WINGS Children and Family Services Program – Serving Invisible Victims of Domestic Violence
- Posted by Sarah Swiston
- On June 30, 2021
- Chicago, chicago metropolitan area, Chicago suburbs, children services, children survivors dv, Domestic Violence, domestic violence agency, DV agency, End Domestic Violence, family services, Housing Programs, safe housing, WINGS, WINGS Program
Children as young as one-year-old come to WINGS showing symptoms of physical and emotional abuse. Speech, attachment and other development milestones are delayed. Children, often invisible in the discussion around domestic violence, are at an incredible risk of depression, drug use and even being part of a domestic violence situation themselves.
WINGS Children and Family Services Program serves these invisible victims by addressing the root issues and breaking the cycle of violence.
WINGS is Different
It is often assumed that domestic violence only affects the adults involved. This impacts the funding, programs and services offered by many domestic violence shelters.
WINGS is different. We know domestic violence has a profound impact on children’s physical and emotional wellbeing. Youth younger than five who grow up in households where domestic violence takes place are more likely to have developmental delays. Sadly, children who grow up in these situations are more likely to experience domestic violence as adults.
In Fiscal Year 2020, 58% of WINGS clients in Safe House and Housing Programs were children. Of the children served by WINGS, 47% were five-years-old or younger.
Protect, Heal and Empower – A Tree of Services
WINGS offers a tree of services to protect, heal and empower children affected by domestic violence. The program creates a safe environment for children to express themselves and enhance their self-esteem and self-confidence. Youth are provided with comprehensive services that assist them in meeting their own goals and developing effective coping skills.
“We recognized that a three-year-old child survivor was having difficulties with speech, so we assisted in enrolling her in preschool and an early intervention program for speech therapy.” ~Carline, Senior Manager of WINGS Metro
Parents and children consult with their Children’s Advocates to evaluate the children’s needs and develop specific goals that can be reached during their stay. WINGS staff complete developmental screenings for all children age five and younger. If delays are identified, WINGS assists the parent in accessing resources and enrolling the child in an early intervention program in the community.
“I haven’t liked counseling in the past, although my mom wants me to attend. My past counselors have treated me like a child. However, I spent almost two hours talking to my WINGS Children’s Advocate in our first session and I’m looking forward to the next one.” ~Jake,* teenager in WINGS Children and Family Services Program
The program’s counseling philosophy is strengths-based, empowerment-focused and rooted in the belief that every client deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. Children’s Advocates provide psychological counseling and meet with children individually and in groups once or twice per week to work through issues related to homelessness and family violence.
Art therapy, play and Thera-play incorporate special therapy toys and games that are used to engage children’s interest and help to break down communication barriers. Since the pandemic began, these sessions are offered virtually and have been well received.
“An example of a good day for me is when I see a mother hug her child for the first time.” ~Ashley, WINGS Children’s Advocate
Due to the high stress of uncertainty and navigating their challenges, family members often struggle with their interpersonal relationships. WINGS staff use an “Attachment Theory” approach and Child Parent Psychotherapy.
These approaches involve working closely with each parent and child to assist them with processing their feelings and shared experiences. WINGS provides parenting classes, in both English and Spanish, to support parents in our programs.
“One child in our program would often easily shut down or not listen to staff. When we took that family to the UniverSoul Circus, the child’s face changed from anxious to pure joy…It was amazing to see the transformation. He told us the day he went to the circus was the best day of his life.” ~Caitlyn, WINGS Children’s Advocate
WINGS provides Family Enrichment Activities for both parents and children to learn about one another and the world around them. Activities have included trips to the circus, Shedd Aquarium, a WNBA Basketball game, GameWorks, picnics in local parks and holiday parties.
“Since working with WINGS, my kids are all enrolled in school and programs designed to meet every need my children have. Their behavior, routine, growth, development, speech and happiness are always on the rise.” ~Samantha,* WINGS Transitional Housing Parent
WINGS Children’s Advocates consult with counselors and teachers at the children’s schools to ensure that their emotional, social and educational needs are addressed. Additional referrals are provided for children with developmental delays and special needs. WINGS offers a Homework Club for children at the Safe Houses to assist them in meeting their educational needs in order to thrive academically.
At WINGS, we hold ourselves to the highest standard of care, which means we constantly evaluate our programs, and the impact they have on the children we serve. We set ambitious goals, and work hard to achieve them.
Through our analysis, we have seen that with comprehensive support, WINGS program participants improve their quality of life, assure their safety, regain their dignity and rebuild their feelings of self-worth.
- Goal: 85% of adults who attend parenting classes state they have learned new parenting skills. Actual for FY2020: 95%
- Goal: 80% of children in WINGS Supportive Housing Program made progress in reaching their established goals. Actual for FY2020: 91%
- Goal: 40% of children will decrease their trauma symptoms. Actual for FY2020: 68%
You Can Help Break the Cycle
An increasing number of youths are entering WINGS Safe House programs; and unfortunately, disclosing higher rates of trauma. However, your support can ensure that WINGS team of highly-trained, compassionate Children’s Advocates are able to provide wrap-around support.
Children will be protected, empowered and no longer be invisible in the mission of ending domestic violence.
Together, we can assist children address their trauma, achieve their goals and ultimately break the cycle of abuse.
“In 1999, funding was secured to hire the first Children’s Advocate and the program was born. Since that time, thousands of children from infant to 18-years-old have received life-changing interventions from trained, compassionate counselors.
Being on the frontlines for so many years, I have seen the long-term effects of these services. Two little boys who came to WINGS Safe House with their tenacious mother as babies, stole my heart. Over the last 16 years, I have been blessed to watch them grow up. They went to high school with my kids and played on sports teams and now the oldest is graduating…they are happy young men who are thriving in life.
I am so proud of the hard work and dedication our staff give to all of the children at WINGS. I hope you agree that breaking the cycle of violence for every child is a worthy investment.” shares Rebecca Darr, WINGS President & CEO.
*WINGS uses representative names and photos to protect the dignity and security of those we serve.