Dr. John Vining, a licensed professional counselor and clinical director of Youth Counseling Services, used this as his opening line at the Rotary Club of Cleveland.
Abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, exploitation and attempted suicide are some of the issues youth coming for counseling have faced.
“We feel we are actually investing in the future of Bradley County as we are able to help these children have a different perspective and some sense of healing and hope it’s going to lead to healthy adulthood,” Vining said.
Youth Counseling Service is a Bradley County nonprofit in its fifth year of serving in the community. The counseling service conducts an average of 3,000 sessions a year. Vining said the organization focuses on serving the economically disadvantaged. These families use TennCare to pay for the counseling.
“Quite a few of our kids are brought to us by grandparents, others by foster parents, some by adoptive parents. Some of them cannot tell you where they will live next week because of the instability,” Vining said.
In seemingly hopeless situations, Vining said there is hope.
“We do live in a world of tragic circumstances in the lives of children. The good news is it only takes a little bit of acceptance and attention and affection and comfort to heal deep wounds of the soul,” Vining said.
He said making an impact on a child is for him “a privilege and an honor.”
Vining said YCS has three licensed counselors as well as counselors working toward licensure and graduate student volunteers who work to help these children.
However, he emphasized that those with degrees in counseling are not the ones who could help children heal.
“For the most part while master’s degrees and licensure is important and it has its place, the good news is that all of us in this room have the ability to touch a child’s life in a deep way,” Vining said.
The YCS receives referrals from the school systems, community leaders, churches and other community agencies.
The organization has received grant funding from the United Way and is pursuing becoming a United Way agency. Many of those served are insured through TennCare, which pays less than standard insurance would, Vining said. The number of counseling sessions a person comes for is determined by personal need and not by TennCare. Vining said anytime a child or adult shows a sudden change in personality or attitude it could be a sign that something is wrong.
“We have a lot of, I hate to use the expression ‘success stories,’ but we have a lot of these folks that we see that come spend some time with us and find improvement in their life circumstances,” Vining said.