SEMO conference deals with emotional needs of children

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A conference held Friday and Saturday at Southeast Missouri State University brought together community social service agencies, childcare providers, current and soon-to-be foster parents and mental health professionals to promote understanding of childrens' emotional needs.

The Raising Emotionally Healthy Children conference was hosted by the Community Caring Council, a local agency that partners with state agencies to develop strategies for meeting the needs of families.

Kay Azuma, community coordinator for the council, said the conference provides an opportunity for parent and community education on childrens' well-being all in one event.

Until three years ago, the council held separate conferences for parents and agencies. Now those events are combined. There is a different topic each year that is chosen to address timely issues for families in the community, Azuma said. Previous topics have included autism and homelessness.

Making sure the community and parents are educated on how to help children who have experienced emotional or physical trauma was this year's choice because of the number of children in the area at risk, Azuma said.

"There just seems to be so many now," she said. "We are trying to combat that and educate caretakers how to turn them around to be successful adults."

Speakers at the conference included Veronica Getskow, a professor of child development and author. Getskow presented concepts to attendees from a well-known book for parents, "How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children," written by Gerald Newmark. Her presentation was titled "Strategies for Meeting the Five Critical Needs of Youth."

According to the author and Getskow, the needs of children include feeling respected, important, accepted, included and secure.

"Basically, this is a message that says that when we start treating each other with respect, then we meet the needs of each other," Getskow said.

Marie Clark works with Cape Girardeau County to train foster parents for state approval. Clark also spoke at the conference. Her topic was "The Impact of Trauma on the Development of an Emotionally and Socially Healthy Child" and covered fostering resilience in children.

Jeff Johnston, a psychotherapist with Cape Girardeau-based Associated Counseling Services, attended the conference and said it contained practical strategies for strengthening relationships between children and others in their lives.

"This has really been about teaching them skills to deal with life, and that is something valuable to know," Johnston said.

Getskow said she also saw through talking with attendees that local agencies seem to be using funding appropriately and effectively for helping local families and that a strength of the community's services showed well at the conference by many agencies coming together.

Around 135 people attended each day, according to Resa Anderson with the council. There were also breakout sessions held throughout the two days that covered topics such as bullying and encouraging behavioral changes.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

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One University Plaza, Cape Girardeau, MO

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