Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Child Center in Normandy: Where `Hopeless' Cases Can Find Hope

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Child Center in Normandy: Where `Hopeless' Cases Can Find Hope

Article excerpt

The Child Center of Our Lady in Normandy next year will mark a half-century of giving help and hope to young children - especially those cast off by other social agencies as "hopeless" because of severe behavioral and emotional problems.

Jonathan (a pseudonym) went to the neat complex of single-story brick residential and administrative buildings at 7900 Natural Bridge Road two years ago when he was 9. He had been taken away from his mentally ill and physically abusive mother when he was 13 months old and had been shunted from one foster home to another because of defiant and destructive behavior, including threatening a foster parent with a knife.

Tim Sloan, Jonathan's social worker at the Child Center of Our Lady, felt that his problems of acting out, hyperactivity and short attention span were caused mostly by the trauma and insecurity of his infancy. Sloan decided to treat him in the center's short-term program, forgoing the behavior-controlling medication prescribed for many of the center's 24 or so residential cases, who range in age from 5 to 14. Jonathan responded slowly but surely to the center's routine of special education classes, music, art and group therapy sessions with staff psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors. He also took part in the agency's planned recreation program, which includes swimming in its outdoor pool, gym sports, camping and other outings and biking around the spacious but fenced grounds. "Routine and predictability - showing him he was safe from abuse and a ttack - got rid of the fears and anxiety," Sloan said. At the end of the 90-day short term, Jonathan was deemed fit for placement in another foster home. Most residential cases are referred to the center by the Missouri Division of Family Services and Mental Health Department. But some are referred by the families themselves after coming to their wit's end in dealing with often congenital psychiatric disorders in their children. Treating The Whole Family Doris Smith knew something was wrong with her son Andrew (not their real names) from infancy. "He didn't sleep much and was hyperactive. …

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