Until I paid a visit to Milford recently, I did not realize that this town had a sizeable immigrant population. I also had no idea that the segments of this population that were experiencing trauma were, because of language barriers, being woefully underserved.
It was therefore extremely gratifying to hear about the stimulus-funded program that the local office of Wayside Youth & Family Network, a social services agency headquartered in Framingham, was able to implement to help Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking children and their parents get the help and support they need in the event of a crisis.
The award was for $79K under the Victims of Crime Assistance Program and it is funding Eliana Jarvis, an effervescent social worker who is singlehandedly ensuring that the members of this group don’t fall through the cracks of society.
“These kids were completely neglected until stimulus funded this program,” Dr. Lauren Barry, the director of Trauma Intervention Services at the Milford office of Wayside, told me. Eliana explained that domestic violence cases dominate her work with this population. She said the police and the Department of Children and Families are getting used to calling her when the families don’t speak English. Every week, she told me she is seeing one or two new families. Eliana said she also works with the local high school, the local clergy and at Wayside’s residential facility for adolescents. “Kids are feeling more comfortable talking to me,” she said.
It is critical for a child to be able to get support after a traumatic event, Louise Cabral, a therapist at Wayside, told me. Louise runs a sexual assault and rape crisis program which was funded with a $32K stimulus grant under the Violence Against Women Act. “I tell them you don’t have to worry about insurance or payment, just tell me how we can help,” she told me. She is seeing women at their most vulnerable who have experienced life-shattering assaults. As Louise told me, “At the time when there is so much chaos, being able to help is how we are successful. People want to get through this upheaval and they want to know what to do.”
Louise works a lot at Milford High School educating the students about teen dating violence and date rape drugs among other things. She told me about a recent program she implemented there called the Clothesline Project, for which she got funding through the United Way. Teenagers wrote on different colored t shirts – depending upon what they are writing about – to express their views or experiences with violence or sexual assault. Fifty t-shirts were made and hung on a clothesline in the school for display. Louise showed me what some of the teens wrote and it was sobering to read what some of them have experienced. Eliana told me some of the teachers cried after reading the t-shirts. I can’t blame them.
I continue to be amazed and awed by those who work day after day, hearing these terribly sad stories, helping the victims get strong, and providing them with the emotional ability to reclaim their lives. They are true heroes and, while it is unfortunate that their services are so urgently needed, I am glad that stimulus can help them do what they do.