SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Saratoga Center for the Family is a major community asset, yet many county residents are not fully aware of the incredible array of services they provide. This is the second part of a series about the Center and its activities. The first part appeared in Saratoga TODAY’s April 4 issue and is available at saratogatodayonline.com/index.php/publications/saratoga-today
The Saratoga Center For The Family (SCFF) has grown and diversified its program offerings in its 37 years of existence since it’s origins as a task force on child abuse and neglect. Under its umbrella motto of “Help. Hope. Healing.” are a variety of programs that certainly work to strengthen children and families, but also society in general via a multi-disciplinary model that could touch any life in Saratoga County.
Simply put, there is no one, with or without children, even a solitary individual with no family, who could not partake in and benefit from SCFF’s programs activities.
And yet, because of the often necessary confidential nature of some of what this facility has to deal with, for instance child abuse or criminal behavior, there is a certain mystery about their facility, which in turn leads to misimpressions, or myths, about SCFF and the work they do.
While we may not be able to clear up all these myths, we can certainly illuminate several with the help of the staff, which is led by Executive Director Deb Tomaso, along with Clinical Director Kelly Barry and Harriet M. West Child Advocacy Center (CAC) Coordinator Jennifer Wormley.
The first one is how warm, inviting and bright the entire environment is, as these pictures show. Everything, including the examination room (which we saw but did not photograph) expressed the concept of “healing.” Regardless of age, class or status “It’s never too late for healing.” Jennifer Wormley notes.
One other surprise is the way people come to SCFF. In the case of the CAC, the overwhelming majority comes as referrals from Child and Family Services or a law enforcement unit. Yet, according to Kelly Barry, about half of the people who come for counseling are self-referred. Which give rise to another myth, according to Deborah Tomaso.
“People tend to think that the Harriet M. West Child Advocacy Center (CAC) and Saratoga Center for the Family are two separate agencies under the same roof,” she said, “but in fact we are all one. The Harriet M. West CAC is one of the programs that Saratoga Center for the Family offers to further its mission to build stronger families throughout Saratoga County.”
She described a three-program focus that operates in concert with each other:
1) Child Advocacy (via Harriet M. West Child Advocacy Center)
2) Mental Health Counseling
3) Prevention and Educational Programming
I asked Ms. Tomaso to detail some of the other myths or misconceptions she encounters when she interacts with the public. “Number one by far is: ‘All children who come to this facility for counseling have been abused.’”
“This is absolutely false.” She said “While we do help many children heal from trauma or abuse, children come here for other counseling needs such as; a family divorcing, coping through the loss of a loved one, anxiety, or behavior and attentional disorders. Our therapists are trained in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is the most effective treatment for children healing from a trauma.”
A second major myth, Ms. Tomaso notes, is that ‘Saratoga Center for the Family only has services for children and families.’
“Actually,” she said, “one-third of our counseling clients are adults who are looking for someone to talk to about a variety of needs such as: anxiety, trauma, life transitions and depression.” A glance at SCFF’s group and program calendar confirms this. See saratogacff.org for detailed information.
“People are also under the impression that we use a monolithic approach, in that all children who come through the CAC see a therapist for counseling.” Ms. Tomaso said, “But while this often happens, it’s not universal. If a child comes through CAC for an investigation of alleged abuse or neglect, we always offer counseling resources. But not all victimized children seek out our counseling or a healing group service.”
The biggest service that SCFF offers is hope and it is done through a multi-pronged approach that is tailored to the individual and their needs at any age or life stage. It bears repeating that ‘it’s never too late for healing.’
“Prevention and education are the major keys to stopping child abuse and family dysfunction.” Ms. Tomaso concludes. “When we are able to raise awareness, we really can make a difference.”