Last week at the monthly forum of the League of Women Voters, Alisa Ashe, executive director of KIDS Place here in Franklin was on hand to tell those in attendance about what the organization does for the children it serves.
KIDS Place is a private nonprofit agency, founded by concerned citizens who wanted to improve services for abused and neglected children in Macon County. Children are not housed at KIDS Place, but the center provides a home-like environment where a specially trained team of professionals can interview children concerning reports of abuse, perform medical exams, and provide counseling. KIDS Place has been serving the community for 22 years.
Ashe emphasized the important role of Dr. Sondra Wolfe who volunteers her time to the services that are offered by the organization and Elizabeth Adams who is a case manager and educator for KIDS Place.
“Team work is extremely important. We also work closely with the prosecutor's office, the Sheriff's Department, the Franklin Police Department, the Highlands Police Department, child therapists, and Social Services,” said Ashe. “We sit down at least once a month and review a lot of the cases of child abuse in Macon County.”
Often children who have been abused or are suspected of being abused, are referred to KIDS Place by Social Services or law enforcement, but sometimes kids, teenagers or family members come to KIDS Place services seeking help.
According to Ashe, in the last two decades, methods of therapy for abused children have largely improved with added focus from researchers and their attempts to find a technique that works best for abused children.
“It's called Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. KIDS Place took the lead two years ago in getting therapists trained in the seven westernmost counties so that our children can have access to this therapy,” she said.
Children who receive this type of therapy typically show a 90-percent reduction in trauma symptoms. Many who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and/or anxiety are showing improvement with their symptoms.
“This means that they are not having the nightmares, they're not having the flashbacks. They are doing better in school. They are learning how to cope with their anxieties and how to recognize them and know better what to do,” said Ashe. “It's also a short-term program. We used to put kids in therapy for two or three years, but we don't have to do that anymore.”
Ashe fielded questions from the audience in which one attendee asked about the amount of time that it took a child to finish treatment. Ashe answered that though it was rare, it could be done in as little as 12 weeks, but most of the time it takes 24 to 26 weeks.
“If they have a lot going on in their lives like maybe being moved around in foster care or something like that then it could take longer than that,” she told the room.
Another person asked about the number of children that KIDS Place can see.
Ashe responded that they usually see about 35 children each month, but some of those are returning children who may be undergoing therapy.
“I just ran the numbers this morning and this year we have seen 74 new cases. That doesn't include kids who were new in the previous year. We typically see about 125 in a year and we will probably hit at least that if not surpass it. We've done 63 forensic interviews so far this year which is high for us. We usually average about 50. There were 369 counseling sessions and the parents never have to pay for those,” said Ashe.
Those who may be interested in volunteering, donating, or learning more may contact KIDS Place at (828)369-7488.
KIDS Place Wish List
Snacks for children
Holiday themed individually wrapped snacks would be good this time of year; Individual juice boxes, individually wrapped snacks – fruit by the roll, cookies, gummy snacks, chips, peanut butter crackers, breakfast bars, granola bars, etc.
• Bottled water
• Canned soups, spaghetti & meatballs.
• Toilet tissue
• Paper towels
• Garbage bags (tall kitchen & 4-gallon sizes)
• Postage stamps (forever stamps)
• Copy paper
• Children's stickers
• Play Doh
• Washable paints in a set, paintable figurines or craft kits
• Cordless screwdriver
• Gift cards for grocery stores, Walmart, Kmart, Staples