HOPE and CHAP Programs Help Families Under Stress
Lakeda Conyers' four children suffered when she was first diagnosed with colon cancer. It was devastating for them to deal with a parent fighting a debilitating disease.
Conyers' daughter Taylor had the hardest time coping with her mom's ailment, Conyers said. "She would cry, she would act out, she would have nightmares, she was scared of what life would be like if I don't survive having cancer.
"She insisted on sharing a bed with me because one night she dreamed that she had come to my room to wake me up one morning and I didn't wake up," Conyers said.
But through the HOPE program sponsored by Catholic Charities of Tennessee, Taylor Conyers and many other children ages 5-18 have found help in dealing with tragic events in their lives.
The HOPE and CHAP (Creating Hope by Assisting Parents) programs are two services that Catholic Charities offers to assist children and families in difficult situations.
The HOPE program offers counseling to school-aged children and teenagers who have witnessed or suffered through traumatic events.
"This doesn't describe all of our clients, but many of the kids who come through the HOPE program tend to live in high-tension areas of Metro Nashville, where there is a lot of violence and crime," said Ryan Duprey, child welfare coordinator for the HOPE and CHAP programs. "Many of them have witnessed violence or crime in their homes and neighborhoods, and it's hard for them to process what they've seen.
"On average, our kids spend about 11 weeks in individual and group counseling sessions, where they share their feelings about what has happened to them and learn to deal with those emotions in constructive ways," Duprey said.
CHAP is offered to families seeking assistance to meet their needs and care for their young children.
"CHAP is offered to families who have young kids, from newborns to 8 years old," Duprey explained. "Some of them have trouble securing their own basic needs, such as housing. And we connect them to different community social services where those needs can be met. We do crisis interventions for families who need it.
"We also offer parenting education courses, and most of our clients participate in those," he added. "We give each participant an individualized assessment of their parenting skills to identify the areas where they are struggling the most. And we follow that up with a custom-made curriculum that's designed to help these parents improve upon their weaknesses."
CHAP is not affiliated directly with the Caring Choices Pregnancy and Adoption Agency that Catholic Charities runs, but the two departments do work together occasionally.
"Sometimes one of the counselors at Caring Choices will let me know about one of their clients who needs different forms of support to continue a pregnancy, and we can help that person get what she needs," Duprey said. "That's one of the great things about Catholic Charities, is that it's an umbrella organization. If someone comes to us looking for help and one department can't serve him, another office right down the hallway can do it."
The families who seek assistance from CHAP are diverse, Duprey said. "The clients we see in CHAP are very racially diverse. Most of them are black, white and Hispanic, and others are from various other racial and ethnic backgrounds," he said. "They come from a variety of family situations. A lot of them from broken and abusive families where there's been domestic violence, while others just come for parenting education. They stay for different lengths of time as well. On average, most of our clients stay with us for 10-16 months. But we've had people who have stayed for shorter times and a few who have come to us for up to two years."
The two programs connect with community agencies and social services in Nashville to advertise their work to the public. "We do a lot of networking with community leaders and family services in town," Duprey said. "We try to reach out to neighborhood and community based organizations who serve people who need help with the issues we address, and we let them know about the work we do. That way they can refer their clients to us should the need arise."
Conyers and her family, along with many others, have benefitted greatly from their connection with Catholic Charities. "Taylor doesn't have nightmares anymore," Lakeda Conyers said. "She's also more willing to talk about how she's feeling and she's not quite as emotional when she talks about her problems. She really has gotten a lot out of the HOPE program."