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Kim Foundation Grant Helps Bring Therapy Services to Emergency Shelter

Thanks, in part, to a generous donation from the Kim Foundation, beginning in February, every youth who arrives for a stay in Child Saving Institute’s (CSI) Emergency Shelter undergoes a mental health assessment by a CSI therapist as part of the intake process, according to Teffany Murphy, director of residential services.

“This is an important addition,” Murphy said. “With a therapist as part of the youth’s care team, staff gain a better understanding of the youth’s history and situation and provides the knowledge they need to stabilize the youth.”

If, based on the intake assessment, CSI’s therapist recommends therapy, staff seek permission to treat from the youth’s parent or guardian, or the State of Nebraska. Many of the youth already have a well-established therapeutic relationship that CSI staff continues to facilitate for them. The Master’s level staff person in the Emergency Shelter collaborates with a youth’s existing care team and family to begin preparing a youth for successful discharge from the moment of intake. The program is fully HIPPAA compliant.

“We noticed that the youth who were not in therapy struggled more during their time in the shelter than youth who were in therapy,” Murphy said. “All the youth who come through our door have a certain amount of trauma in their lives. We put a behavior plan in place for each youth, tailored specifically to his or her individual needs.”

The addition of the therapist helps Emergency Shelter staff better serve the youth, and helps in emergency situation when a youth threatens to self-harm.

“Staff still work to diffuse the situation, but we can call a therapist to come help the youth work through his/her emotions,” Murphy said.

The therapists also provide training to Emergency Shelter staff, teaching de-escalation techniques and helping them understand the underlying reasons for a youth’s behaviors. Therapists have also coached staff to understand and recognize their own “triggers” — actions, behaviors, or words from the youth that bring out their own negative emotions and ways they can self-calm before responding to the issue at hand.

“The staff members’ approach to kids has become more trauma informed since adding the therapy component,” Murphy said. “We now ask what has happened and how can we help. It’s a non-punitive approach.”

The youth in the Emergency Shelter typically come from the Douglas County Youth Center, Douglas County Probation, or have been unsuccessful in previous placements.

“Probation officers have approached me asking how we do it,” Murphy said. “How do we get the youth to be successful after several unsuccessful placements? I tell them we take a different approach. It begins with respect. We believe if we give it, we’ll get it. We involve the youth in making plans for their own success.”

Andrew Powell joined CSI as a therapist in May to work with the Emergency Shelter youth. Joanna Halbur, clinical supervisor and therapist, also works with the youth.

When youth prepare to transition from the Emergency Shelter to their home or other placement, CSI staff contacts the parents/guardians or other program staff to form a plan for the transition and share the techniques that worked for the youth during his/her stay, providing a better chance at continued success.

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