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DCCH Center provides residential care for kids, helping children and families make a better future

By Maridith Yahl
NKyTribune health reporter

Kentucky has over 10,000 children in out-of-home care — and they are in need of a safe, loving place where they can get all the care they need as they find a brighter, secure future. Some of them find that care at the Diocesan Catholic Children’s Home.

“The kids who live here with us have been removed from their home by the state, 95% of the time because of pretty severe neglect and abuse. They have some very significant psychological, emotional scars from the trauma that they have experienced in their little short lives,” says Amy Pelicano, development director for the Diocesan Catholic Children’s Home Center for Children and Families on Orphanage Road in Fort Mitchell.

DCCH Center is licensed for 40 children in its Residential Treatment program and has served the behavioral health needs of youth and families for over 170 years.

The children live in one of five apartments on DCCH campus, housing boys and girls ranging in age from 6-14 from all over the state.

Each unit has a Behavioral Specialist, who is trained in trauma-informed care, a Case Manager, and a Therapist who conducts both individual and group therapy. The kids also see a psychiatrist at least once a month.

The caring team.

“They’re with us 9-12 months and it’s the therapy that really gets them through their trauma and helps them work through the issues so that they can move on to a healthier future and hopefully with an improved home situation,” Pelicano says.

Living in the apartments, the kids are not separated by age or gender.

“We want to maintain this close to what a family setting might be like. It’s easier for the kids to assimilate back into a family setting when they’ve been around other ages and genders,” says Pelicano.

On the 88-acre campus, DCCH has four horses providing an equine program that has therapeutic benefits for the residents who want to participate. One thing the kids learn about is control. They can control this large animal when they have no control over their environment. Walking the horse Vader to the other side of the ring shows they can do that, they can control and accomplish.

“These kids develop really interesting relationships with the horses,” says Pelicano.

One of the greatest needs for DCCH is funding to support the residential program.

DCCH is reimbursed by the state on a per child, per diem basis, says Pelicano, leaving a gap of $1.3 million every year. This is when the Development Team and the community come together.

“The community comes in and helps, is very generous, and fills that gap which allows us to be able to provide behavioral therapy,” she says.

Another great need is for foster parents. DCCH is always looking for foster parents, receiving over 300 referrals a month.

“The need for foster families is so huge. We struggle to recruit foster families because our program is therapeutic foster care. The kids that come to us or are referred to our foster program have experienced some kind of trauma and/or they have some behavioral issues that stem from that,” says Pelicano.

Foster parents go through intensive training and are supported by Case Managers 24/7. Some of their residents will go into foster care and when this happens Case Managers work with them to have on-campus visits. It is special for DCCH staff when, in some cases, a child goes from foster to adoption.

If fostering is of interest but you want to try it out first, Pelicano suggests training to be a respite care provider. If for any reason a foster family needs a break, the respite care provider will take that child for the weekend or week. Respite care providers are also there in case of emergencies, like the time late one Friday when seven siblings had been taken from their home and needed a place for the night.

Mentoring one of the resident children is also a way to impact that child.

“It’s good for the kids to have somebody else there to demonstrate what an appropriate adult-child relationship is like, model behavior, and just help them grow,” Pelicano says. Mentors commit to two to four hours a week.

They first meet with a therapist to find a good match, eventually taking the mentee out. Pelicano says that means ordinary life situations, taking the child home and having him/her help cook dinner.

“We encourage mentors to invite their mentees home for holidays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Put them as part of a family again so that they are learning what appropriate family life is like. A lot of them have not experienced that,” she says.

Targeted Case Management is a much-needed up-and-coming program. A child is identified and referred to DCCH as at-risk.

“A case manager goes into the home and works with the whole family to connect them with services that will help support the family,” Pelicano says. “They stick with the family to get them back on their feet or back up to a point where they’re doing well [and can] graduate from the program.”

This is a program that will help with the 10,000 kids, Pelicano says. It is preventative and is moving the DCCH mission.

“We look at the whole picture and we want to be able to step in and help fulfill keeping families together. Helping before it becomes a situation where they have to be out of the home. The 10,000 can start coming down because we’re providing some intervention,” says Pelicano.

DCCH offers adoption services and outpatient therapy, which is open to anyone. They have a multitude of needs and of volunteer opportunities. There are so many ways to help make a difference in the life of a child.

Go to their Facebook and website to find out more.

“DCCH is really a place of joy and healing,” says Pelicano, despite the circumstances the children have been through. “There is so much positive energy, love, and fun that exists within the walls of our halls as children are healing and moving out of pain and anger into a place of peace and hope. Every day I am amazed by the resiliency and courage these children possess and the dedication our staff shows 24/7/365. The children and our direct-care staff are true heroes and I stand in awe.”

Maridith Yahl is the NKyTribune’s health reporter

Thanks to Report for America, with support from the Ground Truth Project, St. ELizabeth Healthcare, Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and the Douglas G. Martin Foundation. You, too, can support this reporting and other NKyTribune reporting with a tax-deductible donation today. Help us continue to provide accurate, up-to-date local news and information you can depend on.

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