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Children of the storm
Parish sees spike in child welfare cases post-Katrina
By M. Susanne Hinkle -   Jun 08, 2006

Children of the storm

In a post-Katrina Louisiana, according to child welfare officials, there has been a rise in clientele in need of services to deal with stress or poor living conditions.

Local advocate, Gail Roussel, Executive Director of The Center of Family and Youth Services in St. Charles Parish, stated, "We have seen a dramatic increase in clients as a result of Hurricane Katrina, especially in relationship to substance abuse and domestic violence."

To meet these challenges, the organization has recently received funding from United Way and Reach Out America to address the increased need for counseling. "Our intake usually decreases in the summer because school is out and the pressure is relieved on students, but this year we are receiving a record number of calls to the center requesting help,” said Roussel.

The Center offers services which include family and individual counseling, substance abuse treatment, Project Alert- which is a program that is free to children about the harmful effects of alcohol, drugs and tobacco, Parenting Wisely program for parents, Juveniles Eliminating Destructive Impulses- which is an adolescent male group designed to address anger management issues, Adult Anger Management program and Substance Issues Affecting Teen Health and Post Traumatic Stress Group.

"In addition to the services offered by the Center, we are involved in Family Court which operates from Division C, 29th Judicial. Judge St. Pierre recognized the need for the family to be treated rather than just the child," said Roussel.

If you suspect a child is a victim of child abuse or neglect, contact the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office and report the incident. Officials at the Sheriff’s office will then look into the claim and forward the child unto protective services.

In these extreme cases, there is help available to troubled youths of all ages. One such service is Associated Catholic Charities. This organization collaborates with the wider community to offer a variety of services providing assistance and relief to children and parents. Catholic Charities offers Counseling Solutions for individuals, families, and couples with cost based on income along with Behavior Management Groups that offer the opportunity for group counseling for individuals with issues related to self-control in the community and at home.

Catholic Charities of St. Charles Parish is preparing to expand its capacity to make available to this community a full range of human services otherwise only available through the New Orleans office. These include a local availability of Adoption Services, Therapeutic Family Services, Family Preservation Services, Deaf Community Actions Services, Custody Evaluations, and Mental Health Rehabilitation services to adults and children.

Kingsley House Family Resource Center in LaPlace offers a wide variety of services to needy children in St. Charles Parish and surrounding parishes. Their mission is to educate children, strengthen families and assist in building a stronger community. Among the services offered include parent education, crisis and planned respite, child/adolescent anger management, substance abuse counseling and counseling for sexual abuse victims. All services offered by Kingsley House are free.

In addition to the described services, the St. Charles Parish Community Health Center in Luling offers services that include a PHD physiologist, social workers, and family and individual counseling. "We have seen kids having difficulty since Katrina," said James Comeaux, Chief Project Officer for St. Charles Parish Community Health Center. He went on to say, "Children that were doing well before Katrina are suffering now with grades and school problems. Although, there have been no reports to our office of extremely bad living conditions."

With children home from school for the summer and hurricane season kicking off just days ago, it is important now more than ever to remember the children and be aware of the services available to children that have difficulty coping the stress and abuse.

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