Mental Health Warrior: Childhood Resiliency

“I don’t think it was only the behaviors of [my son], just the way we were handling the behaviors,” Julia said, “It was, ‘I want affection, and I don’t know how to accept it,’ or ‘I want praise, but again I don’t know how to accept it.’ It was just that I knew there was something more to his behavior. I had to do something. I had to figure out how I could communicate with my son, without feeling defeated by him.”

This was Julia’s life with her adopted son before her decision to seek counseling when her son needed extra help. Her son was enrolled in Play Therapy.

Counselors like Jennifer Amateis, Clinical Supervisor at Family Service, work to help families find out what they have going on, their own strengths and how they can use those strengths to build the strongest family possible.

When children come in and participate in play therapy, they are driving the session. They are coming into a playroom and are choosing what they want to do and how they are going play, what that is going to look like and what roles they are going to be in.

“The philosophy behind [play therapy] is that they really know what they need to heal and that it is not an expert’s job to say ‘this is what we need to play or what we need to talk about’,” Jennifer Amateis said, “There is sort of this innate drive to move towards healing when they have the protected safe space to do that.”

Julia is glad her son has a space where he is able to just be him. In play therapy, he has the freedom to express himself. There is no judgment. There is no ridicule. There is just openly expressing how he feels.

While Julia’s son was in play therapy, she also joined the Child Parent Relationship Therapy group to further be able to help her son as he learned to express himself and create a stronger bond between them.

Emily, mother of an eight-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter understand the value of getting to know a counselor right where her children go after-school and the value of being able to get that help where her kids go every day.

“Miss Deseree is his go-to for everything,” Emily said, “He thinks she can do anything. If something happens at the West End Center that’s the first person he goes to. That’s where his comfort is.”

When it came up that Emily’s son may need services, Emily knew she could trust Family Service and Deseree Stanfield, Youth Development Specialist.

“He shows a really good response if an adult is present in the group with him and he can do a stellar job,” Deseree said, “But, the minute that adult walks away or is distracted by somebody else he tends to go back to wanting to be the center of attention and wanting to get his peers attention. Even if it is by negative stuff.”

Since meeting with Deseree, Emily’s son has opened up. He was comfortable with Desiree and she knew what to say to bring him back to where he needs to be.

Even with Desiree’s support, neither Emily nor her children really knew what to do when the children’s father passed away. The counselors who she had gotten to know, that support network the family had built, referred her to additional services as Family Service really became a tapestry of support for the entire family.

“I didn’t know what my next option was the day after he passed away,” Emily said, “They all met me and they came to the West End Center, because I wanted [my children] to continue their normal daily activities, and [Family Service] just reached out open arms for me, before my family did, before a lot of my friends did, and I was humble because they offered their services. I was on board for anything they are going to possibly get as far as their mental health because I didn’t know what to do. I still don’t today know everything that I need to do. When they came to me I was comfortable with asking for help because I knew I needed it. I didn’t know where to go through, but because it was offered I did.”

The previous two stories came from Family Service’s most recent annual report for 2017-2018. To see the full annual report, a complete list of donors, audited financials, and our 990, visit

Disclaimer: Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.