Treatment center meets mental health needs of KCMO youth

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Children’s Place in Kansas City provides specialized trauma treatment to meet the mental health needs of young children. KSHB 41 has gained rare access to this therapeutic work as the center focuses on early intervention for recent troubling trends caused by the pandemic.

In a small group of students, you hear “help me!” of a student asking for help with a task. The teacher replies, “good words!”

This interaction is a small step forward, as these students learn about social interactions and social cues.

The class teacher later says to a student “thank you for sharing”, as the students share time, words and toys together.

Important moments like this happen in the classrooms of Children’s Place. With the pandemic cutting off socializing, they are making up for those lost opportunities.

“We’re seeing kids who still need to learn how to use their social skills, ‘hello and thank you and welcome,’ and that sort of thing in groups,” said president and CEO Ann Thomas.

“I see a lot more kids struggling with this peer engagement in terms of how to be emotionally in tune and how to empathize,” said Ashley Phillips, therapist at Children’s Place.

Getting to the root of these struggles is crucial.

“We’re working on things like feeling identified. So a lot of kids come in and maybe show their parents’ anger, but they feel really scared or nervous or worried,” Phillips said.

Everyone here is under the age of 8, and 91% of them have experienced three or more traumatic events, ranging from parental separation, caregiver addiction, family mental illness, and domestic violence.

Staff at Children’s Place say getting up to speed with their patients takes work, but they still have a lot of optimism for the future.

“No matter where they start in life, these brains absorb everything,” Thomas said. “So we’re seeing the transformation from a kid who might be afraid to say hello to everyone to suddenly know people’s names and greet them.”

It is a place to play, learn and prepare young minds for future success.

For more information on the children’s place, click here.

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