Hundreds of impoverished local children will receive help for trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder caused by living at or below poverty, thanks to a new grant received by Colorado State University. Children in target neighborhoods are under such extreme stress due to poverty and resulting lifestyle challenges, that many are at risk of or have developed serious mental health problems.
Many children who live at or below poverty experience tremendous stress including fiscal trauma, community violence, gang activity and family abuse to a degree that causes post-traumatic stress disorder, called PTSD, and other significant mental health trauma.
The $1.2 million grant, awarded to the School of Social Work at Colorado State University’s College of Applied Human Sciences by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, targets children living in or near the North College Avenue corridor, including Poudre Valley Mobile Home Park, Hickory Village Mobile Home Park, Coachlight Plaza Apartments and the Cherry Street neighborhood.
“The grant will help up to several hundred children a year who live in Fort Collins and who live in conditions that put their safety, and physical and mental health at risk due to poverty,” said Deborah Valentine, director of the CSU School of Social Work and the leader of the grant. “Mental health services for children from ethnic minorities and who are recent immigrants are limited in this region and people who live in pocket areas of extreme poverty in Fort Collins struggle to lead healthy lives because of traumatic experiences such as community violence, unemployment, low educational attainment levels, cultural and language differences, immigration issues and the inability to meet their basic needs.”
The grant establishes the Prevention, Empowerment and Resiliency Collaborative Center, or PERC.
Families will receive individualized intervention through home visits and telephone contact between visits for up to six months by about 20 trained therapists and social workers. The interventions will include education for the family about trauma and its impact on children and skill development to improve home and community safety. Intervention approaches are based on several counseling approaches with proven results.
The grant will target children who have experienced:
– Trauma caused by living in chronic severe impoverished conditions. The target neighborhoods comprise about 6,000 people. Poverty levels in these neighborhoods range from 32 to 100 percent of the residents.
– Trauma caused by community violence. A recent survey of target households in the target areas showed that 60 percent said they did not feel safe in their neighborhoods. Emergency calls to local law enforcement agencies from these neighborhoods are among the highest in the city and include frequent complaints of noise disturbances, assaults, harassment and family violence.
– Trauma caused to children by maltreatment. Larimer County Department of Human Services investigates a large number of child abuse and neglect cases in the four target neighborhoods.
– Trauma caused by an immigration experience. Immigration and documentation issues may cause trauma to children including separation from family members who live in another country, financial stress and the loss of possessions, friends and pets. Refugees also are at high-risk for mental disorders because many experienced significant trauma prior to immigration. Studies document high rates of PTSD, depression and anxiety among this population in the United States.
The grant will team the university with the Community Organizing to Reach Empowerment – or CORE – center in the CSU School of Social Work, the county Department of Human Services, Larimer Center for Mental Health, Sexual Assault Victims Advocate Center and ChildSafe.