Coping with Back-to-School Anxiety
By Christine Jaimes, LCSW-R, Clinical Director
New Directions Childrens Clinic of WNY
Back-to-school is usually a time of excitement and it’s normal for kids to experience some degree of anxiety as a new school year approaches. However, this year, COVID-19 may add to those stresses as children worry about themselves or their loved ones becoming ill. Normal routines will change as schools take precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The uncertainty of the situation and changes in routine can cause many students – and parents – to feel stressed and anxious.
Kids may ask, “Will I get sick? Will my teachers? How will class be different?”
Many parents are having a harder time dealing with COVID-19 than their children, and some of the anxiety that kids are experiencing may be inadvertently passed on by worried parents. As parents, we need to be modeling for our kids how to react to stressful times by coping with anxiety in healthy ways. Be mindful of the present and stay focused on facts. Be smart about what you are reading. Make sure it is helpful and not full of doomsday kind of stories. Stay calm. Rely on routines. Establishing a routine that involves exercise, regular meals and healthy amounts of sleep is also crucial to regulating our moods and our worries.
You can also set aside time to regularly practice mindfulness, which is a way to help stay grounded and calm. YouTube has a variety of meditation and guided imagery videos. Parents can practice mindfulness alone or with children. You can’t control the future, but you can take charge of the present.
Children may show their anxiety in different ways. You know your child best, so be on the lookout for changes in your child’s behavior and mood, such as:
What can parents do to help their children?
August Staff Spotlight
The Staff Spotlight would like to recognize a vital member of the Human Resources Department, Lynda France! Lynda has been working at the Randolph Campus since 2003, starting as a part- time HR Assistant, but soon moving to full-time after picking up a part-time Health Services Secretary role as well. She is an alumnus of both Jamestown Community College as well as Jamestown Business College, gaining an Associates in Computer Technology and an Office Administration Diploma from each respectively.
Lynda handles much of the hiring process down at Randolph, including advertising positions and running background checks on new hires. She makes sure that each perspective employee is a good fit for the organization and that all open roles continue to be filled. She also assists HR Manager Nanette whenever she needs help. Lynda loves that she is able to help applicants find the career-path they’ve been searching for, all the while getting them through the process quickly so that they can start as soon as possible and making sure they understand their benefits. She is grateful for her boss Nanette, along with the rest of her trusty HR team. In her free time, Lynda enjoys spoiling her children and granddaughter, and spending time in the great outdoors kayaking and gardening.
Thank you so much for all the hard work you put in on a daily basis, Lynda!
June Staff Spotlight!
Are you missing baseball season? So is Chrissy Butcher! Chrissy’s love for baseball stems back to childhood when she watched minor league baseball in Jamestown. She then worked at Jamestown’s stadium and watched several players move up to the major leagues. Chrissy joined New Directions in 1999, working on the Randolph Residential Campus then as the program coordinator for Chautauqua House Agency Operated Boarding Home.
Chrissy joined the Health Home Care Management team when it started in 2016. As Care Manager Supervisor, Chrissy leads a team of 6 care managers while continuing to work directly with families. Chrissy is proud to work with her dedicated Care Managers. She enjoys helping kids recognize their own potential and seeing them succeed. Chrissy enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and sports.
“I have met and worked with some incredible people at New Directions who have helped shape who I am today!” – Chrissy Butcher
Thank you for being so dedicated to our children and families!
Celebrating Foster Care & Mental Health Awareness Month
Holly Zuch, Mental Health Counselor, Children’s Clinic of WNY
After starting at New Directions in May of 2017, Holly’s role in the agency has transitioned over time. Holly began as a foster care permanency worker at the Harlem Road office and then moved to her current position at the Children’s Clinic of WNY in December of 2018. Holly attended SUNY University at Buffalo and earning amaster’s degree in Social Work.
Holly works with children ages 5-21, assessing and diagnosing them, as well as providing counseling interventions. Holly loves to see how hard her kids push themselves to do their best and finds it rewarding to see them reach their goals. Holly also feels lucky to have her coworkers at her side., stating, “mental health can be an exhausting job and I couldn’t get through the difficult parts without them.”
Holly enjoys the creative aspects of her job, like creating art with kids during sessions at the clinic. In her free time, Holly enjoys playing video games and board games, breaking a sweat on the tennis court, and walking her dog.
Melissa Bonello, Family Resource Manager
Erie County Department of Social Services & Harlem Road Office
Melissa has been with New Directions for 17 years this past April! She graduated from Medaille College, earning a bachelor’s in Child and Youth Services. Born in Toronto, ON, Canada, Melissa moved to Buffalo to attend college and found a “home” with New Directions in Erie County.
Melissa started in 2003 as a Youth Counselor for Foster Care North, and went on to fill various roles including Adoption Worker, Case Manager, and Intake Coordinator. Currently, she recruits and trains foster parents and then matches them with children in need of families. Melissa also provides these families with continuing support while they are fostering youth. Melissa gets to know the families she works with quite well. Melissa loves helping the family as a unit, helping each member to feel supported. Keeping families together, or at least finding permanency, is her
favorite part of the job.
Melissa is also the supervisor of Erie County’s Family Group Conferencing Program, which supports at-risk families in need of counseling. In her spare time, Melissa loves going to see her favorite musical groups in concert, channeling her energy through yoga, and spending time with her loving family.
Thank you both for being so dedicated to our children and families!
A Generational Legacy of Fostering and Adoption
Fostering and adoption is a legacy for Lisa and her family. At just three years old her beloved Aunt Sallyann adopted a little girl, and from that moment Lisa knew one day she wanted to do the same.
Lisa grew up, married her husband, had five biological children, and fulfilled her lifelong dream, adopting four children and fostering more than 10 children in long-term placements.
Lisa had adopted a little girl from Sierra Leone during the time of their civil war, when she learned another little girl from the same country was in need. That’s how Lisa and her family found New Directions. New Directions’ trauma-informed training and exceptional staff gave Lisa the support and guidance she needed to help her foster children in healing the trauma they endured.
“They have always been a wonderful advocate for us as foster parents, and even bigger advocates for the kids. They know these kids so well, and understand their needs. They are able to find families that are the right fit for the kids. There are a lot of kids out there that need a family, and then, of course you just fall in love with them all,” Lisa explained.
When Lisa’s eldest Daughter, Lydia was in her early twenties, she became a certified foster parent so she could help her mom by providing respite when she needed a break. Her plan was to provide respite sporadically on the weekends. That plan changed rather quickly when a teenage girl she knew, a sibling of some kids her mom had fostered, needed a placement. The teen had been through 17 foster homes by the time she came to Lydia, and that’s when things changed. She said “If I’m in this, I’m in it. Knowing the history of how many foster homes she had been through, I told myself this is it. I’m not giving up on this girl. Many kids will tell you, leaving their families is hard and traumatizing, but the worst thing is being sent away over and over again. I wasn’t going to do that.” Lydia adopted her eldest daughter, Kassie, when she was 19 years old. She went on to adopt four more children. Her first two were older teenagers, and then she adopted a sibling group aged 9 years to one years old.
Lydia explained all kids have different levels of need and ways they want to be supported. There is never a one shoe fits all approach in loving and helping children heal and flourish. The youngest sibling group had endured significant trauma and neglect. Her nine year old had significant developmental delays due to the neglect, and doctors told Lydia she would never catch up to her peers. Today, her daughter is 17 years old, an honor roll student, playing multiple sports including track and bowling, and loves to play her flute. She’s applying to colleges, has a job, and is excited about her future. One moment that stood out to Lydia recently was when she daughter was looking at colleges and different majors. She turned to Lydia and said “This is hard trying to figure out what I want to be, because I can do anything I want!”
Fostering and adoption is so ingrained in their family, and they love every minute of it. “There is such a significant need for foster and adoptive parents. I think many people want to do a good thing, but may not understand the high level of need these kids have from the trauma they’ve endured. My youngest was moved six times before she turned one year old. That still affects her. There is so much loss and you just have to be there with them through it. You can’t have the mentality of ‘I’m going to save you.’ Understanding it may not be what you expect, and it will be tough, but it is also so unbelievably rewarding and you just love these kids so much.” Lydia now works for New Directions as a parent trainer. It is her passion to empower children and families heal and build on their strengths.
Kassie now has a family of her own and is continuing the family legacy of fostering and adoption. She currently is fostering four children. For their family, they hear of a kid, or know of a need, and they want to be a support for that child.
Aunt Sallyann was the eldest daughter in her family, Lisa the eldest daughter in hers, and so on with Lydia, and Kassie. A family legacy of fostering and adoption four generations strong.
Aunt Sallyann and her husband Lisa (center) with her six oldest children Lisa’s youngest three children
Child Abuse Prevention During the Pandemic
In thinking about child abuse and neglect prevention and awareness, I am overwhelmed by the reality of how too often one can find themselves in a situation of helplessness and survival mode. Throughout this pandemic, many caregivers find their world has turned upside down with supports, routines, and normalcy pulled out from under them.
We are being asked to adapt during a time of limbo and find ways to complete our “usual” tasks while taking on new ones. Some caregivers must continue to go to work, learn to work at home, or attend school while making sure the children are home-schooled, safe and fed, and oh, are also entertained enough to not continuously tell you how bored they are!
We are all concerned about finances and no one has extra help or supports coming in at this time. Grandparents? Friends? Family Members? Nope! Even essential professionals are limited in their capacity and ability to come into your home.
I often find myself struggling to keep up with the necessary tasks of the day, and not even getting to the “hopes” I have for myself now that I am home more often. My own mental health is being tested through this difficult, ever-changing time. I have feelings of guilt when I am too quick to express my frustration with my children. I am sad that I am not taking my children outside as often as I think I should. I worry about my daughter’s speech regressing without the aid of speech therapy. However, I have great worry for parents and caregivers who are being stressed and stretched to the max – I worry that some may react in a way they would not normally. For, when in “survival mode”, one cannot expect to function the same as we did before the pandemic.
This entire situation has made me rethink how parents with limited support before this pandemic, made it day-by-day, parenting in a “survival mode” every day. Who did they go to for support? How did they make sure their own self-care needs were met? How did they appropriately respond to their children’s needs among competing demands? Who grew up in “survival mode”?
Child abuse and neglect is the result of many different factors, yet I believe one of the main factors is what many parents are now feeling during this difficult time: our expectations (either our own or from others) exceed our abilities to meet even basic needs. During this time, more and more parents are struggling with how to make it through, wondering how they are going to have the endurance to continue, until conditions improve.
If I may, I’d like to lend some encouragement to help us through this stressful parenting time:
Through the rest of this pandemic and after it is over, my goals are 1) to not revert to my old ways of perceiving others through their difficulties but to listen and hear if their needs are being met, validate their difficulties, and encourage others to take care of themselves in order to better care for their children and families, and 2) to make sure the important things in my life are of highest priority. We can have such an exciting, purposeful, and fulfilling life if we are able to use this time to learn about what we view as important, all the while modeling for our children and family how to have the same for theirs.
So, as we continue into week 7 of quarantine, I encourage everyone to examine their thoughts and feelings, strip away all that is not needed, and do well to meet your own needs as a parent and a human, and encourage your family, friends, and clients to do the same. Then we can begin to reduce frustrations with ourselves and our families and have a better understanding of others by stating what they need to survive and thrive.
– Amanda B. Brittin, LMSW
Family Engagement Supervisor
New Directions CFTSS and Health Home Services during COVID-19
In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we have made the following changes:
New Directions Youth and Family Services is supporting the children and families we serve in keeping with guidance provided by state and local governing bodies, including NY Department of Health, OCFS, OMH.
Please contact your assigned worker or program supervisor for specifics. We will provide updates as information becomes available.
Be safe and well!
Our Response to COVID-19
For over 140 years, the health and safety of the children and families we serve, and of our staff, has been the primary concern of New Directions Youth & Family Services, Inc. And while the emergence of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) presents a new challenge to our planning and resources, we are working closely with the counties’ Department of Health, the New York State Office of Children & Family Services (OCFS) and Department of Health (DOH) to ensure that we are following their guidance regarding approved procedures and best practices.
New Directions provides a wide range of services including residential centers, schools and a diverse array of community-based programs, each of which has reviewed the guidance being provided and is implementing the recommended policies and procedures as is appropriate for the service being delivered. A copy of this guidance has been attached below to provide some insight as to what it includes.
At this time, our immediate focus remains on the prevention of infection and maintaining open communication with all involved. The general guidance that we have received from New York State’s OCFS and DOH has been well publicized but bears repeating – stay away from large social gatherings, practice “social distancing” (stay at least three feet away from other people whenever possible), and isolate yourself from others when you are not feeling well. Basic prevention methods like frequent hand washing and sanitized cleaning are critical.
All our services are altering their activities as appropriate to follow these recommendations, including the cancellation of large group meetings and field trips, enhanced cleaning and disinfection of facilities, encouraging staff to use video and teleconferencing and allowing staff to work from home when possible.
Our residential facilities and schools are aware of and are following NYS guidance regarding the process to follow should the infection of a child be suspected, including an approved assessment protocol, isolation procedures, notifications, and transportation to a health facility under the direction of the NYS Department of Health.
Our behavioral health clinic and community based programs are contacting families before visits to provide information on COVID-19 and to determine any health risks that may be present in the home. The use of telemedicine (including video) is also now being encouraged when allowed by service’s licensing agency.
For more information on COVID-19, we are recommending the following resources:
New Directions is both proud and grateful for the dedication of its staff which continues to provide high quality, compassionate care to children and families throughout New York during these challenging times, and we remain hopeful the actions we are taking will help to keep our children, families and staff healthy and safe in the weeks to come.
Chief Administrative Officer
Staff Spotlights during National Social Worker’s Month!
Ericka Finn, Behavioral Health Counselor
Child & Family Treatment Support Services
Ericka has been with New Directions since October 2017. Starting in the Partners in Parenting program, Ericka moved to CFTSS after completing her Master of Social Work degree.
As part of CFTSS, she provides in-home counseling to children ages 0-21 In Niagara County who have a mental health diagnosis or who are at-risk of a diagnosis. Ericka sees approximately 3-4 children per day on a weekly basis. Empowering children is the most rewarding part of her job. Ericka has always been very goal-driven, wanting to give back to her community and help kids. She loves being creative in her work, doing crafts and art with her clients.
In her personal time, Ericka enjoys gardening, knitting, and crocheting – a skill her grandmother taught her.
Shawna Soles, Care Coordinator
Shawna has more than 16 years of experience working with children and families, the last two here at New Directions. As a care coordinator in the wraparound program, she assists children and families in Erie County. Wraparound is a strengths-based program providing service linkages to community programs.
Shawna frequently works side by side with Erie County DSS ensuring families are safe, on even ground, and decreasing any imminent risk behaviors.
Shawna received her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and master’s degree in human services and will soon be graduating with her Master of Social Work degree. After a position at Baker Victory Services, Shawna felt most needed working with children. She finds it so rewarding knowing she helped a child and family remarking “it’s not an easy job, but so rewarding.”
With a very demanding and sometimes stressful job, Shawna stresses the importance of self-care. She gets a massage twice a month and makes sure she is off-the-clock when she’s at home, unless there is a crisis situation.
Shawna is the mom of two boys, ages 11 and 4, loves entertaining friends, creating vision boards, and traveling!
Thank you to Ericka and Shawna for fostering good in all you do!