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Penfield Children’s Center Receives over $400,000 in Grants to Address Mental Health Concerns in Young, Milwaukee-area Children

April 5, 2012

Penfield Children’s Center announces the receipt of two grants: a three-year, $324,000 grant from the Russell J. and Betty Jane Shaw Fund of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and a one-year, $100,000 grant from the Faye McBeath Foundation. Both grants will benefit the Behavior Clinic, a partnership between Penfield Children’s Center and Marquette University that offers quality pediatric mental health services for children under age six in Milwaukee’s most underserved communities. These grants will allow Penfield Children’s Center to expand services for Milwaukee-area children suffering from behavioral issues through direct service, training and research.

The Russell J. and Betty Jane Shaw Fund of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation grant will allow Penfield Children’s Center to address pressing questions on how to best serve the growing Latino population in the Milwaukee area, many of whom struggle with language and cultural barriers, poverty, and other stressors and anxieties, factors that put Latino children at a heightened risk for behavioral problems[1]. Over the last decade, the Latino population has experienced significant growth in Milwaukee County, with a 53.7 percent increase to 126,000 in 2010. Within the same period of time, the number of Milwaukee County Latino individuals living in poverty has risen from 25.6 percent to 35.7 percent[2]. Despite the growing and urgent need, relatively little has been done over the past 20-30 years to address the effectiveness of early childhood therapy programs for high-risk populations.

Through the Russell J. and Betty Jane Shaw Fund grant, Penfield Children’s Center will conduct a multiyear project: “Resolving Significant Mental Health Concerns in Young Latino Children Through a Parent and Child Therapy Program: A Three-Year Study.” The outcome of this project will contribute to the dearth of information on parent and child therapy programs for diverse communities and allow Penfield Children’s Center to better assist Latino families struggling with child behavioral and developmental issues in the Milwaukee area.

“Having witnessed the growth and impact of the Behavior Clinic, we are honored to invest in this meaningful program that is transforming lives every day,” said Jeanne Fenceroy, Senior Program Officer at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.

The Faye McBeath Foundation grant will allow Penfield Children’s Center to expand the resources of the Behavior Clinic, allowing Penfield to ultimately serve a greater number of children earlier on, thereby increasing the benefits of early intervention. Currently, pediatric mental health resources are lacking. These resources could prevent lasting mental health and developmental problems. Toddlers nationwide suffer serious mental health disorders (10 to 15 percent of preschoolers) with a prevalence of behavior problems among children with developmental delays ranging between 20 to 64 percent[3].

Yet less than 10 percent of those children will receive mental health services early in life, when care is most crucial. Estimates project that approximately half of children identified with disruptive behavior by preschool age will have behavioral problems that persist into the elementary school years and even adolescence[4], thereby prolonging a pattern of adjustment difficulties and longstanding behavior problems. Early intervention programs, such as those at Penfield Children’s Center, can help children break these mental health barriers and better prepare for school.

“We know from the work being done at Penfield that these services will have a lasting impact on children throughout our community,” said Scott Gelzer, Executive Director at the Faye McBeath Foundation. “Our priority is to give the Behavior Clinic partnership between Penfield and Marquette the resources it needs to ensure its sustainability as a vital resource affecting marked change in this community.”

Through an unprecedented $100,000 grant from the Faye McBeath Foundation, Penfield Children’s Center will be able to serve approximately 50 percent more children than in 2011. By bolstering the number of trained professionals on staff, Penfield Children’s Center can care for a greater number of children within a shorter time period, thereby reducing time on the current Behavior Clinic waiting list to the targeted goal of less than two weeks. In offering early intervention services more rapidly and to a greater number of children, in addition to conducting research and training to continually improve the care provided by child care professionals, Penfield Children’s Center will help facilitate long-term, positive behavioral changes in children.

“The Behavior Clinic is a cornerstone program at Penfield, providing key behavioral services to our comprehensive model of early childhood intervention,” said Chris Holmes, President & CEO of Penfield Children’s Center. “The investment made by these two premier Milwaukee institutions is a testament to their community leadership, and that of the Behavior Clinic, which has seen its enrollment grow from 25 children in 2003 to nearly 300 in 2011.”

[1] Huanging Qi, C.H., & Kaiser, A. (2003). Behavior problems of preschool children from low-income families: Review of the literature. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 23, 188-216.

[2] http://www.census.gov/

[3] Roberts, C., Mazzucchelli, T., Taylor, K., & Reid, R. (2003). Early intervention for behavior problems in young children with developmental disabilities. International Journal of Disability, Development, and Education, 50, 275-292.

[4] Campbell, S.B. (1995). Behavior problems in preschool children: A review of recent research. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 36, 113-149.

Photo: Caleb-Ray Richmond plays with Kimberly McCormick, Penfield family counselor. Photo by Kristyna Wentz-Graff.

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