Tuesday, July 19, 2022
Integral to the learning and care the Carole Robertson Center for Learning provides is a dedication to meeting the mental and emotional needs of the children, families, and staff who are a part of our community. July’s Minority Mental Health Awareness Month encourages us to reflect on the role the Center plays in providing a safe and stable environment that prioritizes mental wellness for all.
David Walker, Senior Director of Mental Health, acknowledges the generational trauma that often accompanies the minority experience in America. “Minorities, especially Black minorities, are often victims of abusive systems that are engrained deep into a violent history in America,” he says. This knowledge is taken into consideration when addressing the short-term and generational trauma that may accompany the Center’s children and families, as well as staff. Walker’s team strives to meet families where they are through workshops and mindfulness sessions, and more recently, with the development of calm corners throughout Center sites.
“Children naturally thrive when their socioemotional learning is supported and expectations of them are developmentally appropriate,” says Walker. “Many children are drawn towards the calm corner when they’re experiencing ‘big emotions.’”
Improving mental and emotional wellness doesn’t stop with the Center’s children and families, however. Many of the teachers at the Carole Robertson Center have experienced trauma similar to that of the children we serve. Teacher well-being is prioritized at the Center because it directly impacts the care our children receive.
The mental health team is also aware of the ongoing trauma that comes with living through a global pandemic. “Many of the children in our Early Childhood Development (ECE) Program have been in the pandemic all of their lives, or at least for half of their lives.” David stresses the importance of remembering this when a child demonstrates certain behaviors. Addressing this collective trauma and safely coming together as a community is one of the ways certain behavioral challenges can be overcome.
For the future, the team hopes to improve child experiences by building a focused framework and providing teachers with a mental health resource library while increasing engagement, visibility, and trust with families across all programs. Click here to access our list of BIPOC mental health and wellness resources!
The Illinois Department of Human Services/Division of Mental Health recently supported the launch of a new national mental health crisis line called the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. This line is “intended for calls from individuals experiencing a crisis or any other kind of emotional distress”. Click here to learn more about 988!
Learn more about National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month on the U.S. Department of Health’s website.
About Carole Robertson Center for Learning
The Carole Robertson Center for Learning is one of Chicago’s largest early childhood education and youth development organizations, serving diverse populations across 27 communities, with a significant presence in the North Lawndale, Little Village, and Albany Park communities. Our programs reach
approximately 2,000 children at every stage of development, from prenatal to age 17. Our mission is to educate, enrich, and empower children and families. Since its inception in 1976, the Center has worked to honor the life and memory of Carole Robertson who, together with her friends Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, and Denise McNair, was killed in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.