ZANESVILLE — Avondale Youth Center became the first children's residential center in the state to be awarded the qualified residential treatment program certification by the federal government.
The certification focuses on trauma informed care.
"What the federal government wants to see is every child residential center is serving kids in a way that is taking into considering their trauma history," said Gary King, Avondale's director.
"If we have a child come into our care, any interaction with them, any response to them, we have to keep on the back of our minds an idea of what they have been through in their lives, and how our response may affect them," King said.
"That way we are not retraumatizing them, and we are helping them learn coping skills, to be able to move beyond that trauma, and help them not be stifled by the history they have been through," he said.
The accreditation was a long process, King said, and took more than a year. The center had to meet 479 standards, "making sure we are operating in a way that is trauma informed, people are appropriately trained, and policies are in place to make sure kids are safe," King added.
Many of the practices were already in place at Avondale, King said, but it was a matter of putting them into policy and making sure they were consistent. In addition, the federal government wanted evidence things were being done properly.
The accreditation stems from the Family First Prevention Services Act, which was signed into law by President Trump in 2018. "The government wants to make sure kids are not lingering in group homes for long periods of time," King said. Residential homes are reimbursed for the time children spend in group homes, but if a facility is not QRTP certified, then those reimbursements stop. If facilities are not certified by 2024, they will not be able to renew their licenses.
Annual fund benefits residents
The certification was a bright spot in a difficult two years, King said. COVID-19 restrictions curtailed many of the activities the facility likes to provide, including the annual trip to King's Island or Cedar Point.
The Avondale Fund, which helps pay for many of the extracurricular activities the residents enjoy, is a big part of making children's stay at Avondale the best it can be.
"The money goes directly toward the benefit of the kids," King said, but "it is really about providing for the kids year-round."
It helps with items such as cleats for those who play football and prom dresses. It helps make the Avondale experience as close to a normal childhood as possible, he said.
Trips to the movies or bowling, riding bikes, "the experience we remember as children," King said. "The kids that are here have been through a lot of trauma, and had very challenging lives. It is really our honor and our privilege to take kids through their teenage years, we have a small snippet of time where we can impact their lives and create good memories for them, and show them adults can be trusted," King said.
Donations to the Avondale fund can be sent to 4155 Roseville Road, Zanesville. For more information, call Traci Taylor at 740-849-2344.
Social media: @crookphoto
This article originally appeared on Zanesville Times Recorder: Helping children move beyond the trauma