Stronger Families through Valuable Partnerships

At ChildSavers, we recognize that mental health is as important as physical health, year round. In this blog, we want to acknowledge not just the important work of our clinicians but also those that make our work possible. The Virginia Health Care Foundation (VHCF) is one such funder who enables us to provide mental health services to children in our community.

For more than a year, VHCF has funded two clinical positions in outpatient mental health services. Thanks to their support, we are able to hire and retain experts in trauma like clinician, Mavis Mintaah. Mavis is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Certified Trauma Specialist. She has been with ChildSavers since May 2015. She says she was inspired to become a social worker because she knew she always wanted to work with people and children. At ChildSavers, she gets to work with children on a daily basis.

Social Workers are Helpers

Mavis said she sees herself as a helper to children. She said, “I see my role more as somebody that helps children that have experienced a lot of traumatic events in their life or stress or been through challenges. I see my role as a helper in their healing process.”

The healing process takes time and does not happen overnight. “Most of the time when working with families, you are on a journey to help them get to a place of healing or higher functioning, especially if they are in a crisis situation or going through mental health challenges.” She says that part of the work she does at ChildSavers goes beyond therapy. For instance, if a child or family needs help finding solutions to be more functional as individuals in the community, we connect them to community resources.

One of the resources we help clients connect to is made possible through VHCF. VHCF helps our eligible, uninsured clients get coverage through FAMIS. FAMIS is the Family Access to Medical Insurance Security Plan. It is Virginia’s health insurance program for children under the age of 19, living in families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. FAMIS covers all the medical care children might need to avoid getting sick, plus the medical care that will help them if they do get sick or get hurt. Having health insurance ensures that children in our community get the mental and physical health care they need.

Our families and children are resilient but they face challenges. Having coverage and guidance in navigating medical coverage is key to helping our families.

Navigating Systems through Partnership

One of the challenges Mavis said that her families face is navigating systems. Applying for FAMIS and Medicaid can be daunting. However, VHCF offers its Application Specialist to aid families in successfully navigating the system. It is a relief to families to have help in the application process so they can focus on other important needs.

Mavis also identifies the trauma “lens” as essential for understanding and helping those we work with. This means recognizing the trauma experienced by the children and families we serve and how it affects them. “We don’t work in isolation,” said Mavis. “The kids we work with come with family, parents, teachers, social service providers. Sometimes being able to get everyone on board and see through the trauma lens is difficult.”

Luckily, VHCF understands the impact of trauma on our community’s children and engages in partnerships like ours to help more families be safe and healthy.

Safety and Access

So many of the children we serve don’t feel safe or have had their safety threatened. “For a lot of kids, [ChildSavers] is a safe place. More places like this are needed. I have one child that tells me that I wish there was a ChildSavers app,” said Mavis. One of the reasons children don’t feel safe is because they have experienced something traumatic.

Trauma is an event that is experienced and has an effect. For example, trauma can be neglect, abuse, car accidents, house fires, the death of a parent, and violence. For children, unresolved trauma can have a lifelong impact resulting mental health issues and chronic disease. However, just because a child has experienced a trauma does not mean it determines their fate. “A child [can be] traumatized because of a shooting in the neighborhood and the home is chaotic and family is homeless, yet I can help him have a sense of peace and calmness for an hour,” said Mavis. This peace and calmness can go a long way in helping children cope and thrive. Making safe spaces accessible to our families is essential, says Mavis.

“VHCF helps ensure that families don’t have to wait on the waiting list. This grant gives families the opportunities and the mental health services they need. They don’t have to be told to wait a long time. They have access right away and, hopefully we help them achieve some stability in their life.” Reducing the amount of time a child has to wait in the wake of trauma reduces the likelihood of developing PTSD. What does therapy do for a child who has experienced trauma? It helps them be resilient.

Hope and Resilience

Despite challenges some of our families experience, Mavis says, “People in this community are very resilient. Families are very resourceful. They are able to work with the little that they have.” Mavis wants people to know that the work VHCF supports is very important and needed. “It does make a difference in the lives of the people that we serve. . .This work is so important and is very needed in this community and in other areas because of the increase violence and stress that families and children experience.”

The work she does matters to many children and families. Without access to therapy, Mavis wonders what would happen to the children she works with. “Some families, all they have are their in-home counselors, the therapeutic day treatment providers, the mental health professionals in the community – some families and children these are the people that are keeping them going. These are the stable and consistent adults in their lives that are helping them get through these life challenges.”


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