The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children
Sharkkarah Harrison, a 32-year-old single mother with an easy smile, reunited with her children in 2015.
Her son and daughter had been in foster care for about four years while Ms. Harrison was living in shelters. By the time they came home, they were showing signs of troubling behavior intense temper tantrums, leaving her side in public places that took Ms. Harrison by surprise.
A friend recommended the Trauma Recovery Program at the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, a child welfare organization. The program, which received a grant from The Neediest Cases Fund endowment, supports children and young adults from low-income families who have experienced interfamilial trauma or who have lived in neighborhoods where violence is common. The goal is to help them recognize trauma triggers and cope with their emotions.
In 2018, Ms. Harrison enrolled her children in the program. The experience has been eye-opening. Ms. Harrison learned that when children act out or misbehave, they are often doing so in response to emotional triggers. Seeing a bathroom, taking a bath, walking past a park, she said. Anything is a trigger.
Her daughter, now 10, and son, 11, do a range of activities with their therapists. (She loves to sing and dance; he likes to play board games.) Paola Amaya, one of the programs trauma therapists, said it was essential to build trust with the children and make them feel comfortable before diving into sensitive issues. Having fun eases that process.
Unlike previous therapists, the programs staff members have been able to make a connection with her children, Ms. Harrison said, because they have gotten to know them. It was just horrible experiences prior to coming here, she said. Now the children are more communicative, opening up on their own.
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