stories of impact
Social Advocates for Youth (SAY) – Grant Recipient Success!
Lianna Shaw, Coordinator of Grief Services and Jonathan Antimo, Director of Programs at Maxwell Clubhouse, Boys and Girls Club of Sonoma (photo taken at Maxwell Clubhouse in Sonoma).
In the aftermath of the devastating October 2017 fires, the staff of Social Advocates for Youth (SAY) Grief Services evaluated the critical situation in Sonoma Valley and asked Impact100 Sonoma if they could shift the focus of their 2017 Community Grant to meet the needs of children, youth and families affected by fire loss, trauma, and other losses brought to the forefront by the fires.
“During the 2017/18 grant period in which our work was supported by Impact100, our resilience as a community was tested,” explained Melissa Bentley, SAY’s Director of Counseling Services. “The flexibility of Impact100 to allow the use of grant dollars to address the more immediate counseling needs of youth and families allowed SAY to make the shift and serve Sonoma Valley with immediate, relevant services.”
From December 2017 through February 2018 SAY grief clinicians worked within the community to increase awareness of their services and increase youth engagement. While they were busy assessing which services were most critical for youth, a clinician conducted phone consultations with families which included making referrals to mental health support through SAY and other agencies; psychoeducation for caregivers around supporting a grieving child; and the importance of self-care for families in times of stress.
One key element to the successful implementation of the plan was to bring grief services to where the kids are – school campuses and after-school care facilities. “In doing that,” says Ms. Bentley, “We were able to engage more youth in need and provide resources to more families.”
School-based grief groups began in March 2018 on three campuses – Sassarini and El Verano Elementary Schools, and SV High School – as well as at the Boys & Girls Club. Impact100 grant funds supported the school programs. The additional group at the Boys & Girls Club was funded entirely by Impact100. “This group marked the beginning of a relationship with the Boys & Girls Club that will continue as we assess the needs of the youth for groups in the fall of 2018,” Ms. Bentley added.
Elementary school-aged children in group grief groups utilize books and stories for learning about the grief process and feelings, and play games that promote healthy expression and the development of coping skills. Through the use of creative expression and activities, children are given alternate ways to explore their loss in the company of peers who may share similar experiences.
At each of the three school sites and the Boys & Girls Club, the youth of Sonoma Valley received 5 – 9 weeks of grief group sessions. Each service site received 5 – 9 hours of direct support for youth as well as five hours of collaboration with counseling and administrative staff that included the support and education of teachers on issues such as developmental responses to grief and loss, ways to support a child, and resources for families. In total, 27 youth received direct grief support services and 27 families were provided psychoeducational materials about grief.
The success of the intervention can be heard in the voices of young people who received grief services. A seven-year old girl shared, “I like when we were in a circle and sharing our feelings.” A second graded commented, “It helped me to talk about the people who died and it made me feel happier.”
“The wildfires affected so many of our kids and families, directly and indirectly,” Ms. Bentley said. “We are grateful to Impact100 for accommodating our request to shift our focus to best support the Sonoma Valley community.”
To learn more about Social Advocates for Youth go to, www.saysc.org.
Impact100 Sonoma is a member of Catalist