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Focus on Family Helps Children

Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center’s Avera Family Wellness Program focuses on early intervention with children in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. Students and their families are connected with a family health coordinator to build family connection and stability while identifying and treating the family’s mental health needs.

A family with two young sons was referred to AFWP in March 2018. Their youngest was enrolled in an early-childhood program and referred because he was struggling with impulsive behaviors and not following directions.

“Every day we were hearing about his behavior, and getting him to go into school had me ready to pull him out of school,” the boy’s mother noted. The family worked with the coordinator to find ways their son could be successful at school. He began seeing the psychiatrist at AFWP in April 2018 and was diagnosed with ADHD.

The family’s older son also began receiving services with AFWP because he was quietly falling behind in kindergarten. The coordinator would go into the classroom and work with him a few times a week to make sure he was staying on task. This child began seeing the AFWP psychiatrist in May 2018 and also was diagnosed with ADHD.

Staff from AFWP and the family worked to get the school district to test the older boy for autism. He was diagnosed in the fall of 2018 and I snow receiving supportive services through the school district. He is a thriving first-grader, thanks in part to the support he is receiving from the school district and AFWP. 

“Had our youngest son not been referred to the program, I don’t think the school would be looking at our oldest because his problems were not profound or distracting,” the mother said. “Thankfully things got rolling and he now has the diagnosis, extra support, and is making great progress.”

In August 2018, the family suffered a house fire and lost all of their belongings. They also experienced recent job loss and health problems. Despite these setbacks, AFWP helped the mother and younger son begin therapy services to work on strategies for the boy’s impulsive behaviors. 

“The staff has done great things with our son by getting him to recognize his behavior and the difference between good and bad choices,” said the mother. “They’ve also helped me and his teachers better understand our son and given me new techniques to try to prevent and calm behaviors. We still have work to do, but he now goes into school without crying and being forced in, and his not running away from school.”

Your gift to Sioux Empire United Way provided the Avera Family Wellness Program to 299 children and their families last year. Participants attended over 1,500 therapy sessions, resulting in fewer missed days of school, fewer behavioral events and less tardiness.