Linda Ray Center, University of Miami
University of Miami Linda Ray Center
750 Northwest 15th Street
Miami, FL 33136
Children who have been exposed to domestic violence or child maltreatment
6 months–11 years
Life has been chaotic and scary for 8-year-old Tonya.
Her father has abused her mother for years, and Tonya never knows when things will get bad. Finally, a beating pushes Claire, Tonya's mother, over the edge.
Claire waits for her husband to leave for his night job. Then, at nearly one o'clock in the morning, she gets Tonya out of bed. Without bothering to pack, the two race outside to a waiting cab, which takes them to the Inn Transition South, a women's shelter and transitional housing site in Miami.
After arriving safely at the shelter, mother and daughter are exhausted and scared. Over the next few weeks, Claire settles in, but Tonya begins to change.
She wakes up with nightmares, and she won't interact with the other children at the shelter. Claire worries that Tonya is blaming herself for the violence they have experienced. She longs to see her daughter's beautiful smile again.
The case manager refers the family to the Safe Start program at the University of Miami Consortium for Children in Crisis, located at the Linda Ray Center. At the center, Tonya is invited to participate in the Heroes program, a children's support group operated by the Safe Start program on site at Inn Transition South. The program helps children like Tonya overcome their feelings of guilt and fear.
For an hour each week over the next three months, Tonya joins a group of children her age who also live at the shelter, taking part in structured activities led by a specialized therapist.
The children talk about the domestic violence they have experienced and learn that the violence was not their fault.
After a few weeks in the group, Tonya asks to play with her new friends. She's started smiling again.
Infant Mental Health: Clinical staff provide psychotherapy for young children and their parents at domestic violence shelters and transitional housing sites. In collaboration with Louisiana State University Professor Joy Osofsky, the staff provides up to 25 weeks of treatment and assessments. In addition to helping develop appropriate parenting skills, the clinical model focuses on helping a mother respond more empathically to her child's needs and support her child's emotional development. It also helps to heal relationships that have suffered from violence, whether the exposure was child neglect, abuse, abandonment, or witnessing violence in the home.
Heroes program: The Heroes program is used with children from 5 to 11 years of age who have witnessed domestic violence. These groups meet 10 times to focus on breaking the intergenerational cycle of abuse by learning nonviolent conflict resolution skills, developing nurturing relationships, and identifying and expressing feelings.
Working with the Dependency Court: The program works with the Juvenile Court in Miami-Dade County offering assessments of children between the ages of 1 and 5 who are under the court's jurisdiction for child maltreatment and/or family violence and their primary caregivers. First, children and their parents participate in a relationship-based assessment. Then, recommendations are drafted to assist judges in developing the case plan and to order appropriate treatment. Training is provided to judges and child welfare staff on early development and mental health issues for infants and toddlers.
Case management: A wide range of partners provide collaborative case management for families with issues of violence and/or child maltreatment. The goal is to create a seamless community response among the juvenile justice system, law enforcement, domestic violence shelters, and transitional housing sites. The program provides training for shelter and community childcare program staff about the effects of violence on young children. This training includes information on warning signs for children under 3 years of age who have been exposed to violence and the referral processes for assessment and treatment within the project and across the provider network.