Safe Start in the Community: Kalamazoo, Mich.

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Throughout the month we will feature the 10 Safe Start Promising Approaches grantees and the work they’re doing in their communities to help children exposed to violence and their families.

Going into the Project PERK (Partnering to Effectively Reduce the Impact of Violence in Kalamazoo) parenting group, Kamilla feels uncertain. She knows her daughter was at the children’s group learning about the effects of experiencing violence. Both enjoyed their group experiences. Kamilla says, “I enjoy socializing with other parents. We help each other and learn that many of us have similar concerns. No matter how stressed I am when I come to group, I always leave feeling better.”

Kamilla says, “Not much has changed in my home or community but since I started Project PERK, I feel I’m handling it better. I can control my anger. By checking my stress level, I know when I need to take a time-out.” In groups, adults learn to identify their stress level by using a stress scale from 1 to 10. Parents learn how their brain responds to stress, how extreme stress affects their ability to think clearly, and how stress compromises their ability to make positive choices for their children. Their children obtain similar knowledge, which increases the family’s use of a common language for expressing feelings. Many parents in Project PERK feel connected and continue meeting on their own once sessions end.

Ursula, another member of the Project PERK group, reports that her grandson Enrique’s behavior improved once they began using the common language of stress levels to identify things that are challenging for Enrique. She notes, “Enrique’s behavior in school is improving.”

Sophie, also a member of the Project PERK parenting group, learned that children don’t always lash out just to be bad but can have something going on that causes this behavior. She says “By learning to cool down, I am not making situations worse. Now, I talk to my daughter, Mia, to see what’s really going on. Mia is also able to cool down instead of making the situation worse with anger.”

Mia says, “I’ve learned to calm my stress, ignore the bad stuff, or hold my breath and count to ten.”

Southwest Michigan Children’s Trauma Assessment Center (Project PERK)

Western Michigan University
1000 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49008

Focus:

Children and families exposed to violence living in Kalamazoo city or township

Age Range:

8–16

Interventions:

  • Partnering to Effectively Reduce the Impact of Violence in Kalamazoo
  • Psychological First Aid*
  • Trauma Affect Regulation Guide for Education and Therapy*
  • Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Referral*

*Evidence-based or promising practice

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