Within our Child Welfare and Family Services, the Children’s Aid Family Wellness Program offers critical support to families with either past or present cases of domestic violence to help ensure their well-being and achieve long-term stability.
“We try to get to the root of the problem,” said Manny Yonko, director of the Family Wellness program. The program’s caseworkers and counselors assess the needs of each family and strategize support for all members who either experienced or witnessed abuse.
Survivors are given the space to heal in both individual and group counseling. And to ensure that child care doesn’t present an additional barrier to accessing help, the Family Wellness program also offers play groups and counseling for children. Teens who witnessed abuse at home or are in abusive relationships themselves receive counseling where they learn to define healthy relationships.
The Family Wellness program also offers intervention work for abusive partners who are invested in ending the cycle of violence. Through therapeutic services and counseling, parents who were aggressors understand the effects their actions have on their children and learn how to have age-appropriate conversations with their kids around their actions. In his work with abusive partners, Manny has found that many parents think they need to take drastic steps to transform their relationship with their children. He advocates for small and important steps first.
“I just need you to hold yourself accountable,” he advises parents who participate in the intervention services. “And then you’ll really be your child’s hero.”
In many cases, children who witnessed their parent being an aggressor in intimate partner violence display signs of anxiety and fear. So he encourages his participants to verbalize to their child that “it is okay for them to feel their feelings.”
“That kind of validation is so important for kids,” said Manny.