John* is an eight-year old boy who goes to school every day. He used to sit alone, since he had no friends. His teachers were constantly scolding him for causing trouble. His parents didn’t know what to do to help him.
Then John was referred to counseling at the Family Resource Center near his school which is staffed by a therapist from The Women’s Center’s General Counseling program. The therapist counseled John about his behavior and encouraged his parents and teachers to compliment good behavior with small rewards, not just acknowledge the bad behavior. Now John is better able to control his behavior impulses. His grades have improved. He is smiling every day, and sits with friends at lunch.
From Tragedy To Partnerships
After the 1999 Wedgwood Church shooting in Fort Worth that killed seven people (four of them teenagers) and injured seven more, mental illness became a focus for the Fort Worth community. Several local mental health providers formed the Mental Health Connection to improve access to quality mental health services for all residents. Fort Worth ISD partnered with several agencies in Tarrant County, including The Women’s Center, to provide much needed counseling for children and families with behavior challenges, mental illness, or other crisis in their lives. By bringing the counselor to a resource center on school grounds, children and families can easily keep appointments and get the help they need.
“We provide individual counseling for kids,” says Sherri Chapell Pratt, Director of General Counseling at The Women’s Center. “These children sometimes feel lost and that no one cares, and it means a lot to them when they understand that someone can help them. We also counsel the families of the kids to achieve the best outcome for their child. The only criteria is that children must attend a school in Fort Worth ISD.”
Pratt says more and more teenagers are being referred to the school-based counseling for behavior issues. Many are struggling with their sexuality and some are suicidal. Sometimes the counselor will facilitate a support group if there is a teenage death.
“We never know what issues a child may have. But we are there to give them the encouragement and the understanding that someone cares about them, and their world can get better.”
*not her real name