A special group of men and women working as interns at the Behavioral Research Institute will be providing information about child abuse and neglect prevention at the 4th Annual Day in the Park event, part of the Healthy Kids Day at the Cleveland YMCA. The event is scheduled for Saturday, April 16, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.
These seven BRI interns work with pre-school children, others with children in elementary, and middle and high school. The children who they counsel may have some emotional or psychological issues that require attention.
One of the programs that these interns work with at BRI is the Preschool Elementary Anger Control Effects program, or PEACE as it is commonly known.
BRI and the PEACE program will be providing free face painting, crafts and balloon animals for all kids and will have door prizes from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Child abuse prevention materials will also be available.
“This is kind of like a final project for the interns as they develop the program, as they interface with the community to let them know what's happening, and about child abuse prevention because it is a state-wide, a nation-wide, problem,” BRI Director Dr. Tom Biller explained.
Along with special prizes for children, there will be music for all ages at the event as well.
During the Healthy Kids Day, events which promote physical health in families will be staged at various sites at the YMCA. BRI/PEACE will be located in the YMCA gymnasium.
PEACE is an anger management program for preschool and elementary school children from Head Start age to 5th grade. It addresses issues that lead to domestic violence at the preschool level, as children who learn new skills should be less likely to commit acts of domestic violence. It emphasizes positive coping skills for children which they can carry with them throughout their lives and pass on to their own children in the future.
“In the classroom you get knowledge, but this program has allowed me to do hands-on work. When you actually have the practical application of what you learn in the class, then you are able to use the skills you developed to help many people,” said James Franklin, one of the interns from Miami, Fla. He is presently taking classes at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary.
Jessica Headrick, who is taking classes at Liberty University, said she got involved with the organization because she wants to work with teen-agers. When entering the program, she began working with younger children as well.
“I told Kelly (Myers, who directs the program) that I didn't know about working with children, but now I love it,” she said. “I wanted to be involved in counseling because when I was a child I didn't have someone whom I could go to for help and I wanted to be that light for someone else, to help teach and help them find their way. Now, my heart is with these kids.”
Dr. Biller said several interns said they would be uncomfortable working with younger children until they did so. “I've heard several of them say that they were afraid or it was uncomfortable working with children at first but after they got into it, they found that they have a program and materials that they like, and then it becomes really enjoyable.”
“I know that my heart is really in counseling, just because of things that I have gone through in my life, but I didn't know exactly what age group,” intern Melanee Barker said. “That's what I love about working here … we get to work with children and we get to work with parents and with teen-agers, and it's really helped me find my niche.”
She hopes to take the skills she had developed, much like Headrick, forward to counsel teen-age girls.
Ivy Thomas, an intern here from Toronto, Canada, said that she has been most impacted by working with the children at Big City University.
“I come from a background that was very sheltered, so being part of this really opened my eyes. I saw a lot of things that I just wasn't aware of, or maybe I was aware of but just didn't come fact-to-face with it,” Thomas said. “It's been challenging, but it's been a blessing.”
Butch Varner has probably one of the most diverse backgrounds of the interns, having served as a pastor in Japan and as a Chaplain in the U.S. Army, and he did quite a bit of counseling in both environments. He wanted to continue his education and become a professional counselor.
“In my background, I have always worked with adults, and never worked with the kids,” Varner explained. “I have done some family counseling, but didn't know that just working with the child would make such a big difference, but we have seen such huge differences and such impacts being made in these kids' lives.”
Varner worked with children at both Big City University and with the local Y-CAP program.
Bill Stell has worked as an intern for three semesters, and has worked not only with children, but with adults at the Bradley County Justice Center.
“I think it is very clear that we are making a difference,” he said. Stell said that many of the issues that children have to deal with are related to issues they may have with parents and other adults. At the Justice Center, he is able to work with many who are near the time to leave incarceration and returning to the family.
“There have been many who have said, through a questionnaire that we use, that their wives can see a difference and that they feel there will be a better understanding with their children because of the counseling we provide,” he said.
The PEACE program utilizes teaching tools, activities and visual aids that address anger issues. Dr. Biller said that these resources are age appropriate, and continue to be enhanced each year by the interns who are working within the program.
Biller also mentioned the interns have the opportunity work with other BRI program, including the CHAPS (Changing Home Abuse Patterns) program which introduces them to how many issues are handled in court.
“There, these interns will see what the children have to deal with in many cases,” Biller said.
Those interns who work more with older children work through the PEACE programs counterpart — the LAMP (Lifetime Anger Management Program) — designed for children from 5th grade through high schools.
BRI also provides the CREW (Conflict Resolution Education for Women) and PST (Parent Stress Training) which the interns are able to access.
To learn more about the PEACE program or any of the other programs or intern possibilities, contact Kelly Myers at the Behavioral Research Institute at 479-1590.
To find out more about Healthy Kids Day, contact the Cleveland Family YMCA at 476-5573.