Helping kids exposed to abuse

By Ret Boney

RALEIGH, N.C. — Three local nonprofits have received $1 million in foundation funding for a new effort to help children deal with exposure to domestic violence.

Triangle Family Services, Interact and SAFEchild are teaming up to launch Hope for Children, a new initiative with the goal of helping 1,800 Wake County children over the next three years.

“There are over 500 kids in foster care alone in Wake County,” says Joyce Hamilton, Wake County chief district court judge and former foster parent. “Without appropriate intervention, many of them will be tortured by the past and face an equally bleak future.”

She calls the initiative “powerful testimony to what can happen when agencies come together to fight family violence,” adding that the project could serve as a model for North Carolina and communities throughout the U.S.

The collaborative effort received a three-year, $500,000 challenge grant from Local Initiative Funding Partners, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Princeton, N.J.

That grant was matched with $362,000 from the John Rex Endowment in Raleigh and $138,000 from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust in Winston-Salem.

The three participating agencies will provide case management for affected children, coordination of care across multiple agencies, and a host of services, including therapeutic visitation, crisis counseling, psychiatric services for kids ages 2 to 18, Hispanic/Latino outreach and adolescent treatment groups.

Once referred to Hope for Children, a child is assessed by a team made up of representatives from the three agencies to determine the appropriate services, then followed during weekly meetings to discuss progress and determine the need for additional services, says Lee Grohse, vice president of programs for Triangle Family Services.

Children in crisis will be seen immediately.

The project will also provide on-site training programs for agencies to help them identify and deal with family violence.

“The progress to date is beyond impressive, it’s inspiring,” says Kevin Cain, president and CEO of the John Rex Endowment.  “It takes the entire family into account.”

More than half of women who are victims of domestic violence have children living in the household, the groups say, and exposure to such violence, even if children are not direct victims, can dramatically increase suicide in children as well as behavioral and health problems.

Such exposure can also result in children who grow up to repeat the abusive behavior they witnessed.

“Exposure is just as traumatizing” as direct abuse, says Marjorie Menestres, executive director of SAFEchild.

While Triangle Family Services, Interact and SAFEchild have partnered on projects before, this marks their largest cooperative effort to date and should serve as an example of what collaboration can achieve, says Adam Hartzell, executive director of Interact.

“We all are competing for funds,” he says of nonprofits.  “This shows that if you work together you can bring in funds from outside your community.  It’s not easy, but look at what can happen.”

Carla Forte is the project manager for Hope for Children, which is housed at Triangle Family Services, fiscal agent for the project.

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