Regaining strength amidst hardship


Trauma and Grief Center programs help Harvey, Sante Fe families heal, rebuild

In the short time since opening in 2017, Texas Children’s Trauma and Grief (TAG) Center has launched two high-profile programs to provide ongoing support and healing to families impacted by Hurricane Harvey and the Sante Fe school shooting tragedy.

Hurricane Harvey Resiliency and Recovery Program

While it’s been over a year since the rising flood waters of Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Houston community, the recovery and healing process still continues for many families across our region – with some families needing more time to heal than others.

To support the most vulnerable populations, and serve the mental health needs of those children adversely impacted by the hurricane and flooding, the Harvey Resiliency and Recovery Program launched as part of Texas Children’s new Trauma and Grief Center.

The Trauma and Grief Center is one of the only health service agencies within this region of Texas to offer significant child trauma and bereavement expertise. The Center evaluates traumatized and/or bereaved youth between the ages of 7 and 17 and provides ongoing evidence-based treatments to those requiring intervention.

Dr. Julie Kaplow, chief of psychology and director of Texas Children’s Trauma and Grief Center and the Harvey Resiliency and Recovery Program, said surviving a disaster like Harvey can be distressing for anyone, but youth who have already been exposed to trauma, traumatic loss and/or severe adversity are at particularly high risk for severe persisting stress.

“Our one-of-a-kind program connects our TAG Center experts to these children,” Kaplow said. “By using evidence-based assessments and interventions, and providing trauma-informed training to mental health professionals and teachers in impacted communities, we are more quickly recognizing and addressing the needs of children who are at risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder and related psychological difficulties.”

Through collaborative partnerships with multiple school districts, the Center’s Harvey Resiliency and Recovery Program has screened over 1,000 children since the program launched. The Center’s mobile unit also has been instrumental in providing additional support to Hurricane Harvey families.

“People are given the message from our society that they should be fine a year after the hurricane, and that they should have already returned to their homes,” Kaplow said. “But for many families, particularly in our underserved communities, they’re not fine. Their homes are still being reconstructed and they are still trying to figure out what to do next. For many families, it will take a longer period of time to get through this and that is why we, along with our community partners, are here to offer support over the long term.”

Sante Fe Strong Resiliency Center

In September of 2018, Texas Children’s Trauma and Grief Center received a $1 million grant from the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) fund to support the Santa Fe Strong Resiliency Center. The center partnered with the Gulf Coast Center, and others in the Santa Fe community, to create the Santa Fe Strong Resiliency Center, in the aftermath of the Santa Fe school shooting in May 2018, to deliver mental health services to those impacted.

Through this $1 million VOCA grant, Texas Children’s has hired four trauma- and grief-informed therapists and trained them in the relevant assessment and interventions most needed by the students and families in this community. The team is also providing ongoing consultation and support to the therapists at the Santa Fe Strong Resiliency Center, as well as school counselors across the Santa Fe Independent School District.

In addition to these supplemental resources, experts at Texas Children’s Trauma and Grief Center hosted three large-scale trainings for community- and school-based clinicians who might be called upon to serve the needs of the community by caring for and treating impacted children and adolescents.

“We are extremely grateful to receive this funding,” Kaplow said. “This grant will help us provide much-needed services and support for the children and families of the Santa Fe community.”