June 16, 2021
People Incorporated’s commitment to serving Twin Cities children and young adults is demonstrated every weekday at our Children’s Day Treatment site in New Hope. In small groups of up to sixteen, youth in grades K-12 spend three hours a day in therapy and skills training. This program teaches children who may be struggling in a traditional classroom how to cope with their feelings in a more manageable and controlled manner.
The Children’s Day Treatment facility includes two classrooms, a playground, an art room, a calming room, and a prize room. In partnership with local schools, children are provided transportation for a morning or afternoon sessions. Signs of hope and optimism are reflected on the walls covered in beautiful art made by students in the program. Early intervention in mental health care has been shown to make a pivotal difference on mental health outcomes later in life. This program offers an intensive experience that allows children to remain outside of a hospital setting but provides deeper services when previous outpatient therapy or in-home sessions haven’t been enough to meet the child’s mental health needs.
“Many of the kids in our program are struggling with getting their basic needs met. Those who also don’t fit into society’s typical gender norms, face their own unique challenges,” says Mark Wilde, program manager.
Many students have experienced frequent instability, upheaval, and trauma at home. Many have been shuffled between foster homes, new schools, and other environments, causing feelings of helplessness and insecurity. Children are often referred to the program by social workers and schools as the student struggles to manage a typical classroom school day without outbursts of emotion due to the trauma and instability they experienced. Even activities such as snack time provide crucial learning and trust exercises, as many of the children being served have previously experienced food insecurity and do not know yet trust that their next meal will come.
In each classroom one sees signs that read “how are you feeling today?” and colorful charts with a point system. It can be hard for these students to focus so incentives are key in this environment. “I hope I earn purple points today!” is a common phrase heard daily; purple points are awarded when students earn all possible points for the day based on participation and behavior. Prizes can range anywhere from a yummy snack, to a baseball, to a large stuffed animal. This game demonstrates the value of listening and trust, something many of these children lack because past trauma has triggered in them a sense of distrust. Students typically spend 6-12 months in the program before graduating and continuing their care in other forms.
The goal at Children’s Day Treatment is to use the three hours of services to work on self-regulation and give the students the individual attention that is not always possible at school. The mental health professionals in this program are proud of the work they do to help transform young lives. However, it is not only the mental health professionals that have the power to make change.