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Specialized trauma treatment center serves mental health needs of KCMO youth

The Children's Place
Posted at 4:36 PM, May 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-10 23:43:14-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Children’s Place in Kansas City provides specialized trauma treatment to address the mental health needs of young children. KSHB 41 was granted rare access to that therapeutic work as the center zeroes in on early intervention for recent concerning trends brought about by the pandemic.

In a small group of students, you hear "help me!" from one student asking for assistance with a task. The teacher responds, "good words!"

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

The teacher in the classroom later says to a student, "thank you for sharing," as students share time, words and toys together.

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

"We see children still needing to learn how to use their social skills, 'hello and thank you and welcome,' and those kind of things in a group," President and CEO Ann Thomas said.

"I’m seeing a lot more of kids struggling with that peer engagement in regards to how to be emotionally in tune and show empathy," Ashley Phillips, a therapist at Children's Place, said.

Getting to the root of those struggles is crucial.

"We work on things like feeling identification. So, a lot of kids come in and maybe they're showing their parents anger, but they're really feeling 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 substance abuse, familial mental illness and domestic violence.

The staff at the Children's Place say that getting on their patient's level takes some work, but they still have a lot of optimism for the future.

"No matter what their start in life is, those brains are just absorbing everything," Thomas said. "So we watch the transformation from a child that maybe is afraid to say hi to everyone to suddenly knows people's names and greets them."

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

For more information about the Children's Place, click here.