Everyone needs guidance to grow to their fullest potential. For many children, that guidance and care is missing in their lives. Some children’s parents lack parenting skills necessary to guide their youngsters into adulthood. Others have suffered from abuse, neglect or abandonment, and they need therapy, emotional support and encouragement. Therapeutic Mentors at Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services work to fill those empty places in a child’s life.
Therapeutic Mentoring is sometimes conducted in subtle ways. While the mentor and child may be enjoying an afternoon at the park, the mentor will be guiding the child through whatever difficulties he or she may be encountering. Trained, professional PCHAS mentors work with each child and his or her family to determine goals and craft a customized plan to successfully navigate that child and their families towards those goals. Mentors meet with the children at home, school or in the community at least once a week for an entire year.
“Over the top incredible!” That’s how a counselor at Hancock Place School District in South County describes the positive results from a therapeutic mentoring program that started in February of 2015.
Sherry Rischbieter knows firsthand how behavioral issues affect the grades of students. As a crisis counselor, she has seen problems with self-control in an elementary classroom lead to aggressive outbursts. By middle school, youngsters can spiral downward into suspensions or truancy.
Mid-way through the 2015-16 school year, Rischbieter says, “Attendance is increasing and discipline issues are decreasing for the 31 students in the program.” She gives high marks to the professional mentors from Presbyterian Children’s Homes & Services (PCHAS) for “bridging the gap between home and school.” Parents give permission for children, ages five to 19, to participate and now see the mentors as advocates for them.
Therapeutic mentors, who are paid, are required to have a degree in a social science or education. They meet with their students at school for at least one hour each week for a year. Even over the summer, they continued meeting to keep up their progress. Such a commitment makes a big difference to many families, including those of Tyler and Noah.
Tyler was a trouble-maker by fourth grade. He started fights at school and at home. Then he met his mentor, Ken, who taught him how to recognize ‘triggers.’ Now a sixth grader, Tyler says, “My temper used to be in control of me. Now I am the one in control of me.” Tyler’s mom is proud of him for earning better grades and becoming a leader among other students. “Kids are coming to me for advice on how to handle problems,” Tyler admits. “It feels good that they look up to me.”
Another student, Nick, had a diagnosis of mental illness — voices told him to hurt other students and kill his parents — but his mother hesitated to admit him to a hospital. One day in December he heard the voices while in school and told Rischbieter.
As counselor, she had permission to contact Nick’s psychiatrist, who told her to call 911. Rischbieter also contacted the boy’s mentor. She arrived at the school before Nick’s mother and stayed with Nick as he answered questions from the police and paramedics. “Then the mentor went to the hospital, too,” Rischbieter says. “She assisted Nick and his mom through a very difficult process. Without the therapeutic mentor, I don’t believe he would be receiving the help he needs.”
Therapeutic Mentoring is provided in St. Louis, St. Louis County, Lincoln County and at Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services’ residential treatment facilities in Missouri. Funding for Therapeutic Mentoring in St. Louis County is provided by St. Louis County Children’s Service Fund, and is free to any child living in the county.
Read about Peter, another student, here.
To learn more about Therapeutic Mentoring, contact:
Jason Beard, Mentor Manager
Jonathan Lagrone, Mentor Coordinator
Mark Grzeskowiak, Mentor Coordinator