#TogetherWeCan prevent and treat child abuse by strengthening families and neighborhoods.
The first time our Family Retreat Center in Mars, PA served as a space for children was over 150 years ago. The property was one of the few places youth could breathe fresh air at the height of Pittsburgh's steel industry. Today, groups of all ages gather at our Retreat Center for team building, reflection, and other special events.
For example, over the last two weeks we hosted a group of 25 children from 12 countries. The group was organized by Pittsburgh CISV, a youth program whose mission is to foster world peace through friendship, inter-cultural exchange, and education. The students, from countries like Ecuador, Brazil, and France, met to discuss how sustainable development can promote peace. They also learned conflict resolution skills through several experiential learning activities.
At Family Resources we are committed to nonviolence and are delighted to host this group of young leaders. CISV Pittsburgh's work resonates deeply with our mission of strengthening families and neighborhoods. Our prevention, intervention, and treatment services contribute to community development and sustainability. We believe that developing close relationships and strong support networks is an essential part of peace building, which starts at the family level and ultimately impacts our global community.
We are proud to continue our tradition as a place where growth and change take place. Learn more about how you can help us keep this tradition alive and make our Retreat Center available to low-income youth around Pittsburgh.
Perhaps the first time you were afraid was before you overcame the fear of a new animal, like right before you realized dogs were friendly. Maybe it was the first time your parents or caregivers dropped you off at childcare for a whole day and you cried because strangers, although friendly people, surrounded you. These first fears were manageable, and overcoming them prepared you for your encounter with a more unpleasant feeling, stress.
Stress is different from those first fears. You might have experienced a little stomachache or the sensation of touching a cold object with your hands. Tears may have flowed as you became frustrated with the outside world and felt, what you would later call it, overwhelmed. This might have happened after your parent’s bitter separation. Eventually you recovered from the stress of these serious events and felt safe again. The protection and guidance of caring adults helped you cope with these incidences. This is, most likely, what prevented you from experiencing traumatic stress, the challenge our Therapeutic Preschool students often experience.
If you are one of our students, you are under the age of five, have experienced some form of sexual or physical abuse, or domestic violence, and you might live in a community struggling with violence and poverty. Like other children, you have experienced those first fears and some stress. But you have also felt confusion, helplessness, and what you will one day call trauma. The last time you felt safe seems like a long time ago. You startle easily. You feel overwhelmed by new and unknown emotions. You feel tired. Your stomach hurts often.
Concentrating on games is hard, images of your trauma keep coming back and you're unsure if they're real or part of a bad dream. You don't know whom to trust. It seems like adults are always angry. You want to feel protected so at times you act aggressively. You try to talk about how you feel, but you lack the words and don’t know how to express yourself. Learning becomes difficult because your mind is bombarded with negative thoughts, nightmares, and recurring fears of being in danger. The traumatic stress soon becomes tiring, frightful, and very confusing. Your caregivers are worried. They want to help you. They know there's nothing wrong with you, but a lot has happened.
At Family Resources, we understand trauma is what happens when your ability to cope is maxed out. In children, this can have a long-term impact on health and mechanisms to cope with stress. We also understand that children can and do recover from trauma. As one of our students you participate in therapeutic play, daily check-ins on feelings, yoga, and in a specialized curriculum designed to help you express and recognize your emotions. We also engage your caregivers and encourage them to participate in our services, such as counseling. We understand affording childcare can be a great challenge. That's why if you have a history of trauma, you can attend our Preschool free of charge.
You can help us make children feel safe again by learning more about trauma, spreading the word, and supporting Family Resources.
Written by Dany Diaz Mejia
Meet Tamara. She is the mother of two teenagers and five-year-old Cameron.
Two years ago, Tamara’s husband and children spent the afternoon tidying their home. After a long day of chores, Tamara dropped Cameron off at his grandmother’s and met her husband at the movie theater for a date night. They laughed during the show and then said goodbye to each other as Tamara left to pick up Cameron and her husband went to meet their older children for a late night snack.
Tamara didn’t know then that she was saying goodbye to her husband forever.
In the early hours of the following morning, Tamara and Cameron woke to the sound of gunshots outside their freshly cleaned home. Tamara, with her children by her side, rushed to see what happened…
Cameron’s father lay face down in the flowerbed, a pool of blood surrounding him.
The days after were filled with family, friends and a funeral. Heartache and depression followed, though Tamara still had to help her children-—especially three-year old Cameron—cope with the traumatic event they witnessed. Cameron was angry, aggressive, and cried out at night. Tamara didn’t know what to do with him.
A friend of Tamara’s reached out and told her about Therapeutic Preschool at Family Resources, where Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is taught. SEL is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.
Along with SEL, Family Resources therapists are trained in trauma-informed care. After being enrolled in the preschool, Cameron met with the therapists for individual therapy, and then group therapy. Slowly, his teachers watched as Cameron’s anger and frustration disappeared. He began following rules, interacting with the other children in healthy ways, and the little boy, who once sat outside the circle of children the first month of school slowly made his way to the middle of the group.
Cameron’s tears lessened and his smile returned. Tamara credits the staff at Family Resources for the positive change in Cameron’s behavior. And when Cameron graduated to a traditional school setting, Tamara asked to speak at his graduation ceremony.
“In order to be successful in school, they need to get their emotions out, talk about their feelings,” she said. Family Resources Therapeutic Preschool is a “safe place to say what
he feels. They (FR staff) showed him how to love and build trust. You’ve got to work your feelings out before you can learn
Family Resources staff at the Therapeutic Preschool was trained to help children like Cameron overcome trauma. And you can help other children like Cameron who have witnessed violence or who have been victims of abuse by clicking the donate button below or sending a check to the following:
Attn: Nina Zappa
1425 Forbes Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
We can’t do our work without you.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. We are proud to partner with Southwest PA Says No More and other like-minded agencies to bring awareness to the completely preventable crimes of domestic and sexual violence.
Southwest PA Says No More is a growing community of organizations and individuals who are working together to end domestic and sexual violence. For more information about Southwest PA Says No More and for a list or partner agencies visit the Southwest PA Says No More website: http://southwestpasaysnomore.org
After a three year journey, the Sanctuary Institute has now certified Family Resources in the Sanctuary Model. Incorporating this model across our organization helps us offer more focused support, interventions and treatment that recognizes our client’s history of chronic stress, adversity and trauma.
To read more about our Sanctuary Commitment click here.