Program Spotlight Jan 16

Taking Charge of Trauma  Program Spotlight: Understanding The Conflict Cycle

Trauma challenges our kids every day. We see it in their behavior and they tell us in surveys. So many times, when members at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor are acting out, we know that the root causes of those behaviors are not always a result of anything happening in the Club. Our National Youth Outcomes Initiative annual surveys confirm that, for members both locally and nationally, most rank low in the ability to handle conflict resolution. “Regardless of age, gender or club location, almost 90% of our members tell us they need to improve their capability to manage and resolve conflict,” says Brian Saxton, the chief executive officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor.
“What makes it more difficult to manage trauma and deal with conflict are the limited resources in schools and the community to find help for our kids,” says Saxton. Having identified the need, the Boys & Girls Clubs are becoming a place to access help. Saxton attended a conference at the University of Chicago with Twyla Smith, the assistant professor of social work and director of field education for Andrews University. It was there where the plan came together to have advanced degree (Masters of Social Work) students from Andrews’ Social Work Department perform their required internship at the Clubs, supervised by a licensed social worker experienced in youth counseling from Lakeland Healthcare. 

Nationally, Boys & Girls Clubs of America is also taking on that challenge by understanding The Conflict Cycle. 
The Conflict Cycle illustrates that to overcome adverse conditions and traumatic experiences, young people need hope, self-esteem, and empowerment—all part of the Boys & Girls Clubs daily programming. 

The program continues to evolve here at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor. Currently, Andrews University interns are conducting a survey at the Fettig Youth Campus. Based upon the Michigan Health Model, the results of the survey will point to the most prominent trauma-based issues our kids are experiencing. This in-depth analysis will lead to better understanding and more targeted programming. In combination with existing programming that helps build self-esteem and enhance self-image, such as SMART Girls and Passport to Manhood, individual counseling helps members address issues that are causing bad behavior, problems in school, and even juvenile delinquency.

The Clubs’ priority is to provide a safe, positive, out-of-school setting. Inside the Clubs, a team of instructors has attended a mental health first aid class at Riverwood Center with the support of a grant from the Berrien County Family Court. If the team of instructors and social work interns need additional resources, youth members and their families can be referred to the Andrews University Psychology Department for weekly counseling. That evolution is in the beginning stages, but is another way the Clubs can help members overcome the issues they face. 

The Clubs are asking, “What happened to you?” rather than, “What is wrong with you?” By identifying a problem, using data, benchmarking best youth development practices, and forming a coalition of supporting partners, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor are leveraging resources. These resources help members develop new conflict management capabilities, increase personal character and resiliency, and learn how to approach a problem from a different perspective. 
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