A January 2016 study by Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School found that adverse experiences in early childhood impede on learning and behavior development. It revealed that children who were exposed to traumatic events in early childhood were at increased risk for learning difficulty and behavior problems by the end of kindergarten. The Avera Family Wellness program focuses on early intervention, including mental health, for children and their families enrolled in early childhood programs at four elementary schools through a partnership with the Sioux Falls School District. One family noted of their experience:
Asking for help isn’t easy for many people, ourselves included. We asked for help about 5 years ago without even knowing it! We were at our younger daughter’s Early Childhood preschool conference discussing our concerns and explaining how we thought maybe some of the changes in behavior were due to stresses at home due to a job loss. The teacher excitedly told us about Avera Family and how they can help our family. We know very well now why the teacher was so excited.
We have been blessed with many gifts through Avera Family. Our girls have received arts and crafts, books, toys, snacks, games. Our family has received gift cards for groceries and household needs. This past year the gifts of toilet paper, paper towels, and laundry detergent brought tears to our eyes, literally. We have been gifted with countless resources and opportunities for parents, programs and therapies for special needs children and/or their siblings, for GED classes, for mental health support.
The most valuable though is the time our family spends in counseling. Our girls have established positive relationships through counseling and continue to learn how to take care of themselves mentally and physically. We continue to grow as their parents and as spouses through counseling. We have had support to get us through many evaluations and an autism diagnosis for our younger daughter. We continually learn how to better ourselves individually and as a family.
But above all we are reminded that needing and asking for help are not weaknesses. We are reminded that we are good people. Our family is grateful for everything we have been blessed with from Avera Family.
Last year, 286 children and their families took part in the program, attending over 1,500 therapy sessions, resulting in fewer missed days of school, fewer behavioral events and less tardiness. The program is made possible through your support of Sioux Empire United Way.