Carolina Serna’s job as a care coordinator for the Clifford Beers, a behavioral health care provider based in New Haven, puts her in the middle of today’s mental health crisis for kids, teenagers and their families. When Clifford Beers gets referrals for cases, Serna and other care coordinators become the face of the organization, helping children and families get the clinical care they need. But Serna and her colleagues do much more than that. In a sense, they’re the bridge between troubled families and the rest of society. Take one of the many tough situations Serna handled during the COVID-19 crisis: A young Hispanic mother in New Haven had just lost her job.
Weeks into staying home from preschool, Betty, 4, threw herself on the floor and had a screaming meltdown. She had had a Zoom meeting with her class earlier that day, and every little thing was setting her off. “We don’t accept screaming in our house,” said Betty’s mother, Laura Bower-Phipps, professor and coordinator of elementary education at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven. “So, we counted the screams, and when she hit three, my wife and I told her she needed to take a break for four minutes.” Betty took the break, came back and screamed three more times, and again went to her quiet spot for another four minutes. And so, it went on.
It’s important to practice physical distancing – but not social distancing. People need connection and belonging. There are ways to achieve that online through volunteering and using new platforms to connect with friends. Low-tech sources of meaning like poetry and prayer are helpful too. C-HIT’s Colleen Shaddox talks about ways to battle loneliness with Dr. Megan V. Smith, associate professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and the Yale Child Study Center at the Yale School of Medicine.
Adolescents want and need to be with peers, so the isolation imposed by the pandemic is especially hard for them. Parents are put in the difficult position of enforcing that isolation. Students are also experiencing many losses – Spring sports, prom, graduations, and field trips. C-HIT’s Colleen Shaddox talks about how parents can support their teenaged children with Dr. Megan V. Smith, associate professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and the Yale Child Study Center at the Yale School of Medicine.
The pandemic has many parents trying to do their jobs from home, supervise their children’s education and provide 24-7 care. Creating reasonable expectations can keep parents from becoming overwhelmed in a high stress situation. Setting goals that are achievable – and carving out a bit of time for yourself — will make this extraordinary time more manageable. C-HIT’s Colleen Shaddox discusses ways to find balance with Dr. Megan V. Smith, associate professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and the Yale Child Study Center at the Yale School of Medicine.
The Mitchell branch of the New Haven Free Public Library tries to be at the forefront of whatever products are trendy or new. That means offering e-books for patrons of all ages and providing computers for children who want to conduct research online or play games. But, according to branch manager Sharon Lovett-Graff, the library’s youngest patrons, and their parents, remain interested primarily in borrowing print books. “At one time, we were all very nervous that e-books would take over. But not anymore,” said Lovett-Graff, who estimates that in the past year, the library checked out about 5,300 board books — thick, picture books aimed at pre-readers.
Shawn was 4 years old when he watched his dad, Jonathan Whaley, keel over at their doorstep from a gunshot wound to his back. He remembers the pool of blood, the paramedics, and the police. Whaley, 34, didn’t make it. Shawn is now 8 years old. He lives with his grandmother and five siblings in one of Hartford’s rundown neighborhoods.
Joanne Goldblum of New Haven is on a mission to get health care clinicians to recognize that poverty may be the underlying cause of their patients’ illnesses and that the best treatment might be as simple as a brown bag of food or a tube of toothpaste. Goldblum is CEO of the New Haven-based National Diaper Bank Network (NDBN), an organization dedicated to getting basic needs to people. She co-authored the Basic Needs-Informed Care Curriculum—with support from Yale School of Medicine faculty—designed to help clinicians, social workers and educators recognize the myriad ways a lack of resources can present itself. For example, a baby comes to a well child visit in dirty clothes. Clinicians might typically ask: Is the mother too depressed to care for the infant?
Last May, Samantha Collins’ drug use, legal problems and dealings with the Connecticut Department of Children and Families forced her to strike a bargain with the agency. In return for allowing social workers to come into her home three times a week to help her stay off drugs, improve her parenting and learn the practical skills needed to function as an adult, DCF would not remove her children. The 26-year-old Somers mother of 2- and 7-year-old boys entered Family-Based Recovery, a program created 10 years ago by DCF, the agency better known, perhaps, for separating families than working to keep them together. Family-Based Recovery, or FBR, is an example of DCF’s dramatic reversal in philosophy and practices, after years of a policy approach based largely on removing children thought to be at risk and placing them in congregate care facilities. “‘Pull and ask later,’” said Kristina Stevens, a former DCF social worker who is now administrator of the agency’s Clinical and Community Consultation and Support Division, which includes a fast-growing array of in-home treatment programs.
As recently as 2011, nearly 1,500 children and youths were separated from their families and were living in 54 group homes and other treatment centers in and out of Connecticut.
Observing the brain activity of preschool children with autism can help predict their response to treatment for the disorder, according to a study by Yale University researchers. The finding is groundbreaking because it can help match children with a treatment that will work for them, said Pamela Ventola, senior author of a study published today in the journal Translational Psychiatry. “We hope that we can use this information to better develop treatments for autism and better match kids with autism to a treatment that’s going to work for them,” said Ventola, an assistant professor at the Yale Child Study Center. In the study, researchers worked with 20 autistic preschoolers for 16 weeks, for seven hours each week. During sessions, children underwent pivotal response treatment, a well-established behavioral treatment for autism that dates to the 1970s and is play-based.