Nonprofit Success Story: The Children’s Center

Utah’s largest mental and behavioral health care facility for young children has seen increased demand for its services during the pandemic.

Kallee Feuz Mar 29, 2021

From the deadly virus to the 5.7-magnitude earthquake to the hurricane-force windstorm, events of the past year have impacted both the physical and emotional health of Utahns. Through these challenges, The Children’s Center has been a lifeline for some of the state’s youngest residents.

The Salt Lake City-based nonprofit serves the mental health needs of young children and their families across the state. As Utah’s largest mental and behavioral health care facility for young children, it treats nearly 2,000 infants, toddlers and preschoolers each year.

“When the whole world is topsy-turvy, children with a history of trauma are retraumatized,” says CEO Rebecca Dutson. “Our services are more important than they have ever been.”

With extra stresses placed on families during the pandemic, including loss of income and more time spent at home, The Children’s Center has seen upticks in domestic violence and a greater need for its services, which include family therapy, group therapy and a therapeutic preschool program for young children.

Serving the mental health needs of Utah

National research shows Utah is among a group of states with the highest prevalence of child and adolescent mental health disorders, and the highest prevalence of youth with untreated mental health needs, according to a recent survey commissioned by The Children’s Center.

More than 1 in 6 children in Utah under the age of 18 have experienced two or more adverse childhood experiences such as economic hardship or parental divorce, according to the National Survey of Children’s Health.

Dutson says early intervention is key to changing the trajectory for at-risk children. When children get treatment at an early age, therapists can address these adverse experiences and help them build resilience. The Children’s Center’s clinical team works with children to build skills such as initiative, self-regulation, attachment, and relationships.

Practicing resilience through the pandemic

As the pandemic disrupted daily life, it also interrupted operations at The Children’s Center, which had to close its on-site counseling and therapeutic preschool programs in March 2020.

After receiving approval on a U.S. Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program loan in April, The Children’s Center was able to transform its clinical practice to a telehealth platform where counseling could be done remotely.

“It’s important that these families had a lifeline that maintained connections,” says Jennifer Mitchell, vice president for clinical strategy and innovation. “As clinicians, we felt like we needed to stay connected. We wanted to make sure they weren’t alone.”

At the onset of the pandemic, the PPP funding enabled The Children’s Center to retain its employees and continue to serve new and existing clients through its virtual platform.

“The PPP loan allowed us to maximize the power of our organization in this really critical time in our community,” Dutson says.

In June 2020, the nonprofit began to reopen its in-person therapy programs, while still offering telehealth services. It also began offering webinars for childcare providers addressing childhood mental health topics such as parent-child attachment and trauma-informed care.

The Children Center’s first round of PPP funding was recently forgiven, and the organization was able to get approval for a second-round PPP loan, ensuring that its services will keep helping Utah families through a difficult time.

“We are so grateful for this program,” Dutson says. “We are able to continue to provide this critical mental health treatment to children and families who need it most.”

Kallee Feuz is a Public Relations officer for Zions Bank.

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