Being a parent doesn’t come with a handbook and, for that matter, neither does being a kid. It can be hard to know what to do in the best of times, and when families are facing the worst of times, a little bit of help and guidance can go a long way.
That is exactly what The Children’s Center is designed to provide. A nonprofit with locations in both Salt Lake City and Kearns, The Children’s Center provides comprehensive mental healthcare to children from birth to age 6, as well as their families and caregivers.
“We focus on the relationship between the child and their caregiver and really help caregivers understand cues and needs and how to respond to the child,” said Jennifer Mitchell, senior program and operations director at The Children’s Center. “That sets them up to succeed with whatever hurdles or challenges they might experience later.”
Families can find their way to The Children’s Center for a variety of reasons. Sometimes families come to The Children’s Center because a child isn’t making progress in a direct intervention service such as speech therapy or occupational therapy and they don’t know why. Sometimes families are referred by a pediatrician or a daycare or preschool teacher.
Whatever the issue is that first brings a child and family to The Children’s Center, the clinical staff takes a trauma-informed approach to addressing and resolving it. That means clinicians don’t wait for a family or child to disclose a trauma; they start any kind of therapy with the assumption that trauma could be contributing to whatever surface issue the family has come to address.
“Right from the beginning, we establish a way of being with the family that creates a safe space for talking about some of the things they might have experienced,” Mitchell said. “Gradually what we can identify is that underlying issue.”
And sometimes that can take a while.