More Therapists Needed: Changing Lives By Helping Kids & Families Heal

It’s no secret that mental health challenges are on the rise across the nation. For Sara Barnes, Director of Outpatient Services, and her teams at Cornerstones of Care, they’re making every dollar count for kids, youth and families in Jackson County. But it’s not enough. The Children’s Services Fund provides funding for therapists and bachelor-level navigators who make two key programs possible: Functional Family Therapy and the Grandview School-based Initiative. Both are meeting critical social-emotional and behavioral health concerns.

Addressing Needs of High-Risk Adolescents & Families 

Jacqueline Williams is the Clinical Manager of Functional Family Therapy (FFT). This nationally-recognized, evidence-based program serves adolescents ages 11–18 and their families. While some are referred by schools or word of mouth, many are recommended through family court or diversion. Most are considered high-risk. For some families, they’re dealing with economic issues, evictions, or job loss. It’s up to Jacqueline’s team to provide a level of case management for stability and intensive weekly (and sometimes twice weekly) therapy sessions. 

Helping families navigate and recover can be tough. Jacqueline recalls one situation: “There was a lot of shame and guilt surrounding the actions of one youth toward his younger brother. His father didn’t understand his son’s feelings, and his mother had shut down. I honestly wasn’t sure the family would commit to applying the skills, but we were committed to helping them remain a family, no matter what that looked like.”

It was a process:

  • They had to address the hurt and confused feelings.
  • They had to recognize the patterns that led to the situation.
  • Each family member had to learn and apply new skills, being willing to talk about some really difficult things.

But the outcome was hopeful:

  • Over time, the family members developed healthier relationships between each other.
  • The young man was able to identify and communicate his feelings and needs.
  • They now also know challenges may arise, but with new tools and confidence to ask for help when they need it, they can face those situations in healthier ways.

A Growing Need in Jackson County

With a small (but mighty!) team of 4, Jacqueline is proud of the work they’re able to accomplish. And yet, they need more therapists, possibly double. “We’re seeing more aggression and more runaway situations for longer periods of time. Detention has increased and more students are being sent home from school more often and sooner than we recommend.”

A new concern for Jacqueline and her team is the waitlist that’s developed in the last year. “There’s a high need for the kind of work we do. Low-income families are feeling the pressure and stress of transportation and scheduling,” says Jacqueline. The FFT therapists meet families in their homes, in the community and even virtually to help relieve the pressure. Unique to their services is an extended invitation to a close neighbor or favorite aunt who could be helpful as well. And if families need to return for a “Booster Session,” they offer those, too!

A Partnership with the Grandview School District for Pre-K through Middle School

When the Grandview School District realized the extent of their students’ social-emotional needs, they reached out to Cornerstones of Care. Initial success with grades 3–5 resulted in expanding the program from Pre-K through 8th grade. Even after adding more positions, they still need more therapists and navigators.

Bi-annual Screening to Inform Care

Julie Plunkett, the Clinical Manager of School-based Services at Cornerstones of Care leads a team of six (and a half) therapists caring for children across five elementary schools, one preschool and two middle schools. (Thankfully, ReDiscover serves the High School students.)

Their first challenge was to assess who needed support and at what level. “Typically,” Julie expresses, “most kids simply need group support while the fewest number of kids need more intensive, individual support.” But in the Grandview School District, it’s just the opposite. 

Julie’s team uses the BASC-3 BESS screening to assess kids’ social-emotional needs in fall and spring. Students mark their level of concern in regards to statements like:

  • “My parents are proud of me.”
  • “I’m worried and don’t know why.”
  • “I feel like my life is getting worse and worse.”

Therapists follow up to clarify and prioritize those who need intervention. 

Working Together For Elementary and Middle School Kids

What they love about the partnership is how receptive and grateful parents have been. Through the assessment, the team identified one elementary kiddo with significant challenges. They collaborated with the school and his teachers, and reached out to his family to offer therapy. The youngster was able to express how he didn’t feel he had a choice — at home, at school, or for nearly anything in life. Working together, his mom, teachers, and the therapist provided options, choices and solutions. Now in middle school, he’s able to get more support to address learning struggles. His mom is engaging her son and the school more, and has reached out for therapy herself.

Stories like this one enabled the Grandview School District to earn an award for supporting the emotional and social wellbeing of their students. “They attribute their success to their partnership with Cornerstones of Care,” touts Sara Barnes. “I couldn’t be more proud of my teams — both Jacqueline’s and Julie’s. We couldn’t do it without the support of the CSF. Their funding is absolutely vital to the existence and success of these programs. Without them, it would affect hundreds of kids and families.”

Regarding funding from the CSF, Sara replied, “If you could see the true change in people’s lives you’d see it’s money well spent. If we’re able to increase the function of more kids and families, help them heal and live an entirely different life, it will have a long-term effect.”
Learn more about the essential services The CSF funds, other incredible partner organizations like Cornerstones of Care, and read more stories of lives changed. With every purchase you make in Jackson County, kids have more hope for their future.

Back to Top Back to Top