CLEARFIELD – REST Inc., a local non-profit 501(c)3 charitable organization dedicated to supporting kinship families, is excited to announce a new support program coming to the Clearfield area, which will help children impacted by parental substance use disorder.
According to studies across the United States and in Pennsylvania, the number one reason kinship caregivers must take on the care of a child is parental substance use disorder; a close second is parental incarceration.
Bobbie Johnson, founder/chief executive officer of REST Inc., sees this happening in the families REST is working with, and says that it extends beyond just kinship families.
“According to data provided by the National Association of Children of Addiction (NACoA), one in four children in the United States is exposed to alcohol misuse or alcohol dependence in the family.”
“And that doesn’t take into account those living in families where there is illicit drug use,” states Johnson.
“When you read these statistics, see it all around you and talk to leaders in the community about how substance use is impacting all areas of our community, you realize it reaches so many.
“And it’s traumatic, so how do we mitigate the circumstances? How do we support those who are impacted by the disease of Substance Use Disorder, give them hope and lead them to a path of recovery?
“We do something.” That “something” has become a partnership between REST Inc., the Clearfield Area School District and the Clearfield County Career and Technology Center through which educational support groups will be offered within both schools.
These educational support groups will be embedded in the school day and are preventive interventions to benefit both the affected children and their parents or other family members.
The Children’s Program Kit, developed by NACoA and the core of this project, is designed to mitigate adverse childhood experiences, via the group setting, to offer education and a safe environment in which these children can express their feelings freely, build a sense of belonging, reduce isolation and enhance protective factors.
Children will learn they are not alone and that they are not to blame for a parent’s Substance Use Disorder (SUD), as it is a disease – one their loved ones can recover from.
Children will also learn skills needed to be safe and resilient, such as problem solving, finding safety and building a support system.
Additionally, parents and other caregivers can learn how to better understand the child’s needs and how to make use of supportive services for the entire family.
Group lessons will include information on SUD as a family disease, treatment options and recovery, community resources and interpersonal skill-building.
Educational materials for parents and caregivers will inform caregivers about lesson topics covered and recovery issues in culturally appropriate ways.
Students can be referred by parents/guardians, guidance counselors, Student Assistance Program representatives, family court and other social services. Students are also able to self-refer.
These education support groups will officially begin in October of 2022, with school and community roll-out beginning in September.
Clearfield School Administrator Mary Sayers shares: “I’m looking forward to implementing the program in our buildings because we have so many students who are faced with guardians of addiction and they are unsure how to handle it and often blame themselves.
“If we can reach one student to let him/her know it isn’t their fault and we are here to support and help him/her then the program will be successful.
“I think families in our district may be surprised by the number of other families that are facing the same struggles and building that support community will be huge for all of them.”
Along with support from the school district, REST is also thrilled to have the backing of the Clearfield-Jefferson Drug and Alcohol Commission.
New Executive Director Chris Grunthaner adds, “The commission is proud to partner with REST and the Clearfield Area School District to offer services to youth who have been affected by parental substance abuse.
“This program will build upon the existing services being offered to members in our community who struggle with substance use and now will extend that continuum of services to include their children who have been impacted.
“This is a much-needed service in our community that will assist children affected by parental substance abuse build resilience to overcome adversity, build skills and identify valuable means of support and find effective means of coping with parental substance abuse.”
REST hopes to see this program extend throughout the county and would encourage other school districts to consider implementing such a program.
Funding for this program has initially been provided by the Life Unites Us Community Grant, awarded to REST Inc., along with four other organizations across Pennsylvania with projects developed to reduce stigma associated with Substance Use Disorder and to promote recovery. The Clearfield Area School District was also generous in securing the initial curriculum package for REST Inc.
To learn more about this program or become a trained volunteer facilitator, please contact Bobbie Johnson at 814-762-2933 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations can also be made to this program by giving online at www.restfamilies.org.