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Grant Helping to Expand Behavioral Health Access for Kids in Northwestern Michigan

When the little girl first came to Child & Family Services (CFS) of Northwestern Michigan, it was clear she needed help.

Her mother’s parental rights had been terminated and her custodial grandmother described a child who couldn’t regulate herself emotionally at home, at school or in any social situation.

“She just couldn’t make friends, couldn’t engage in a positive way with her peers or her teachers,” said Paula Smith, director of behavioral health, CFS.

A comprehensive trauma assessment was undertaken. The daylong process involves many health professionals who dig for traumatic events that happened in the past or are ongoing for a child. By looking at a variety of factors, they’re trying to answer a complicated question: What happened to this child and what do they need to be well?

At the end of the assessment, a report is generated and shared with every adult the child routinely interacts with. It has recommendations for how to approach behavior in different ways and offers support to teachers, family members, physicians and others on how to best help.

With buy-in from the adults in her life, the eight-year-old made amazing progress. Her grandmother remarked that she had ‘a new child in my home,’ Smith recounted.

A $25,000 grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation will help CFS provide increased access to affordable trauma-informed behavioral health services in rural northern Michigan. The nonprofit serves more than 20 counties in Northern Michigan through foster care and adoption services, counseling services, a youth shelter and other wraparound programs.

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