Margaret Mead said it best when she said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
In this spirit, fifteen people came together in the Fall of 2011 to help change the world for Somerset County’s abused and neglected children. Inspired by the invitation of retiring Superior Court Judge Thomas Dilts to join with him in an effort to help meet the unmet needs of abused and neglected children, this group, now known as the Children’s Hope Initiative, is working under the auspices of the Friends of Somerset County Youth, Inc., a Section 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that has been a vehicle for helping meet the unmet needs of all of Somerset’s youth for more than a generation.
The first order of business was to agree upon our mission and who it is that we seek to serve. Our mission is: to meet the unmet needs of abused or neglected children and their families by providing resources for existing organizations in Somerset County. The children we seek to serve are those who have suffered trauma: through physical, sexual, emotional abuse or parental neglect; through exposure to domestic violence that has led to significant emotional harm; or who exhibit acting out behaviors consistent with abuse even if abuse has not been confirmed.
What we have done and are doing
Since our formation in 2011, we have:
– Provided creative art therapies for 106 children through funding Creative Heartwork
– Supported the establishment of Positive Parenting program in Somerset County to help parents find ways to overcome impediments to good parenting
– Helped establish the “Children’s Hope After School Program in memory of Paige Whitney Imperatore” at the Richard Hall Community Mental Health Center serving children by providing adjunctive therapies (art, music, dance, drama) for 50 children each year. Expanded in 2017 to include 6 weeks of summer experience (in 2019, 2 groups for three weeks, 5 days a week) including equine therapy, karate, and yoga for 20 children. Our last year was 2021. Sadly, because of a lack of children to participate, we will not be continuing this program.
– Worked with Middle Earth to support new and expanded mentoring opportunities. (Middle Earth: http://www.middleearthnj.org/)
– Worked with Family and Community Services of Somerset County (Family and Community Services of Somerset County: http://fcssomerset.org/) to cut waiting time for children needing mental health counseling and medicines
– Implemented tutoring programs through CASA-SHAW to help more than 72 abused and neglected children who are in out-of-home placements and have fallen behind educationally.
–-Summer Fun Trips for up to 100 abused/traumatized children each trip referred by DCP&P, Tri-County CMO, RHCMHC, to Great Adventure, Dorney Park, and Schaffer Farms
–“Visions Plus”. Middle Earth provides mentoring, educational and support services for up to 9 young persons who are “aging out” of the child welfare system.
–Family and Community Services provided group counseling needed for middle school aged, Hispanic/Latino students who recently entered the United States from countries that include but are not limited to Costa Rica, El Salvador, Peru, Guatemala, and Ecuador. Many of these students have trauma and academic, behavioral, emotional adjustment difficulties due to their experiences in their home countries. F&CS did not offer this program in 2023, and we hope they will do so in 2024.
–Placing community volunteers with youth serving organizations.
–Offer training to youth serving organizations on proper child protection practices and policies.
–Funded Darkness to Light Training at YMCA in 2013.
–Funded and help organize and support Resilient Youth of Somerset to promote trauma-informed and trauma sensitive care to parents, educators, law enforcement and the community at large.
What we want to do
– Ensure our current initiatives are funded going forward ($100,000 year)
– Find new ways to move into prevention services, especially to help promote “good parenting” to young parents and teens
– Help to meet the existing unmet needs of abused and neglected children in Somerset County.