Catholic Charities heads back to school

Because of you, School Based Counseling program provides support where it’s needed

This week, as children lace up their sneakers and sharpen those bright yellow number 2 pencils, Catholic Charities is headed back to the classroom at schools throughout the metro area.

The School Based Counseling program, which started in the mid-1980s, works to ensure children who are living in poverty have access to the counseling support and social services they need in order to be successful in school and grow up to become healthy adults.

Licensed clinical social workers who are trained to provide mental health and social services work with students in area schools and Catholic Charities’ Northside Child Development Center. Sometimes, request the services themselves; other times, they are referred by a teacher, parent or friend.

Catholic Charities is invited into schools where services are offered. Counseling services are not required and schools in poor areas simply cannot afford to hire full-time mental health professionals. While the schools pitch in to pay for the service, the program simply would not be possible without you.

Because of your support, our clinical social workers provide services to ensure children can attend and be successful in school, develop the necessary skills to cope with adversity, and live in a safe home environment where their family’s basic needs are met.

The outcome? Children who are more ready to learn and build a strong foundation for future success!

At its inception, the School Based Counseling Program was one woman, JoEllen Flak, going to one school.  Now, Flak leads a team of clinical social workers serving youth at Northside Child Development Center and seven schools across the metro area. She maintains her role as counselor.

“As much as I give, I receive in terms of having the opportunity to be present for these kids and to see them transform. You see the growth in these kids,” Flak said.

The issues students talk about are varied. Some students are suffering from grief and loss, others are facing anxiety, depression, divorce and family separation, and some students are experiencing homelessness.

The program is working. All parents surveyed said their children benefited from working with a counselor–99 percent of students surveyed said they feel better after talking to a counselor, and 93 percent of students with academic concerns were more engaged in learning and are completing their homework.

“It’s just so important. These kids really need this kind of opportunity for healing,” Flak said.  “I am really proud of where our program is at now.”

FACT: Students in the School Based Counseling program attend school more regularly, concentrate better and are overall more successful in school.

Jessica Foster
Jessica Foster
Writer, Multimedia Specialist at Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis

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