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Stories for Change





Experience and understanding: rewards for volunteer William Lee helps bring the kidsLINK story to life

William Lee has certainly gained valuable experience as a multi-media journalist through his time volunteering with kidsLINK, but it’s the greater understanding of how the organization impacts the lives of young people and their families that stands out as he looks back over the past eight months with the organization.

At first, William was drawn to kidsLINK as a volunteer because, as a new graduate from Conestoga College’s New Media: Convergence program with a background in journalism, he wanted to learn in the field and the organization had advertised for help in social media.  Read About William’s Story

The expanding role of volunteers at kidsLINK - Beyond one-on-one support, volunteers provide creative solutions

The open hearts and dedication of countless volunteers has always been a staple of the quality of service provided by kidsLINK to children with mental health issues and their families, and the depth of skill and experience these people offer continues to grow.

kidsLINK volunteer co-ordinator Selena Koprnicky points to an evolving approach to children’s mental health that focuses on wellness, resilience and healing from trauma as one of the factors allowing her to broaden the scope of volunteers she’s able to engage.  Read About Our Volunteers

kidLINK’s approach captures attention of future professionals - MSW student reflects on internship at Front Door.

The idea of trauma-informed practice, and the wellness, resilience and healing from trauma approach employed by kidsLINK was one of the major factors that sold Leah Anderson on the idea of completing her internship with the organization.

The University of Toronto student is completing her masters of social work degree and says she believes the kidsLINK model is one she can fully support, no matter where her career path might lead.  Read About our Students

Students transformed through kidsLINK placement - Safe place to plant seeds of change movements

It’s been seven years since Emily Gray stepped from the life of a student to that of a professional helping young people living with mental health issues and their families, but her ongoing work supervising university placement students at kidsLINK keeps her well connected to the ambitions of future field workers.

“It keeps me sharp,” she says.

“Having to explain what I’m doing and why is really good practice for me. I also find I learn a lot from my students through their questions, but also when they bring readings in or ideas that they’ve been hearing in the classroom.”  Read About Our Students

Sonia Pouyat underscores value of kidsLINK Vision

kidsLINK is in the midst of implementing an exciting vision that’s so important it fuelled the decision to amalgamate with another organization. CEO Sonia Pouyat speaks with Deron Hamel of Axiom News about this vision, the driving force behind the vision and the difference she wants to see it make in children’s lives.

Sonia Pouyat, kidsLINK CEO

Axiom News: Tell me, what is the vision and why is it so important?

Sonia Pouyat: The vision that’s driving our work going forward is that “young people choose wellness, are resilient and heal from psychological trauma.” That’s kidsLINK’s hope and goal. There are four key ways the vision is driving our action.

The first is to deliver our direct treatment services in a manner that brings healing from not only trauma but also from any root cause and help kids to be better able to cope with the challenges that they experience, and be well in an holistic sense — body, mind and spirit.

The second way is providing learning opportunities for children and youth and their families that will build their resilience and help them achieve this wellness. We see this as a means of prevention to reduce the impact of any kind of adverse experiences that they may have in the future.

The third way is to have other professionals and other agencies benefit from kidsLINK, accumulating knowledge and experience so that they might also carry forward the same kind of impact and encourage wellness and resilience with the kids they work with. And that’s a way of extending our work, nationally and internationally.

The fourth key action is that we’re really committed to tracking our results and measuring our outcomes and our impact so we can share that with the world. And we’re also committed to using the best evidence-supported information that’s out there, as well as promising practices that may not yet be fully evidence supported.  Read About kidsLINK’s Values

The trauma narrative draws out resilience - Forgiveness on the path to healing

By: Kristian Partington

Trauma narrativeThere are a number of ways kidsLINK helps a young person begin the process of healing from the traumatic experiences that can all too often lead them into a dangerous future.

The path to healing, however, is entirely dependent upon the person.

For some, the act of defining a trauma narrative and acknowledging the adverse experiences that plague them can be an effective way to build upon the inner resilience of the human spirit and move toward new beginnings.

This can be done in a few different ways – for older children and youth it usually takes a written form where they share word by word their traumatic experiences as they remember it or perceive it. It can then be written down by the client or the therapist.

For younger children the trauma narrative might be played out in a sand tray, in a doll house or with puppets, etc. since younger children might have difficulties articulating in words their traumatic experiences.  Read About the Trauma Narrative

Real life education through kidsLINK -Internship a powerful experience for Maria Armstrong

By: Kristian Partington

Maria ArmstrongUniversity education is great for passing along theories and allowing students to hone in on the ideas that might carry them forward in whatever career they choose, but it’s not until they hit the ground in a work environment that textbook knowledge comes alive.

For Maria Armstrong, completing her internship at kidsLINK opened her eyes to the strength of the human spirit in ways no textbook ever could have and looking forward she says her time there will most certainly shape how she approaches her future in social work.

Her placement was the final step in the pursuit of a degree in Social Work through the University of Waterloo, and the experience was a powerful one, she says.

kidsLINK prides itself on welcoming students from all around the world and infusing in them a true sense of how building resilience, healing from trauma and pursuing wellness in mind, body and spirit can help children and families navigate the challenges of mental health issues effectively.  Read About Real-life Education

Creating the next generation of trauma-informed professionals - The value of a strong student practicum program

By:  Kristian Partington

Teaching students a trauma-informed approach to addressing mental health issues and helping them discover how wellness in mind, body and spirit helps build resiliency is key to reshaping the field of children’s mental health. That’s why a strong student practicum program is so important to the team at kidsLINK.

The students kidsLINK seeks have an interest in seeing the strengths and capabilities within people, and the ability to see the symptoms of mental health issues as ways of managing difficult situations, not behaviours that must be corrected, says the director who oversees the student practicum program.

“We also look for students who are open to learning the possibilities that are created through a treatment process that combines mental health practices with other important life factors,” says the Director of early intervention and professional services.  Read About Creating A New Generation of Trauma-informed Professionals

There’s healing power in a good night’s sleep-kidsLINK supporting kids, family to adopt healthy routines

By:  Natalie Hamilton


kidsLINK is helping kids catch their zzzs.

“Adequate shut-eye helps regulate mood and behaviour and gives the mind and body a chance to heal,” say kidsLINK’s Naturopathic Doctor, Jennifer Forristal and Children’s Mental Health Services Director, Barb Ward.

Pre-schoolers and school-aged children require between 10-11 hours of sleep each night. For children with mental health issues, a good night’s sleep can help decrease aggression, hyperactivity and behavioural challenges. It can also lower levels of anxiety and improve some of the symptoms associated with depression. Read About A Good’s Night Sleep

Front Door team grows stronger in wellness

By: Kristian Partington

Front Door Logo

For the integrative wellness approach kidsLINK believes in to be as effective as possible, team members must live and breathe the philosophy.

On July 11th, a team of eight clinicians from kidsLINK and Lutherwood’s Front Door gathered with Joint Initiatives Manager, Lesley Barraball, in a day meant to grow deeper into this philosophy while considering how to carry it forward in their day-to-day dealings with young people and families.

Addressing the mind, body and spirits of children and helping them choose wellness, become resilient and learn and heal from trauma is what the integrative wellness approach is all about, say intake clinicians Joelle Martin-Root and Catherine Colvey.

The day they spent with their team, sharing experiences, learning from each other, meditating and envisioning the future based on the processes in place at kidsLINK, helped put much into perspective, they say.

“We were participating in activities that promoted wellness . . . and our visioning was a lot about how we stay well as a team,” Joelle says.  Read About Our Front Door Team

Unaddressed childhood trauma may lead to disease, disability or early death 

Dr. Ann JenningsBy: Kristian Partington

Influential change-makers connected to child and youth services have called for service systems that address psychological trauma in young people, which is pervasive in Canada. According to the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, failure to address childhood trauma may lead to disease, disability or early death. Dr Ann Jennings, Executive Director of the Anna Institute, a non-profit organization based in the United States, entwined her personal story with statistical data to explain the reality of adverse childhood experiences as the greatest health challenge faced by society. Read About Understanding Childhood Trauma

A troubled youth comes full circle – The transformation of a kidsLINK youth
By: Kristian Partington

It’s amazing the difference a year can make in the life of a child who once struggled with the challenge of harnessing emotional well-being before finding guidance with the help of kidsLINK. A year ago, Jen Storer was working with a young boy, whose name will not be revealed for privacy reasons. As a kidsLINK child and youth worker in the School Treatment Program, Jen was close with him practically every day, gently helping him discover his strengths and understand the feelings that caused him to lash out. Maternity leave drew her time with the boy to a close and until June 11, when she returned to the school to begin the integration of a new client, she had no real knowledge of what became of him. That morning as the children were playing in the yard before school, he saw Jen and immediately ran to her to say hello and tell her how fantastic his year has been. “When he ran up to me and he remembered my name, it makes your heart tingle,” she says. She also had a chance to speak with his father that morning, who told her of the difference in both his son’s school life and life for the family at home since they began working with kidsLINK. Read About a Troubled Youth

The evolution of a trauma-informed system‘ Changing a culture is a pretty tough thing to do,’ says Laurie Robinson

By: Kristian Partington

When Laurie Robinson talks about the path kidsLINK is on to build a more trauma-informed approach to children’s mental health, she’s really talking about changing the entire system; the entire culture. “Any system change takes a long time,” says Robinson, the former director of children’s mental health services at kidsLINK who now operates her own consulting firm. “Changing a culture is a pretty tough thing to do.” Make no mistake, there has been progress, and though the journey is one Laurie admits will be ongoing, she looks back even two years to where the organization was in terms of being trauma-informed compared to today. Read About the Evolution of a Trauma-informed System

The case for a trauma-informed treatment system It’s about an ‘organization-wide education in understanding,’ says Laurie Robinson

By: Kristian Partington

About four years ago while attending a conference at the Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health at the University of South Florida, Laurie Robinson had an epiphany.She was the director of children’s mental health services at kidsLINK at the time and prior to the conference she recalls having a conversation with the current director, Barb Ward, about the need for more focus on treating trauma in children’s mental health.She attended a presentation at the conference by an organization in Maine that was implementing a broad, system-wide approach to understanding trauma.“It’s like a light bulb went off for a number of us,” she says, and she returned to kidsLINK where she shared what she’d experienced with her colleagues.  Read About the Case for A Trauma-informed System

Nutrition dishes out chance to make choices, build community: Forristal
kidsLINK drives change ‘in the health of our next generation’medicine bottle with fruit

By: Natalie Hamilton

While healthy eating fills children’s tummies and nourishes their minds, it can also provide a source of empowerment for youngsters, a naturopathic doctor says. Children and youth who face mental health issues can gain a sense of control when they embrace the opportunity to make nutritious choices. “Teaching nutrition gives children the message that they’re not just the condition they’re struggling with, but a person who deserves to make healthy choices and (is worthy of) health and happiness,” says Jennifer Forristal, naturopathic doctor at kidsLINK.“It gives them control over a healthy part of their lives.”  Read About Nutrition

“Tackling the impact of un-addressed childhood trauma – ‘Most important issue that we’re confronted with in our society today:’ Ann Jennings” Symposium with Dr. Ann Jennings

By: Kristian Partington

In the mid-1990′s, Dr. Ann Jennings was director of Maine’s Office of Trauma Services, and drawing public attention to the societal impact of un-addressed childhood trauma was the greatest impact that office had during its time, she says. But decision makers come and go and the political will to keep trauma and its consequences top of mind withered, so the office no longer exists. Her dedication to the cause, however, is as strong as ever, and during a symposium hosted by kidsLINK at its St. Agatha headquarters on May 29, Jennings shared her wisdom as the founder of the Anna Institute, a non-profit organization based in the United States, dedicated to advancing trauma-informed service system work.  Read About the Most Important Issue

kidsLINK, Lutherwood keep the Front Door open by helping children, families with mental health issues access support

By:  Natalie Hamilton

Front Door Access to Child and Youth Services Logo

Help is as close at the Front Door for children, youth and families facing mental health issues.  And it works.kidsLINK and Lutherwood want Waterloo Region residents to know there’s a place they can turn to for the support and tools they need to live healthier, happier lives.  Front Door, a joint initiative of kidsLINK and Lutherwood, is the access point to services that provide a gateway to increased well-being and quality of life. The organizations are embracing Children’s Mental Health Week (CMHW), which runs May 6-12, as an additional opportunity to raise awareness about mental health issues, reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues and promote the fact help is nearby.  Whether a parent seeks a second opinion or a youth needs an unbiased ear, it’s important to take action, says Lesley Barraball, manager of Front Door. “Take that step and call us,” Barraball says.  Read About Front Door