We offer a continuum of care for children and youth impacted by trauma and grief through our C.H.I.L.D. Program’s wide array of services.
“Before coming to the Wendt Center, I really didn’t care about school or anything — I was like, ‘Forget it, I’m not doing the work’ — and then my whole attitude changed. I started to care about myself, about school and about other people.”
— Wendt Center Teen Client
C.H.I.L.D. – Child Healing to Improve Learning and Development
C.H.I.L.D. offers the following services
- Individual, family, and group counseling at our Northwest and Southeast offices. Groups are offered for children ages 4-7, 8-12, and 13-18.
- Resilient Scholars Project, providing group and individual counseling at school- and community-based locations throughout the District to children who have experienced at least one traumatic event.
- Crisis response at schools, community centers, and other locations to help children who have been traumatized by acts of community violence or disaster.
- Commemorative community healing events for families and communities impacted by loss, such as candlelight vigils.
- Grief camp (Camp Forget-Me-Not/Camp Erin DC), a therapeutic sleep-away weekend camp for children and youth grieving the loss of a loved one.
- Volunteer support, including mentoring for children and parents.
- Information, education on topics related to child trauma, and referrals provided via intake coordinator and at both office locations, as well as the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME), where the Center’s RECOVER program is located. Parents coming to the OCME meet with RECOVER clinicians and receive comprehensive information and resources to help their children cope with traumatic loss.
- Training and education of providers and the public on issues relating to childhood trauma and loss. Wendt Center teams of therapists and graduate interns provide training or consultation to local schools, community centers, and other social service agencies throughout the metro areal, including consultation to facilitate on-site support for children.
- Professional Training by senior staff clinicians to any mental health professional interested in providing individual or group grief counseling services to children and teens.
Resilient Scholars Project (RSP)
RSP clinicians deliver weekly individual or group therapy services to children and adolescents effected by trauma and/or loss in locations where they already are, at DC public and charter schools and other child-serving locales. This community-based project is grounded in evidence based treatment models such as trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT), play therapy, mindfulness, and strengths based perspective. RSP clinicians facilitate services using games, art, experiential activities, writing, and other modalities to explain concepts to participants in developmentally appropriate ways. The goal of RSP is to collaborate with youth, their caregivers, and partner staff to develop new coping skills that are healthy and practical. Weekly sessions allow participants the space to process their experiences and highlight existing resilience. Outcomes include 85% of participants experiencing a reduction in trauma/grief symptoms and responses. Additionally, participants reported feeling empowered to “look at life in a new and positive way”. Several RSP resources are included below:
Our Philosophy of Working with Children and Teens
Children express themselves through play and action. Toys, games, activities and drawing offer youth a way to explore feelings and life situations. Fantasy provides a safe place where youngsters can look at all kinds of issues.
Talking is often not the most complete way for children, and even teens, to communicate their feelings. They may have difficulty expressing the complex way emotions affect their lives. Young children have not learned the vocabulary and the meaning of feelings. For instance, what is the difference between “frustrated,” “scared,” “guilty,” and “anxious?” Very few children could explain the subtle differences and how the feelings influence their thoughts and behavior. Yet almost all children could play out the feelings with puppets, paints or games of imagination. In the presence of a trained therapist, play becomes the key to understanding and helping the child find ways to cope.
Whether in groups or individually, we find that play and activities are an important part of our work with children and teens. Sometimes it gets quite active, sometimes it’s silent. Counseling sessions last about 50 minutes and therapy takes several weeks or longer. It may be a continuous or intermittent process because it always responds to each child’s needs.
It is also important to realize that your child will probably not return from a session able or willing to talk about what they learned. How many times have you asked your child, “What did you do in school today?” only to be told, “Nothing?” Yet, when report cards come out, it’s clear your child was doing something. Play therapy is like that. Parents frequently wonder what throwing a ball or acting out Beauty and the Beast could possibly have to do with grief. But for a child, either could have important meaning.
We must also remember that confidentiality is as essential to children as it is to adults. Our conversations with the families always respect the children’s privacy (unless, of course, there is a question of safety to the children or someone else). Working with families to serve children in the most gentle and appropriate way is our primary concern.
For more information, contact our Intake Coordinator, at (202) 204-5021.