This Q&A with Children’s and Youth Services Program Director Pam Krasner is part two of a series. Read part one.
What sets your staff’s approach to therapy apart?
Pam: Much of what we do is help children feel safe. We do our best to create a non-judgmental, client-centered space. We focus on self-determination at any age – children already only have so much control over their lives and much of that is stripped away under domestic violence, so we work to restore that confidence.
We let the children lead. The topics they bring up, the stories they tell in play therapy – all of that informs our understanding of what is happening. When children are dealing with anxiety and fear, we teach them breathing exercises, just like an adult might try. We talk to them about healthy relationships. We make it clear that the abuse is not their fault.
What is the hardest part of your job?
Pam: Knowing that children can’t protect themselves. For Kasey, Carl, and Joey – the kids I spoke about earlier – when they were at Sanctuary, when they were with their mom, I knew they were safe. But their father still had ongoing visitation, and none of us could be there when they went to stay with him. It was hard to not feel worried about what might happen when he was in charge. This is not uncommon, and it’s why self-care is such a critical part of this work.
Despite the challenges, does this work ever bring you joy?
Pam: Absolutely. Seeing a child like Joey go from being delayed and afraid to laughing, walking and taking my hand? That’s incredible. Working with children, I see my role as helping to stop the cycle. I am working with kids during a time when I can really make a difference, educate, and show them an alternative path forward. That knowledge makes the tough times easier.
Sanctuary recently announced a new Strategic Plan that emphasizes expanding our impact on children and youth. What do you envision for CYSP moving forward?
Pam: First of all, expansion of CYSP is critical. We perpetually have a waitlist. We do not have enough resources to meet the extensive need for children’s domestic violence services in New York City.
Second, we are working on processes to identify the children of clients more quickly, assess their needs more fully, and intervene more effectively. I am proud of how we do all of that now, but as I mentioned, we sometimes encounter barriers to providing treatment, like when parents are resistant to services because they don’t think the children were affected. In these cases, it can takes longer for CYSP to get involved. There is definitely room for improvement.
Finally, I think we do a great job collaboratively and holistically addressing a family’s complete needs – guided by Sanctuary’s model. But we could be working more closely with lawyers, shelter staff, and other individuals involved. This is definitely a priority moving forward.
Pam, thank you for joining us today!
Learn more about the Children’s and Youth Services Program, and take part in all of our Domestic Violence Awareness Month activities. Check back next Monday when we feature a story from Sanctuary’s Rosa Parks emergency shelter.