Fostering Emotional Well-being for Children Living at Shelters

Almost every day children are asked “How do you feel?” For approximately 3,000 Wake County children who don’t have a place to call home, the answer may be a blank stare.

Throughout Wake County, shelters provide clients with many of life’s necessities.  At the same time, shelter staff and volunteers have varying expertise and capability to provide the necessary supports essential for nurturing a child’s emotional well-being - in other words, to have the foundation to live a healthy life and be able to form positive relationships, express and regulate emotions, and learn. In order to provide increased opportunities to support the emotional well-being of our vulnerable children several Wake County organizations are working together.

Project CATCH offers support and guidance

For the children who live at any one of 11 Wake County shelters, the award-winning local program Project CATCH, Community Action Targeting Children who are Homeless, provides outreach case management to approximately 350 children each year. Project CATCH works collaboratively with partner shelter staff and school social workers  to serve the unique needs of children and their families throughout Wake County, and to actively coordinate other community resources.  By partnering with each shelter, a system of care is created that connects young and school age children to services such as early intervention, medical homes, and school-related services.

Connections come from community partners

Every Project CATCH child has the opportunity to enjoy the fun at Marbles Kids Museum. There the children enter a world of imagination and discovery grounded in the philosophy that play contributes to a child’s intellectual growth, social and emotional well-being and physical development. Additionally, a partnership between the Wake County Public School System, Marbles Kids Museum and Project CATCH provides workshops on subjects ranging from Toxic Stress to How to be an Effective Parent Advocate with an average of 70 children and parents attending.

For families living in shelters, child care is especially challenging as parents look for available placements that also provide a safe and nurturing environment for their children. There are two programs available to help mitigate this obstacle. Wake County SmartStart reserves 15 subsidy vouchers for these families, and the preschool children supported by Project CATCH and other homeless providers are assigned priority enrollment in Head Start centers.

When children are mentally, socially and emotionally well, they are more likely to be happy and able to thrive. These programs are caring for the positive mental health of our most at-risk children.