field, Dougy also offers training and educational materials to other agencies working with children and is often called in to assist in long-term program development following natural disasters.
Child abuse and neglect are a tragic and all-to-real occurrence in our society. The Relief Nursery model was developed to use therapeutic approaches to help children who have endured prolonged trauma, especially focusing on helping children develop a stronger sense of self and security, which are key to academic learning and preventing behavioral problems. Treasure Valley Children’s Relief Nursery in Malheur County offers this valuable therapeutic approach, while also working to break the cycle of abuse and neglect by providing parent education and support. TVCRN’s important work not only improves the lives of children and their parents, but positively affects their communities as a whole by reducing substance abuse, unemployment, poverty, homelessness and many other related factors.
It is our hope that children would never be in situations that cause them harm or trauma, but while this still happens in our society, we are grateful to partner with caring nonprofits who make invaluable and tangible differences in the lives of vulnerable children. These organizations not only work to address the effects of trauma on children, but they actively work toward preventing these traumas in the first place through education and support. These preventive services are present in many of the sectors we serve, from healthcare clinics to children’s theater programs to youth camps to educational museums. Each organization offers a piece of education, culture and connection to bring hope into the lives of children affected by trauma, helping them and their families experience the world in a different way and helping to change the trajectory of their lives.