Safe Start in the Community: Queens, NY

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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.

After a workshop on Positive Parenting Strategies at a local school, Monica asks to speak to Lorena, the Project CONNECT team member who gave the presentation. She relays her concerns about her son, Alex, whom she describes as defiant and angry. Monica recounts years of domestic violence she experienced with Alex’s father. Although her relationship with the father is over, she recognizes that the abuse that Alex witnessed was harmful to him. Lorena encourages Monica to enroll in CONNECT services at the Long Island City branch of the Queens Library.

At the library, Alex spends time in the children’s area, uses the library’s computers, or hangs out with the youth counselor while his mother works with the family therapist. The therapist tells Monica she can receive information from the library’s case manager on benefits, available services, job opportunities, and adult education classes.

In treatment, the therapist asks Monica and Alex to talk about what they want to happen at home, to clarify their goals, and to solve issues that might keep them from attending the sessions. The sessions provide a safe space for open discussions about stigma and fears regarding treatment and to speak about the violence that occurred in their lives and how to process the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to these traumatic events.

Monica and Alex learn strategies to cope with stressful events, including relaxation skills like “belly breathing” and muscle relaxation, how to restructure distressing thoughts, and how to negotiate conflict. Monica learns skills to increase positive interactions with Alex, such as giving praise, effective rewards, and learning how to give clear instructions and rules. These skills help strengthen the respect Monica receives from Alex.

Alex and Monica will eventually learn how to communicate and interact in a more positive way with each other and cope effectively with the painful memories of the violence that occurred in their home. With the help of Project CONNECT, they will learn how to strengthen their relationships and move forward.

Project CONNECT

The Child HELP Partnership
St. John’s University
152-11 Union Turnpike
Queens, NY 11367

Focus:

Provides mental health services, including assessments and interventions, in library settings which are viewed as “safe.” This innovative collaboration with the Queens Public Library represents a shift in mental health delivery and is expected to increase rates of identification, referral, assessment, and treatment of youth exposure to violence.

Target Population:

Latina/o, African-American, and Afro-Caribbean youth affected by abuse and other forms of violence and their families

Age Range:

5–17

Interventions:

  • Alternatives for Families: A Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Case Management
  • Community Capacity Building

*Evidence-based or promising practice

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