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Child Abuse Prevention Month: Center for Women in Transition

Thursday, April 19, 2018

In honor of Child Abuse Prevention month, we’re highlighting partner organizations who are members of the Stop Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) Council, and work to promote great childhoods. Learn more about the Center for Women in Transition, below.

Center for Women in Transition

Center for Women in Transition’s involvement with SCAN begins with their mission; to respond to, reduce, and prevent domestic and sexual violence. Center for Women in Transition (CWIT) Children’s Therapy program assists children that are experiencing trauma symptoms as a result of witnessing domestic violence. Though the Center’s services are directed towards those witnessing abuse rather than those who have been abused directly, it is often the case that children still suffer through emotional or psychological abuse from the offending parent. CWIT can provide a knowledgeable and significant contribution to the SCAN council.

CWIT empowers children to gain back their voice, providing a safe place to process trauma and the language needed to express the pain they’ve endured.  The goal of the therapy program is to decrease trauma symptoms and increase hope and coping skills. A qualified Children’s Therapist engages children using various therapeutic models, most commonly the Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapeutic Model, an approach that was specifically developed for children that have endured significant trauma. This model focuses on providing psychoeducation (on trauma, domestic violence, the brain), teaching relaxation skills, feeling identification, addressing cognitive distortions, all while gradually exposing the child to their identified traumatic memory, so that the child can be reminded of the trauma without being terrified in the present day.

Artwork created by a child in therapy as part of his healing process

The child creates a trauma narrative; a story of their life that includes sharing their traumatic experiences with a trusted adult. The trusted adult is provided with an opportunity to see the trauma through the child’s eyes and gain a better perspective of how the child perceives traumatic experiences and symptoms. The program ends with promoting safety in any areas needed, as well as a celebration/graduation. The non-offending parent/caregiver is a large part of the healing process and has the opportunity to learn all of the skills their child is learning to better implement outside of session, as well as decrease their own trauma symptoms and increase coping skills.

Local boys James* and Nolan* came to CWIT for children’s therapy after witnessing violence in the family home and being on the run for some time. The boys had to uproot their lives, changing homes and schools to remain safe. The Center’s Children’s therapist worked with the boys and their mother to successfully treat their trauma symptoms. After more than a year in therapy, James saw improvement in his facial “ticks” and became more effective at self-regulating emotions. Nolan not only regained, but significantly strengthened his verbal skills. The mother reported that both boys were sleeping better, performing well in school, and able to identify, verbalize, and process their emotions in a healthier manner.

*Names changed to maintain confidentiality


Center for Women in Transition Services for Children:

  • Therapy

Center for Women in Transition offers free, confidential therapy for children who have witnessed domestic violence or experienced trauma related to domestic violence. Staff and Master’s level interns provide a spectrum of trauma-informed therapeutic interventions using the Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TFCBT) Model. Techniques include talk therapy, play therapy, art therapy, and mindfulness. The majority of children’s therapy is performed in a one-on-one setting, although the non-offending parent is included in the therapeutic process. The Center also offers group therapy sessions during the year for both children and parents.

Prevention Programs:

  • Girls on the Run

Girls on the Run (GOTR) of Ottawa and Allegan counties is a cornerstone of the Center for Women in Transition’s violence prevention work. An afterschool program, GOTR inspires girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using an experience-based curriculum that creatively integrates running. Trained volunteer coaches lead a 10-week lesson series that emphasizes lifelong habits to improve emotional and physical health. Topics covered include bullying, self-esteem, body image, making healthy choices, and respectful relationships. The program culminates with a celebratory 5k event.

Heart and Sole, the middle school program developed by Girls on the Run International, is offered at a small group of Ottawa and Allegan schools.

One of our volunteer coaches from Allegan shared the success of a particular girl on her team named Brittany*. Brittany was struggling in school as a result of substantial changes in her home life. Recently removed from her parents’ care and placed with a foster home, Brittany was withdrawn and had a difficult time making friends/finding a support system. After joining her school’s GOTR team through a donor-funded scholarship, Brittany developed a support system with the girls on her team and actively participated in lessons. She also discovered a passion for running, which she used to manage her stress.

  • Coaching Boys into Men

Coaching Boys into Men (CBIM) equips athletic coaches with necessary resources to teach young male athletes the importance of respectful relationships. Coaches facilitate 20-minute weekly conversations with their athletes about personal responsibility, digital disrespect, consent, and relationship abuse. Trained professionals at the Center provide coaches with training and support as they implement the CBIM curriculum.

CBIM has been proven to positively affect male athletes’ willingness to hold peers accountable and reduce dating violence. Initial results from a partnership with Spring Lake High School football and wrestling teams show athletes are more likely to identify name calling or insulting a dating partner as very abusive behavior.


Age Qualifications for CWIT Services

  • Ages 3 - 17 for children’s therapy
  • 14 and up for therapy and case management services
  • 13 and up for Sexual Assault Forensic Nurse Examinations
  • 18 and up for shelter and supportive housing
  • Any age individual can contact the help line or present as a walk-in client