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August 9, 2021
Joining Forces for Children: Providing resources to kids impacted by addiction through Penn Medicine LG Health
Across the United States, it is estimated that one in four children are impacted by addiction. If that scale is applied to the number of children under the age of 18 in Lancaster County, an estimated 32,000 children are affected by a loved one’s substance use, which is roughly a quarter of Lancaster County’s total population.
Joining Forces for Children, a program of Lancaster County Joining Forces, is a collaborative project led by Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health. The program is focused on caring for children impacted by addiction, working to enhance communication and collaboration among service providers and to identify opportunities to increase access to evidence-based, trauma-informed services for children impacted by addiction disorders. As part of the program, a family advocate provides individualized resource navigation for children and their caregivers.
Christine Glover, the Project Coordinator for Joining Forces for Children at LG Health, says that as families take one step at a time towards recovery, the end result is a thriving community.
“With our specialized support, we are working to assist children in re-writing their family legacy so they can stop generational cycles of substance use and its consequences. Over time, each family that begins their journey of health and healing leads to a healthier neighborhood, which leads to healthier communities, and eventually a healthier county,” she said.
Through Joining Forces for Children, kids learn about the illness of addiction—including their own risk for developing an addiction disorder at some point in their life. From there, they receive help building the skills needed to prevent or reduce the likelihood that they will develop this chronic illness.
“The skills that children need…largely revolve around healthy coping strategies, healthy communication skills, problem solving skills, and learning where to go and how to ask for help,” Glover said.
She also stresses the importance of having resources readily available, as children are often the first impacted but the last to get help when a family member experiences addiction.
“No child is too young to escape the impact of a loved one’s substance use, and it is never too early or too late to offer this specialized support. Even when adults think that their substance use happens out of the child’s view—children still pick up on changes in behavior, moods, or attitudes. Children sense the tension and stress. And many times, they blame themselves for this,” Glover said. “With specialized education and support, they learn that it is not their fault, they cannot cure this illness, and that they are not alone.”
This fall, Joining Forces for Children is launching educational support groups. In addition to individualized support offered, school-aged children will also be able to connect with their peers. Led by trained facilitators, the groups will also build connections to safe adults who are there to help them.
Through both individualized support and these support groups, as well as partnering with other children and family serving organizations, LG Health hopes to bring these unique services to more children and families while raising awareness on this illness and the possibility of recovery.
“There are more than 23 million individuals throughout the United States who identify as being in recovery from an addiction. Treatment works. Recovery is probable with the right supports. Kids recover too,” Glover said.
Anyone interested in learning more can visit lancasterjoiningforces.org/families or call 717.327.9451. Services are free and are available in English and Spanish.