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Kids express on canvas

July 6, 2015

As told by a therapist:

I was recruited to help decorate the new Clark County Office for Family & Children’s Place.  I wanted to re-create a handprint work of art that hangs in the Kosair Charities Child Advocacy Center, so asked the kids I see for school-based counseling at Green Valley Elementary to help me cover a large canvas with their colorful handprints.  The children happily agreed, so I painted each of their hands and they followed my directions on where and how to place their hands on the canvas.  The result is beautiful.

artThe canvas is infused with the laughter and sweet energy of the children, so I call the work, “True Colors” because as service providers, we often are the only people in our clients’ lives who not only look for their strengths, but help them to see their own strengths.  We also often see our clients in very vulnerable and honest states, so we are privileged to see their true colors.

The children who created True Colors have endured and worked to overcome so many struggles. They are:

  • Two brothers who witnessed numerous bouts of domestic violence between their parents and started acting out at school due to the traumatic experiences. Their father also abuses drugs and has been in and out of jail, so his presence in their lives is inconsistent. In working with this family for a couple years, the youngest brother started opening up to me this past school year, and through school-based therapy, both boys have been given a safe space to express their feelings and learn ways to cope with their family situation.
  • A young man who acted out at school after seeing his mother and her boyfriend fight violently. Since starting therapy two years ago, he has made a lot of progress, including “graduating” from therapy for maintaining improvements in his behavior at school.
  • A child whose father struggles with substance abuse and who began misbehaving at school after finding a dead body near his home. To help and support him, the school placed him in a smaller classroom where he could receive more one on one attention and care.
  • A young child who has worked hard to control his body, use kind words and follow directions. He has shown a lot of improvement during the school year with help from school-based therapy, his teacher and pediatrician.
  • Two brothers who were in foster care, but were returned to their mother. The boys witnessed a lot of domestic violence at home and both struggle with significant mental health issues.  In addition to my work, the e school’s resource coordinator is working with the family,, because it takes a team approach to help this family and these boys succeed.
  • A young man I have worked with for three years who witnessed domestic violence at home and has struggled with aggression related to grief. Through therapy, he has been able to learn and utilize an emotional vocabulary, develop coping skills and have a safe place to explore his thoughts and feelings.
  • A young man whose family has long treated him as a scapegoat. The school has worked hard to help him and to boost and reinforce his self-confidence, including helping him join the school’s basketball team.  I will never forget the day he found out he made the team!  Too often, school staff are the only people who give this young man positive comments.
  • A young man who lives with his grandmother and struggles with depression and anxiety after being severely physically abused by his father.

These children have experienced and witnessed so many horrible things in their lives, things I – most of us – cannot imagine.  It is a privilege to be able to connect with these children, to give them a safe place to cry, feel and to heal. Every day is an amazing experience if you take time to look for the special moments that remind you of why you do the work you do.