SPAN and Family Stability

brothers-835140_960_720When describing the impact of domestic violence on families, people will often say something like “DV tears families apart!”

When we look at the families that SPAN supports, thanks to the generosity of people like you, we can say: “Not these families!”

Addressing family instability is a major issue in our community, and one that intersects with a host of other issues, particularly early childhood development and education.  One of the primary reasons for chronic instability for Front Range families is domestic violence, and all too often at SPAN we see women and children, dislocated by violence and abuse, cycling in and out of area shelters because of how hard it is to find viable post-shelter housing.

Children in these families are at serious risk for acute trauma.  On the one hand, the reason these young people and their mothers have become homeless and entered shelter in the first place is because frightening, traumatic, violent events have taken place.  This is compounded by the realities of instability, homelessness and living in even the best of emergency shelter environments.  Long term, this trauma has an impact on a child’s developing brain similar to PTSD, and can put them at risk for learning delays and behavioral issues.

It is critical that these children and their non-abusing parent get immediate support and services, the early interventions that can make all the difference.  Research shows that strengthening the bonds between children and their non-abusing parent is the key to helping children heal.  SPAN provides individual and group counseling opportunities to children at our Emergency Shelter as soon as possible, and parents engage with the shelter’s Children’s Counselor as well, gaining insight and strength around the unique needs of a child impacted by violence.

Counseling and support continues once these families leave shelter.  SPAN’s advocates provide intensive case management both before and after clients exit shelter, helping survivors access every available resource to build a safe, stable reality for themselves and their children.

This is hard work.  Survivors need affordable housing and living wage jobs, access to affordable day care and reliable transportation to achieve stability and self-sufficiency.  These things are all hard to come by in our community.

Still, at SPAN we see our clients succeed against all the odds every day.  Brave, resilient people who have become agents of change in their own lives, and in their community.

Our data tells us this.  For instance, 97% of the people who “graduated” from our Transitional Services Program in 2015 had found permanent, stable housing by the time they exited SPAN’s services.  89% were fully employed and 28% were in school, including technical schools, college and GED classes.

Our hearts also validate the positive impact of this work.  Clients tell us.  Clients show us: their strength and the authentic lives they build, free from violence.  At a recent SPAN event a former client attended with her two grown sons.  Fifteen years ago she and her two little boys had fled the violence and chaos in their home and entered SPAN’s Shelter.  The boys were just five and seven.  Together with their mom they stayed at shelter, working with the Children’s Counselor, then moved on to SPAN’s North Haven Transitional Housing, continuing their counseling work through the Outreach Center.  Eventually we lost touch with them and their mother, but there they were, the whole family.  Mom spoke eloquently about the demons her sons had faced down, about how much she had learned from SPAN’s advocates, and about the great, strong start towards stability SPAN had given her.  As you looked at this family, the mom beaming with pride at the fine young men, now 20 and 22, who had come along to support her, you couldn’t fail to see the love and think: “DV tears families apart.  Not this family!”

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