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Annual Meeting Set for Nov 24

The Children's Bureau of New Orleans will hold its annual meeting on Monday, November 24 at Cafe Reconcile, 1631 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, starting at 11 am.

At the meeting, the organization will recap its accomplishments and celebrate achievements of 2014. Financial information will be shared on the operating expenses and revenue for programs and the organization overall. Staff, board of directors and key supporters will be in attendance.

2014 Children's Hero Awards Announced

The Children's Bureau of New Orleans will present its 2nd Annual Children's Hero Awards Friday, October 3 to celebrate seven individuals and two organizations that have shown an exemplary commitment to improving the quality of life for children in greater New Orleans.

"We are excited to honor such an impressive and deserving group in our second year as we continue to raise awareness around the mental health challenges many children in our community face," says Paulette Carter, president and CEO of the Children's Bureau.

This year's honorees include:

  • Kim Boyle, Phelps Dunbar
  • Leah Chase, Dooky Chase's Restaurant
  • Lloyd Dennis, Silverback Society
  • Judy Reese Morse, City of New Orleans
  • Mrs. Miriam Ortique and The Honorable Revius Ortique, Jr. (posthumously)
  • Greg Feirn, Louisiana Children's Medical Center
  • Fore!Kids Foundation
  • ReNEW Charter Schools

Liberty Bank has signed on as title sponsor for a second year in a row.

The event will take place from 6:00 to 9:00 pm at the home of Laurie and Jeff Young at 1605 Lakeshore Drive. The night will include food and drinks, as well as live entertainment.

Tickets and sponsorships are available now. For further information or to buy tickets, contact the Children's Bureau's development office at (504) 525-2366 or email acollins@childrensbureaunola.org. Tickets will go on sale on the website soon, and more information on our honorees will also be displayed soon!

Mental Health Consultants Have Big Impact in Child Care Centers

Infant mental health is about relationships.  Babies and young children are engaged in rapid cognitive and physical development, and it all happens within their relationships with their caregivers.  Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (ECMHC) is a program designed to enhance teacher relationships with children they care for and to connect children and families to a safety net of resources when they need help.

The Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation program began in 2007 to serve childcare centers participating in the statewide Quality Start Quality Rating and Improvement System.

Childcare centers who participate in the program are provided with a mental health consultant who offers a variety of services. The consultant partners with the childcare center for six months visiting about twice a month for a total of 10-12 visits. 

“In that time, we provide classes for teachers; we work alongside teachers in classrooms to observe and reflect, then jointly plan classroom changes; we model techniques and strategies; and we consult with center directors about center goals,” says Sharon M. Gancarz-Davies, LCSW, an Infant Mental Health Specialist that runs ECMHC for Children's Bureau of New Orleans.

In certain cases, the consultant also provides parent workshops, meets individually with parents on interventions as needed, and makes referrals to community resources to address child and family needs.

High Impact, High Reward

Indirectly through the teachers and centers who continue to serve children for years, the ECMHC program has a very broad reach.

“This program is amazing because it allows us to support teachers and parents as they strive to help very young children develop into smart, happy, safe people.   The skills and knowledge of a trained mental health clinician gives them more tools to reach their goals,” say Gancarz-Davies.

“This program also gives us the opportunity to reach a large number of families and impact multiple systems.  The family environment remains essential for children, and children spend a lot of time with their child care providers, so this kind of program can make a real difference.”

Many children spend up to 8 to 10 hours per day in childcare centers, so the interactions with these caregivers are critical to their healthy development. 

Evaluation of the model established by Tulane University for the program has established that the services measurably improve the classroom environment and teacher relationships with children.  

The ECMHC program also positively impacts the lives of young children.  For example, one pre-school aged child was cooperative but withdrawn at school. The mother, however, reported that she was very aggressive at home to the point of being a danger to herself and others using knives and setting fires. 

The center arranged for her mother to meet with the mental health consultant at the center.  After listening to the mother’s concerns and discussing her behavior and development, the consultant supported the mother in calling in some counseling options for her daughter.  At this point, having spent time building some trust with the parent, the mental health consultant asked the mother if she felt safe at home. It was then that the mother courageously admitted that her partner had been violent with her to the point of bruising and injuring her.  The mental health consultant supported her in calling the Family Justice Center to help her further reflect on her situation and the steps she wanted to take to ensure her safety and that of her child.  Some months later she removed her child from the center and went to live with family in another state.  She called the center after she was settled and reported that her daughter's behavior was much more manageable and she seemed happy.

In this case and others like it, the mental health consultant brings knowledge of community resources, knowledge of the possible meanings behind children's behaviors, experience in asking difficult questions, and hope that change is possible. 

“This center had love and concern for the child and had built a positive relationship with the parent.  The parent used these resources to create a safer home for her family. That is what this program is all about.”

 

School Based Program Shows Impressive Results

Children’s Bureau is proud to release data from its comprehensive school-based mental health program that shows a 50% drop in suspension rates and improved grade point averages (GPA).

 

In 2010, with funding from the Institute of Mental Hygiene (IMH), Children’s Bureau partnered with McDonogh City Park Academy (MCPA), a public elementary school in New Orleans, to develop a comprehensive program to promote social and emotional wellness and address barriers that prevent children from learning and functioning well. The program provided not only direct mental health intervention to students, but also engaged teachers and school staff to increase their capacity to foster the social, emotional, intellectual and behavioral development of students.

 

MCPA has 400 students of whom 93.25% are termed as “at-risk” by the Louisiana Department of Education.

 

“We’ve known for years that accessible, quality mental health supports can impact student behavior and enhance academic achievement,” said Carter. “With this project, we explored how best to work with school leaders to create a truly comprehensive approach to enhancing mental health and wellbeing.”

 

“We made a commitment to work this program from top to bottom at our school,” said MCPA’s Principal Christine Mitchell. “We made changes to academic programming and procedures, trained teachers and staff, and provided screenings and necessary interventions to students. It was no small undertaking, but the results have been well worth the effort.”

 

In addition to changes in academic programming and procedures, a three-tiered system of mental health services within MCPA was built to include:

  • Tier I:  Universal screening for emotional and behavioral risk, teacher instruction of a social and emotional learning curriculum called Second Steps, and teacher professional development sessions to support trauma-informed approaches to classroom and student management.

  • Tier II:Teacher consultation to increase effectiveness in behavior management, support to the leadership team to address referrals for social, emotional, and behavioral student issues, and targeted skill building groups based on student need.

  • Tier III: Provision of individual and group therapy for students with intensive needs and referral to and coordination with community agencies to address specialized problems.

The partnership between MCPA and Children’s Bureau of New Orleans has been ongoing now for three academic years. Stacy Overstreet, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of Tulane University’s Department of Psychology, is overseeing the evaluation of the program, and the first two years of data reveals the following:

 

Students who participated in both years of the project showed an indication of better behavior and increased learning:

  • There was more than a 50% reduction in suspensions from 2011-12.

  • Over the 2011-12 school year, student GPA increased an average of.081 points on the 4.0 scale. Over the 2012-13 school year, GPA increased an average of .13 points.

The project has also increased the commitment and capacity of teachers to foster social and emotional development of all students at MCPA.

 

  • Survey results indicate growing teacher confidence in the Second Step curriculum. In January, 2013, only 34.7% of teachers agreed that Second Step equipped students with useful skills; in January, 2014, 68.4% agreed that Second Step was effective in helping students learn social and emotional skills.
  • Survey results also indicate growth in teacher competence delivering the Second Step curriculum. In January, 2013, 48% of teachers felt comfortable teaching the curriculum compared to 68.4% in January, 2014. In addition, the percentage of teachers who felt they had adequate time to deliver the lessons rose from 28% in January, 2013 to 42.1% in January, 2014.

  • During the 2013-12 academic year, three Second Step Peer Support Teachers were identified to provide mentoring and support to other teachers regarding implementation of the Second Step curriculum and integration of the content into other academic or classroom management activities. These “program champions” are fostering trust and collegiality, providing feedback regarding implementation, and facilitating open and frequent communication regarding the Second Step curriculum—all factors that should increase the impact of the curriculum on student outcomes.

Additionally, over the course of the partnership, MCPA’s School Performance Score increased from a grade of ‘F’ to a grade of ‘C’.

 

“It is our hope that this project will lead to the development of a successful collaborative model that can be duplicated at other school sites,” said Carter. “With the initial evidence that the model is effective in improving the social, emotional, behavioral and academic functioning of students, it is possible that other funding for this project can be obtained, so that we can impact more schools, more teachers and more students with this successful program.”

 

The Power of Positive Parenting

 

One way Children’s Bureau works to enhance the quality of life of at-risk children is by working with parents and caretakers to enhance parenting skills. With start-up funding from Metropolitan Human Services District (MHSD), the agency offers the Positive Parenting Program, or “Triple P” as it is widely known.

 

Triple P aims to promote caring relationships between parents and children, and helps parents deal with a variety of behavior problems and common developmental issues. Positive parenting reduces the stress of parenting and makes parenting more rewarding and enjoyable.

 

“I think for many the expectation is that effectively disciplining a child and teaching them proper behavior as they grow comes naturally for parents,” said Ziesha Every, LPC, a Children’s Bureau clinician who works with parents in the Triple P program. “However, in many situations, caretakers need help to learn these skills.”

 

Ziesha works with parents one-on-one to coach them on ways they can deal with problem behaviors such as tantrums, disrespect, children hurting others, etc.

 

“In a lot of cases, we see that the parent’s behavior actually escalates a situation and intensifies the child’s behavior. Parents will accidently reward problem behavior by giving in to a child’s demands or becoming aggressive in some way. If a child is crying loudly and pulling at his mother to get her phone from her, the mom may lose her patience and say something like: ‘here, just take the phone and stop crying.’ This is actually rewarding the child for his negative behavior.”

 

Ziesha uses role play, provides tip sheets and works through stressors with parents – all in the hopes of enhancing the parenting experience.

 

“I never talk down to parents or degrade them. I try to get parents to look at their strengths. We all have strengths. And I know being a parent is hard work,” said Ziesha. “My role is to work with parents to encourage them and build their skills so they feel more successful at parenting.”

 

Parents and caretakers are referred to Children’s Bureau for this program by various governmental agencies, other nonprofits and through schools in the community. Ziesha says she works with parents of all ages, even grandparents.

 

“When I first started with the program, I thought it would be a lot of young mothers, but we have really seen a variety of caretakers that need help. We work with a variety of children, too, from toddlers to teenagers.”

Ziesha says it’s most rewarding when she hears from a parent after they have moved on from the program, and they still refer to some of the interventions she taught them.

“One mother I worked with was having a lot of problems with her two sons who were close in age. They were fighting a lot, and she was having a hard time with their bedtime routine and getting them to go to sleep at night. They moved to north Louisiana, but she called me to share with me that things were going well and that she was still working with her sons using some of the tips that I had taught her.”

 

For more information on Triple P or other services provided by the Children’s Bureau, please call (504) 525-2366.