In March of 2016, Queen of Peace Center (QOPC) was awarded $110,000 from the Tilles Foundation to expand The Health and Wellness Program. The Health and Wellness Program serves children and youth enrolled in Peace for Kids Child Development Center and Nurturing Networks Family Program ages 0-18 to facilitate mental and primary health development. Programming focuses on implementing trauma-informed care, healthy living habits, and nutrition in the classrooms. Children and youth are provided comprehensive services supported by an infant and early childhood mental health consultant and wellness coach.
As a result of the funding provided by the Tilles Foundation, two QOPC staff members have completed the Sunshine Circles Training in Chicago IL, and have started implementing the curriculum in the early childhood education classrooms. At the training, staff learned how to utilize specific play groups to support and develop pro-social behaviors such as cooperation, friendship and self-control. The staff learned how to use play to help repair traumatic experiences, build a positive sense of self for each child and to develop a healthy range of emotions. An infant and early childhood mental health consultant and wellness coach has been onsite at QOPC weekly (6 hours) to offer guidance to direct service staff, as well as to provide consultation to staff on how to continue enhancing the Health and Wellness program. The EatPlayGrow curriculum has also been implemented in the classrooms in order to promote health living habits for children. The consultant has been providing coaching and guidance to the center to implement systematic changes in the center to support the EatPlayGrow and Sunshine Circles philosophies.
Since the inception of the program on March 1, 2016, 86 children have participated in the program and 60 children still remain in the program. Of the children who completed follow-up assessments, 83% have showed improvement in at least one of the following domains:
- On-track to meet developmental milestones,
- Improved social-emotional skills,
- Or increased nutrition education.
According to Sarah Williams, MA, Director of Education and Prevention, the impact of the Health and Wellness Program is significant. “We have a 4 year old girl whose mother is in the substance abuse treatment center. The child has experienced significant trauma in the past six months with mom relapsing and disappearing for 3 months. This child began to have self-regulation challenges in the classroom with impulsive behavior, difficulty in following directions and focusing on a task for a period longer than 5 minutes. This child has shown improvements with all three of these areas with the help of Sunshine Circles. She has been able to wait her turn during the circle time, remain focused during the play activity part and has begun to show empathy towards her peers. She thrives during this circle time as she is learning that she is valued and cared for regardless of her current life circumstances. This child also benefits from the EatPlayGrow lessons. She has made several comments during meal time to her peers about the vegetables on her plate, and she is able to identify the vegetables on her own and was overheard telling her mom that the green beans help her become big and strong.”
The current program has assisted QOPC in continuing to reach the goal of supporting children in healthy physical and behavioral development. QOPC will continue to implement the program with the hope of expanding the program by offering the curriculum in every classroom to reach every child.
For more information about Queen of Peace Center, please visit http://www.qopcstl.org