When St. Albert Stop Abuse in Families (known better as SAIF) started offering youth counselling four years ago, people weren’t sure if there would be enough clients or how well things would work out. Grant money from the St. Albert Community Foundation was used as seed funding to help get it all started, and they’ve offered new grant funding every year since.
Fast forward to 2015 and the clients are still there.
“We can’t get enough hours needed to meet the demand,” admitted Doreen Slessor, the organization’s executive director. She recalled that that first year saw a full caseload of youths to be counselled, and a waiting list of others came with them.
According to its website at www.stopabuse.ca, SAIF offers “therapeutic and educational services that promote healing, strengthen coping skills, and enhance mental and emotional well-being.” The youth counselling program is for children aged 13 to 17 who have either witnessed or experienced domestic violence or were in a problematic dating relationship and have experienced psychological and emotional abuse.
That waiting list still exists as the need for youth counselling has never waned. SAIF conducted 980 hours of youth counselling in 2014 alone, and there is a two-week lineup just to get into the program.
“Two weeks is really nothing compared to some of the other mental health programs that are at two or three months, but to us, to have to triage the youth … we just hate to do that. Everybody’s case is high priority to them, and to us. We just really want to help everyone.”
Just like the ever-present list of people on the client list and the waiting list, the St. Albert Community Foundation is still there too, having just offered up another grant of $2,000 to help with a new facet of youth counselling.
It will help with youth group counselling, a new program that takes in clients who went through the individual counselling but don’t need one-on-one attention any more but aren’t quite ready to transition totally back to life without counselling.
“You can’t just end counselling completely and send them off on their own.”
The first group session ran last year, finishing up just before Christmas.
“We were super excited that we had funds to do that transition counselling.”
The foundation’s grant will cover one group of eight to 12 youths with two facilitators for eight weeks.
SAIF's website (found at www.stopabuse.ca) states that children who witness violence may experience a range of negative emotions and behaviours such as fear, confusion, aggression, depression, self-destructiveness and seeking punishment for lying or stealing because they identify it with love. They can also become perpetrators in future relationships.
Call SAIF at 780-460-2195 or visit www.stopabuse.ca for more information.