Callie Cardamon is a
talented artist with a generous heart and deep love for children everywhere.
She has a background in counseling and was searching for volunteer work that
she could do from her home computer when she found TeenCentral.Net, the
KidsPeace website that gives teens a safe, anonymous place to write about their
feelings and receive sound advice from trained counselors. Callie signed up as
a volunteer, received training and began spending at least two afternoons a
week responding to posts from troubled teens.
In the process, Callie
began corresponding with Julius Licata, Director of TeenCentral.Net, and a
wonderful friendship developed between them. As she got to know more about
Julius and learn about the KidsPeace mission and many wonderful programs,
Callie decided that she should write a song for KidsPeace that could serve as
source of hope to our children and persuade donors to dig a little deeper to
help our kids. It was important to Callie to finish this song in time for
Thanksgiving and have it be her gift to KidsPeace and Julius.
The result is a beautiful
ballad entitled “Love Is On The Way,” which can be heard on Callie’s website,
http://www.calliecardamon.com/publicfiles/Love_Is_on_the_Way.mp3. Callie is donating 100% of the proceeds of this song to KidsPeace in
hopes that the song will give KidsPeace and TeenCentral.Net more exposure and
inspire people to donate to the organization. “It never occurred to me not to
donate 100% of the song’s profits to KidsPeace,” Callie said. The very first
letter I answered on TeenCentral.Net said ‘please send hope as fast as you
can,’ and that really touched me. Even the possibility of hope can help kids
hang on a bit longer. I hope all of the teens who post on TeenCentral.Net will
get some hope from this song.”
Callie was not sure that
the song was finished, but, when she learned that Julius had been ill, she knew
it said what she wanted to say, so she recorded it in order to get it to
KidsPeace by Thanksgiving. Callie recorded the song with Kimberly Kim, a former
student who moved to friend and colleague. “That is Kim’s angelic voice singing
the high harmonies on the song,” Callie told us. Callie has become a second
mother to Kim who works for the American Red Cross and has spent months and
months of her young life helping out on international health campaigns.
A resident of Pasadena, CA,
Callie records her beautiful interpretations of jazz and American standards and
shares her gifts on her website, www.calliecardamon.com.
KidsPeace feels blessed to have Callie on its side and expresses heartfelt
thanks for her amazing contribution.
KidsPeace believes that it is helpful to our readers to reprint some Healing Magazine articles
that are as relevant today as when they were published in our Magazine. This article appeared in our Spring/Summer 2008 issue of Healing Magazine and was written by a KidsPeace psychologist with many years of experience working with foster children.
Treating Foster Children
for Psychological Issues
By Gerald A. Zimmerman,
Many children are placed in
foster care as a continuing step in helping them and their families readjust
and make changes so they are safe and protected in the home environment. The
placement comes about because the Children and Youth authority learns that the
children were neglected, physically abused, emotionally abused or sexually
abused. Each of these categories has specific definitions. For example,
emotional abuse refers to non-physical, gross maltreatment that results in the
child being humiliated, demeaned or degraded in some way, or failure to respect
the dignity of the child as a worthy human being. The impact of the abuse and
neglect of the child has implications that remain for many years to come.
A child who experiences
neglect will respond in different ways depending on his characteristics. There
are two main types of developing characteristics in children: the active,
outgoing type and the reserved cautious type. Drs. Stella Chess and Alexander Thomas have identified these
children in a comprehensive developmental study of children. Not all children
react the same, and it is the interaction of their environment and their personal
characteristics that results in unique responses. For a neglected child, the
response may be seen in an outgoing, assertive and bold child to take charge of
his experiences and try to prepare meals and comfort the younger children. For
a cautious and fearful child, the response to neglect may be to withdraw and
become anxious and cower in the corner. With long-term neglect, the patterns
become established, and the responses become characteristic of the child, even
after the child is given the opportunity to live in a more stable, predictable
environment. It takes a great deal of time for the child to make changes and
become comfortable and trusting of those around him or her in the new
Regardless of the types of
abuse and the child response style, when a child experiences the neglect or
abuse, the effect is to lower the sense of self-worth. If the parent is
unresponsive to the needs (neglect), the child develops a sense of
worthlessness. If the parent is unreliable and inconsistent, the child develops
a sense of the environment as unsafe and experiences anxiety. If the child is
the victim of sexual or physical abuse, the response is often to fear the adult
and to experience the self as weak and ineffective. The different child
characters, however, may react to these experiences in different ways. The
cautious child may become even more nervous and upset and develop mental health
problems, whereas the active child who engages his environment may make
attempts to become more aggressive and controlling and develop behavioral
Children who react to the
inadequacies of parenthood may develop mental health and behavioral
disturbances. The behaviors become routine ways of responding. Some children
may develop a sense of inadequacy, demonstrating a dependency more pronounced
than would be expected typically at their age. The children may vary in
severity of disturbance, but almost all experience some type of difficulty
because of the problems identified in the dysfunctional family.
All children experience a
great deal of transitional stress when they are first contacted by the
children’s authority in the county for the purpose of removing them from the
home. It is my experience as a therapist for these children that they usually
vividly remember the details of the day they are removed. Whether the
caseworker comes to the home or the school or the police are involved, the
scene is not good for anyone, but is a necessary step in the protection process
and also begins the healing process. These transitional episodes can leave an
emotional mark on the child, creating apprehension and anxiety, but this is
alleviated to a moderate degree once the child becomes familiar and comfortable
with the foster parent resource.
Despite the slow development
of trust with the new family, behaviors and emotions continue to be present
with the child. Often, the children who reacted in a characteristic way in
their home of origin will begin to react similarly in the new home, meaning
that a child who has become aggressive and demanding in the unstable
environment at home will start doing the same thing in the new environment,
expecting the parents to react in similar ways to their parents’ behaviors.
They try to create the environment they knew. It takes a great deal of patience
and experience on the part of the foster parents to help the child through this
period of adjustment, as the child learns that the needs will be met without
Signs of problems in
children can be many and varied.
Four categories are identified here:
The anti-social child may
initially present as charming and compliant but, after the shock of the
transition wears off, will become passive-aggressive, manipulative and
resentful and untrusting. He may demonstrate:
• Sadistic behavior and
• Compulsive lying and
• Obsessions about sex
• Seeming lack of empathy or
• Oppositional behaviors
• Controlling behaviors.
An overanxious and insecure
child may demonstrate panic when separated from those who take care of her. She
might show school avoidance, night fears, thoughts about losing a parent and
often ambivalence in the relationship with the caregiver. She may demonstrate
• School anxiety
• Trouble falling asleep at
• Fear of being alone
• Depression when separated
from a parent
• Worries about illness,
injury or death
• Nightmares with the theme
• Intense love-hate
relationships with caregivers.
The asocial and withdrawn
child may have become cool and indifferent and show a remarkable lack of
anxiety about his isolation from others. She has developed a thick emotional
barrier to protect herself from hurt from the agony of separation from those
with whom the child has been intimate. The child appears emotionally blunted
and inept socially and may have developed a deep distrust of others. The
characteristic features of this type of child may be seen in:
• Defects in the capacity to
• Lack of strong social
• Lack of concern for
isolation from others
• Few observed needs for
affection and emotional attachments
• Lack of spontaneous
• Oblivious to others
• Lack of self-awareness.
child clings to caregivers and exhausts the foster parent with unbounded needs.
She can cling to anyone instantly but is usually superficially attached. She requires guidance and constant
attention. The child may be submissive and show no signs of rebellion or a
difference of opinion. She demonstrates very little confidence and may show:
• Insatiable neediness
• Learned helplessness and
• Lack of interest in
negotiating the environment
• Flatness of emotion
• Lack of vitality
• Sense of apathy and
futility, and emotional voids.
There are still other
children who demonstrate a combination of factors, and, as such, their
behaviors may be hard to predict. Children may demonstrate differing degrees of
reactions, with some strong in their reactions and others milder. It is likely
that most children who are placed in care will demonstrate some reaction to the
transition to care and carry over their legacy of responses from the home of
origin. It is the struggle of foster parents to help the child become less
reactive in a negative way and to learn to trust and feel secure, safe and
encouraged to grow through the stages of development to experience self-worth,
confidence and an ability to cope with new stress in a meaningful and effective
Much of the information
provided in this article is from the foster parent-training segment for the
KidsPeace Foster Care and Family Program. t
Chess, Stella and Alexander
Thomas (1996). Temperament: Theory and Practice. Psychology Press, Taylor and
Francis Group, New York.
Reistroffer, Mary (1972).
What You Always Wanted to Know About Foster Care But Didn’t Have the Time or
the Chance to Bring Up. Child Welfare League of America, Inc., New York pp 2-3.
Rex, Elizabeth L. A Letter
to a Foster Child, in Children Today,
Child Welfare League of America, Inc., New York, May-June, 1973, pp 1-2.
Dr. Zimmerman received
his Ph.D. in Psychological Studies from Temple University and has been a
Clinical Psychologist with KidsPeace since 1982. He performs clinical
assessments and conducts group therapy and consultations and works with
children in residential treatment and foster care.
KidsPeace believes that it is helpful to our readers to reprint some Healing Magazine articles
that are as relevant today as when they were published in our Magazine. This article appeared in our Spring/Summer 2008 issue of Healing Magazine and was written by psychotherapist and expert on relationships between children and parents Loren Bruckner.
Parenting as a Journey:
A Guide to Surviving the Trip
By Loren Buckner, MSW, LCSW
More than ever before,
doctors are prescribing antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications to kids
and parents who are overwhelmed by how they feel. Practically every day,
newspapers are filled with stories about families and children in crisis.
Overeating, under-eating, addictions of varying kinds have become common ways
of coping with unwanted feelings.
Parents can change this
trend. Emotions, even the painful ones, need to be understood instead of
avoided. Hateful feelings don’t have to become destructive. However
disagreeable, feelings can be talked over, worked with and tamed. Learning to
be curious about emotions, instead of afraid or critical, can make accepting them
Dedicated parents are better
informed than ever before about what their kids need. Understanding their
child’s psychological, emotional and physical development is one of their
highest priorities. How to handle potty-training, temper-tantrums, learning
disabilities and the stress of adolescence are all pressing issues parents
never feel they know enough about.
Parents have a tendency,
though, to pay much less attention to understanding their own emotional lives,
missing an important link in the process of conscientious parenting. Of course,
reading about how to best raise kids is important. But how can parents help
their sons and daughters feel comfortable with their feelings if they are
uncomfortable and frightened by their own?
Parenthood stirs up a wide
assortment of emotions. Mothers and fathers eagerly look forward to the
delightful and satisfying ones. But there are others – feelings that rock
parents to their core. The painful nature of parenting is not a topic most
parents like to talk about, but, because the parent-child relationship is so
intense and so personal, these feelings are inevitable and nothing to be
It is not uncommon for
parents who have done their “preparing for parenthood homework” to feel
frustrated and disappointed in themselves. Knowing what to do and having the
ability to do it are two very different skills. Parents know they should be
consistent, for example, but how do they accomplish this when what feels
acceptable can change from day to day depending on how tired they are or on
what side of the bed they awakened? Parents know that they should not lose
their tempers, but it is something that happens to all parents. How do parents
cope with the guilt, worry, disappointment, anger and loss – as much a part of
family life as the joys and rewards – without these feelings fueling self-doubt
and ruining their most important relationships?
The first step is to
recognize that feelings – even the painful ones – are a normal part of
parenting. Painful feelings are disturbing and confusing, but even good parents
sometimes feel bad about themselves and do not always feel loving toward their
children and partners either.
Maybe a child has a
different temperament from his parent, gets into trouble or doesn’t like
school, sports or playing a musical instrument. Maybe she won’t be as religious
or choose the life-partner or career the parent had hoped for. These are just a
few of the many possible disappointments parents must learn how to accept
without letting their feelings overwhelm them or their children.
Parents must also find a way
to put their worry into perspective. There’s no escaping this feeling either.
Parents can’t wait until their children can walk, but then they’ll worry about
them wandering away. Parents worry about their children making the right
friends and doing well in school. They’ll really worry if their child gets into
trouble or becomes ill. And in addition to their never-ending concerns about
their kids, parents periodically question themselves. Sooner or later all
parents, regardless of their particular situation, ask, “Am I a good enough
parent?” Worries like these, to one degree or another, begin with pregnancy and
continue throughout parents’ lives.
Guilt is another emotion
with which parents are quite familiar because they do lose their tempers, say
the wrong thing, give in when they know they shouldn’t or feel grouchy because
they’re tired or upset. Parents often know they’re not living up to the good
parenting advice they’ve read about over and over and therefore feel guilty,
angry and disappointed in themselves. This, too, is parenthood.
Conscientious parents know
how important it is to provide kids a home filled with safety and security. But
as they’re building this solid foundation for their kids, they are also
establishing a strong bond to their kids. Bravely encouraging children to begin
individuating means parents will battle feelings of being left behind. The
experiences of separation, letting go, watching as children develop independence,
are rewarding for sure. But it also triggers feelings of sadness and loss –
emotions parents must accept without making their kids feel guilty or afraid.
The pain this creates may be another aspect of parenting for which mothers and
fathers feel completely unprepared.
Anger is a feeling parents
expect to have, but they are often shocked by its intensity. Hateful feelings
directed at the people parents love the most are painful and difficult
experiences, but managing them is crucial. Although seemingly contradictory, it
isn’t so bad for parents to occasionally lose their tempers, as long as they
don’t lose control. Saying or doing something damaging to self-esteem or their
children’s ability to trust them is the kind of anger to avoid. Protecting children,
no matter how upset the parent is, is essential because hurtful words and
frightening scenes have long echoes.
It is a parent’s obligation
to recognize when there’s a problem. Self-doubt, and even worse, self-hatred
are depressing, distracting and not very conducive to effective parenting. And
when parents, in spite of their efforts to do otherwise, have frequent
emotional outbursts, find themselves retaliating against their children, or
when family trust and stability have become undermined, then it’s a good idea
to seek help.
Emotions, however powerful,
don’t define a person’s character – it’s how parents react that’s important.
Parents love their kids but sometimes can’t stand them; they wouldn’t trade
places with anyone but, from time to time, imagine walking out and changing
their names. They struggle with painful, distasteful feelings alone, believing
that something is wrong with them. These darker emotions are far from what
young couples imagine when they decide to take the leap into parenthood. But
this is parenthood.
Parents have an important
life-defining opportunity – teaching children how to incorporate feelings into
their lives instead of judging, ignoring or hiding them. They can help kids
understand that anger, worry, sadness disappointment and fear are not signs of
weakness but are signs of life. Before parents can do this for their kids, they
need to learn this for themselves. It’s only after parents are comfortable in
their own skins that they can teach their children to be comfortable in theirs.
Loren Buckner lives in
Tampa, Florida, and has been a psychotherapist in private practice for more
than 20 years. She is the author
of a forthcoming book on parents and their emotions. She can be reached at 813-915-0076
or at email@example.com.
KidsPeace has been helping children and adolescents deal with grief and other emotional and mental health issues since 1882. Therefore, we are delighted to support Highmark Blue Cross in its third annual "Children's Grief Awareness Day" on November 18, 2010. Originated by the Highmark Caring Place, A Center for Grieving Children, Adolescents and Their Families, this awareness day acknowledges the impact that death and loss have on children and families and encourages all caring individuals to offer comfort and assistance to grieving children. Highmark encourages everyone to Wear Blue on November 18 to commemorate the day and show support for children experiencing grief.
To learn more about "Children's Grief Awareness Day," visit HighMark's Caring Place website at
KidsPeace believes that it is helpful to our readers to reprint some Healing Magazine articles
that are as relevant today as when they were published in our Magazine.
This article discusses how parents of special needs students should strive to interact well with their children's teachers and is written by author and Autisim advocate Ellen Notbohm. It was
published in the Spring/Summer 2007 issue.
The View from the Other
Side of the Desk: Are you a ‘challenging parent?’
What special education
teachers want you to know
by Ellen Notbohm
As transitions go, my son’s
transition to middle school had been smoother than any parent with an
Individualized Education Plan (IEP) in hand could hope for. It had been a very
good year with very good teachers. But, as the year wound down with alarming
speed, the scheduling of the annual IEP meeting just wasn’t happening. Repeated
requests – at increasing decibel level – to resource teachers went unresolved
amid scheduling problems, administrative issues, illnesses and other
roadblocks. When we finally did meet, five days before the end of the school
year, I told the excellent resource teacher only half-jokingly, “You’re almost
there. Only five more days and then you are done with me.”
And this excellent teacher
stopped in his tracks and looked at me with surprise. “Oh no,” he said. “No. I have had some challenging
parents this year, and you are not one of them.”
At that, it was my turn to
stop in my tracks. What, I wanted very much to know, constitutes a
“challenging” parent? It was too
intriguing a thought to leave on the table so, a few months later, we came back
to it. His very thoughtfully painted portrait of a “challenging” parent led me
to ask other special educators, teachers of students aged toddler to high
school across several different school districts, the same question. And, while
each came from his/her own unique situation, the common threads in their
thoughts were striking. A number of these common threads formed the basis for
my book Ten Things Your Student with Autism Wishes You Knew. Here then is the
view from the other side of the desk, the voice of your special education
A combative attitude does
not enhance our ability to make progress with your child. Our relationship
should be an alliance, not an adversarial face off. We are all here because of
the child; he or she is our common interest, and it is important not to lose
sight of that. It is not about me or you, or whether we like each other.
Give me the courtesy of a
clean slate. You may have had bad experiences with previous teachers or
schools, but putting past conflicts or issues onto me, coming in with guns
blazing before you even have a chance to get to know me or my program is
counterproductive. “This is what has happened in the past, and I expect the
same from you” is looking for trouble where it is possible that none exists.
There is a difference
between being assertive and being aggressive – and there is a cost. Teachers
appreciate parents who are knowledgeable, effective advocates for their
children. Knowing your rights and knowing the facts of your situation, and requesting
services and accommodations firmly but respectfully are light years removed
from being a fist-pounder.
We are not here for the
money or the recognition. We are here because we love these kids. In an ideal
world, I want to share with the parent any inside perspective I have about ‘the
system’ and how it affects decisions made about their child. But, if I sense in
any way that the parent will use the information in a way that comes back on me
or threatens my job, it is only natural that I will not share.
Undermining me undermines
your child’s learning.
Communicating to your child that everything that is going wrong is the
school’s fault undermines your child’s ability to trust me, to comply with
necessary classroom boundaries and, ultimately, to learn.
All children, even special
needs children, need to assume some level of responsibility for their behavior
and its consequences. We are sometimes faced with parents who say, “I cannot
believe my child would do such a thing. It must be somebody else’s fault. If
you had been doing this, he wouldn’t have been doing that.” Sometimes that’s
the case. However, when a parent insists it is always the case, I need to
gently suggest that a closer look be taken at what is actually going on.
Step back and listen as
open-mindedly as possible when faced with information that makes your blood
pressure rise. It’s very common for children to exhibit a different set of
behaviors at school than they do at home.
Having to be both teacher
and case manager can put me in a very difficult position. Especially in early
childhood education, it often falls on the teacher/case manager to identify the
fact that my particular classroom or program isn’t the best fit for your child.
Please know that, when I
tell you we need to transition your child to a different setting, it isn’t
because I ‘don’t like him.’ Hear me as objectively as possible when I tell you
that he is struggling too hard in the current placement and would benefit from
a different setting, that we need to modify the Individualized Family Service
Plan (IFSP) or IEP and find a better environment.
Don’t assume I know
everything about your child. I may only have the prior year’s academic
information, and perhaps no personal information at all. Tell me anything you
think is important for me to know about your “whole child.” Be a resource for
us, a bridge between programs.
Share with us what has worked or not worked with your child in the past.
We cannot do everything for
your child. Your child is entitled by law to a free and appropriate education
in the least restrictive setting. That is not equivalent to the best possible
education. Think of it this way: You get the Chevy; you don’t get the Cadillac.
You get safe, reliable transportation, but you don’t get the CD player and the
leather seats. It’s a distinction many parents don’t understand that special
education is intended to provide for adequate growth, not maximum possible
Federal law mandates that we
make sure that kids who have a disability are making adequate progress, as
defined and measured yearly in their IEPs. The idea behind it is that, without
accommodation, they wouldn’t make adequate progress in general education, and
therefore would not be getting a free and appropriate public education.
Let’s say you have a fifth
grader who is reading at a 2nd grade level. It happens; teachers commonly look
at their classes and see a developmental range, so there are kids who end up in
4th or 5th grade reading several grade levels behind. So we set a goal, in a calendar
year, for the child to make a year’s growth, which is what his peers would
make. But he is still behind; he
is not catching up. In order for him to catch up, he would have to outpace his
peers. Some kids do that, but it’s very difficult and not realistic.
We have many commitments to
multiple content areas. If we were to spend half the day on reading alone –
sure, we could catch the kid up. But that’s not appropriate because we give up
everything else. And so we always have that discussion every year in an IEP
meeting. We have a certain amount of time. How do we set goals? How much time
do we need to meet each goal? How much are we going to be able to accomplish
given math, science, social studies, all of these other content areas required
and from which kids benefit?
Your child is not my only
student. When I am meeting with you, when we are in a discussion and
problem-solving mode – in that moment, your student is the only one I am
concerned about. But back in my classroom, I have anywhere from a few to a few
dozen other students in my caseload, and I have the scheduling restrictions
that naturally come with that caseload. It simply is not possible for the needs
of one child to dictate my entire day. Asking that of me is painful for both of
Early intervention works
Here is an extension of a
universal truth: The earlier the
better – and the better the earlier the better. Catch things early, intervene
well and include your family, not just the school. No one was ever sorry they
intervened early, but legions of families regret “waiting to see if he outgrows
See the positive in your
Have an honest understanding
of what the range of your child’s disability means, but also recognize his
strengths. Too often, the most difficult parents to work with are the ones who
cannot see the positive qualities of their kid. Their focus is stuck on what
the child can’t do. Perhaps they do not want to have a child with a disability.
Perhaps they are stuck in the grieving process. But, for the teacher, it is
very hard to deal with.
Promote independence. Help
your child learn to do things for himself, rather than doing them for him. Many
teachers are parents themselves and understand the time stress families are
under. But, whether it’s homework or personal organization, expedience in the
moment will impede his learning to be independent in the long run. If you pack
and unpack his backpack for him every day, how will he learn the importance of
being organized, knowing where things are when they are needed, how to find
items or information? The parents who are most effective are the ones who teach
as well as parent. The two are synonymous.
© 2006 Ellen Notbohm. This
article is based on the book Ten Things Your Student With Autism Wishes You
Knew, a 2006 iParenting Media Award winner.
Ellen Notbohm is author
of Ten Things Every Child with
Autism Wishes You Knew, a ForeWord 2005 Book of the Year Honorable Mention
winner, and co-author of the award-winning 1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children with Autism Spectrum
Disorders. For article reprint permission, book excerpts, to learn more or
to contact Ellen, please visit www.ellennotbohm.com.
KidsPeace believes that it is helpful to our readers to reprint some Healing Magazine articles that are as relevant today as when they were published in our Magazine. This article discusses how communication is so important when doctors prescribe psychotropic medications to children. This article was published in the Spring/Summer 2006 issue.
Medications: Communication is key
By Pat Sullivan
Millions of children take
prescription psychotropic medications to treat a wide range of conditions that
can destroy their quality of life. According to Dr. Adnan B. Zawawi,
Psychiatrist at KidsPeace Psychiatric Hospital, it is imperative that parents
and physicians establish open communication early in a child’s treatment. “At
KidsPeace, we provide parents with written information on any medications we
might prescribe in the admissions packet so that parents can make informed
decisions regarding their children’s treatment. They must give us written
consent before we start any medication,” Zawawi says. He also wants to dispel a
common myth: “These are not drugs; they are medications. Just as we prescribe
medications for hypertension, diabetes or infections, we prescribe medications
for illnesses of the mind.”
There are several classes of
psychotropic medications that are typically prescribed for youth:
• Tricyclics – Older drugs.
These medications (some brand names include Adapin, Elavil, Pamelor and
Tofranil) are typically only used when SSRIs (see below) are ineffective.
• SSRIs (Selective Serotonin
Reuptake Inhibitors) – Newer antidepressants (some brand names include Prozac,
Zoloft, Paxil and Lexapro) used more commonly because they restore deficits in
certain neurotransmitters that facilitate communication between brain cells
(neurons) and return the brain to normal functioning with few side effects.
Dr. Zawawi emphasizes that
depression is a serious medical problem that causes the brain to function
differently from those of individuals who are not depressed. The benefits of
taking antidepressants far outweigh the risks associated with them. Dr. Zawawi
also notes that NIH studies have shown that patients treated with a combination
of SSRIs and therapy had higher success rates than those taking SSRIs alone or
those undergoing therapy alone.
are used for a year or two, with cessation being gradual and closely supervised
by a physician. One should never abruptly stop antidepressants. Dr. Zawawi
emphasizes that starting a child on an antidepressant or other psychotropic
medication is a major decision that is based on improving the child’s quality
of life, happiness and productivity.
• Lithium – A salt that has
been used since the 1970s to treat bipolar disorder, particularly manic
episodes; depression while on Lithium may indicate that a higher dosage is
needed. It is important to monitor levels of Lithium (some brand names include:
Cibalith-S, Eskalith, Lithane, Lithobid, Lithonate and Lithotabs) in the blood
stream and to consult with prescribing doctors before taking any medications, including,
but not limited to, ibuprofen, antihypertensives, muscle relaxers and
• Anticonvulsants – Helpful
in controlling mood swings, although their main use is to prevent seizures
(some brand names include Depakote, Topamax, Tegetrol, Lamictal and
• Atypical Antipsychotics –
Used alone or in combination with mood stabilizers can be quite effective,
although it is very important to use as directed (brands include Abilify,
Navene, Risperdal, Seroquel).
Bipolar disorders in adults
are marked by wide-ranging mood swings from deep depression to unbridled mania,
but, according to Dr. Zawawi, children experience fewer “top of the world”
highs and deep troughs. Instead, bipolar children are typically irritable,
cranky and miserable, with sometimes explosive mood swings that can result in
unhappiness, difficulty in school and trouble with the law. “Mood disorders
require medication,” Zawawi says. “Lithium is the standard and has been used
for a long time, but the atypicals are gaining popularity. All mood stabilizers
must be used as directed.”
• Antipsychotics – Older
medications that effectively reduce symptoms of psychosis but can have severe
side effects and do not control mood swings (some brands include: Thorazin,
Mellaril, Haldol and Prolixin.)
• Atypical Antipsychotics –
Very effective in controlling psychosis and mood swings (brands include:
Abilify, Zyprexa, Theraciule, Geodan and Clozoril).
Psychosis and schizophrenia
are serious conditions that cause people to experience visual and auditory
hallucinations and delusions. The side effects of some antipyschotics can be
very serious, but schizophrenic patients need to take them long term in order
to function within society. The two most serious types of side effects, although
rare, include: (1) extraperonial symptoms such as rigidity, stiffness, tremors
and tardive dyskinesia, which is uncontrollable movement of the mouth, arms and
other body parts, and (2) metabolic disorders such as diabetes, high
cholesterol and weight gain. Therefore, Dr. Zawawi warns that anyone taking
antipsychotics have regular blood sugar, lipid and liver function tests, as
well as family history screening and close supervision. Zawawi stresses that
doctors are very careful about putting children on these medications and try to
use antipsychotics for as short a time period as possible.
Psychostimulants are used in
the treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit
Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and have been the standard for many years. Zawawi
explains that these medications are not addictive and can be used into
adulthood to help patients focus and control impulsivity. Although classified
as stimulants, these medications (including Ritalin, Concerta and Adderal) have
a calming effect on patients who suffer from ADD/ADHD. Side effects may include
sleep problems and weight loss, but psychostimulants help children perform
better in school, engage in less impulsive behavior, focus on tasks, have more
positive social experiences and generally stay out of trouble. Zawawi says that
dosage and symptoms should be closely monitored and appropriately adjusted.
Many children suffer from
extreme anxiety and school phobia, which can incapacitate them socially and academically.
Medications that treat anxiety are used short term for acute panic attacks
because they can be addictive. Anxiety disorders are more frequently treated
with SSRIs and therapy, but anxiolytics such as Xanax, Librium, Atavan and
Valium can help children through especially difficult periods. Zawawi warns
that use of these medications must be closely monitored and carefully tapered
off in terms of dosage to prevent withdrawal symptoms.
Dr. Zawawi stresses that
parents must communicate with all of the physicians who treat their children
regarding prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications. “Parents think
that they are bothering their doctor with calls to see if it is safe to give
decongestants or cough syrup or even pain and fever relievers to their
children, but, believe me, we would rather answer your question beforehand than
have to treat serious side effects after the fact,” he says. Combining
psychotropic medications with others medicines can cause serious and even life-threatening
reactions. “Be sure to tell your family physician about any psychotropic
medications your child is taking and encourage them to contact the psychiatrist
if there are any questions,” Zawawi says. Many psychiatrists monitor a child’s
psychotropic medications for a few months and then turn administration over to
the family physician, who is more familiar with the child’s history.
In general, antibiotics and
asthma medications are safe when taken in conjunction with psychotropics,
Zawawi explains, but it is still important to report all new prescriptions to
all of your child’s doctors. Steroids and birth control pills can cause serious
medication interactions with some psychotropics, as can fever reducers and
Many parents do not realize
that herbal and natural supplements can cause severe interactions with
psychotropics as well. Dr. Zawawi tells parents that he respects their
decisions if they want to try the natural route to treat their children, but
herbals should not be taken in combination with any of the psychotropics. Also,
parents should not administer larger doses than suggested by the manufacturer
of natural or herbal remedies to their children. The adage, “if a little’s
good, a lot’s much better” does not apply to natural or herbal supplements.
When it comes to alcohol and
street drugs, Zawawi is very clear with his patients. He tells them if they
combine alcohol and street drugs with their prescribed medications, they can
suffer extreme sedation, excessive irritability, seizures or comas. It can
truly be a lethal combination.
It can be difficult to make
a decision to inform teachers, counselors and school nurses that a child is
taking psychotropic medications. There are several points to keep in mind:
• Most schools do not allow
children to carry and take medications of any kind in school. If your child
needs mid-day administration, this has to be done by the school nurse, and the
medications must be kept under lock and key in the nurse’s office.
• Teachers often spend more
waking hours with your child than you do. If they know what your child is
taking and the possible side effects or reactions, they can watch for anything
out of the ordinary and report to you and the school nurse.
confidentiality issues in your school system to increase your comfort level.
Having an illness does not mean that your child will be “labeled” or suffer
discrimination of any kind. There are laws that protect against this.
• Teachers can make
adaptations to accommodate your child’s condition, including reduced homework,
tutoring, modified tests, frequent visits to the nurse or rest room, the need
to eat more frequently, rest periods in the nurse’s office if overly tired,
reduced physical activity, not going outside, etc.
• Often, teachers or school
counselors were the first to pick up on your child’s condition and referred him
or her for an evaluation in the first place. They are trained to recognize
• Teachers can arrange for
your child to have a quiet place to go during over-stimulating activities, gym
or even lunchtime.
• Your child may be more
comfortable knowing that the teacher, nurse or counselor understands what he or
she is going through and is approachable if the child does not feel well.
• Teachers can “run
interference” if your child is struggling with a social or academic issue and
make the situation less stressful.
• Your child may be eligible
for placement in a smaller class that better meets his or her needs on a short-
or long-term basis.
Dr. Zawawi stresses the
importance of parents being as involved as possible in their children’s
treatment, medication, school life and healing. Acknowledging that parents are
very busy and often do not have a great deal of time to spend with their children,
he says that, at the very least, parents must:
• Monitor and administer
their children’s medications
• Communicate regularly with
all professionals involved in their children’s treatment
• Spend time with their
children to observe and discuss how they are feeling, progressing, regressing,
reacting to medication and getting along in school and socially
• Give unconditional love
KidsPeace assists thousands of children by finding them safe, loving homes with caring foster parents in 11 states and the District of Columbia. The Baltimore foster care office sponsored a 5K race and one mile walk to raise funds the KEYS Program(KidsPeace empowering Youth to Succeed), which teaches foster teens life skills that they will need to use when they age out of the system and live independently in the community. With the odds stacked high against them, teens who age out of the foster care system must suddenly find jobs, secure a place to live, stick to a budget, link up with transportation and make their way in the world, often with little or no preparation. KidsPeace is committed to helping these teens prepare for adult life and move smoothly to independent living.
The 5K fundraiser was the first of its kind for the Baltimore foster care office, and the participation and enthusiasm of sponsors, volunteers and runners was wonderful. From employees of the Baltimore, DC, and Virginia KidsPeace foster care offices to staff from as far away as Pennsylvania, volunteers to the Board of Associates that supports the efforts of the office, to local businesses and sponsors, everyone worked extremely hard to make the event profitable and lots of fun for all who attended. The positive media coverage has attracted the interest of more individuals and businesses that would like to become involved in future fundraisers.
The most exciting outcome is the nearly $25,000 in cash donations and in-kind sponsorships from the businesses in O'Donnell Square in Baltimore where the finish line was set up. Many people in the running community commented that this was an impressive amount for a 5K to raise. Business owners arrived at the finish lines with their families to provide crafts for the children, food, beverages and even electricity for the speaker system from one enthusiastic restaurant. All of the merchants and volunteers truly embraced the race/walk and the foster children KidsPeace serves. Many of the sponsors also volunteered to work with our teens to help them with interview skills and internships in the future.
Baltimore City DSS was very supportive and an active partner. Ray Syndor from the Philadelphia Eagles was part of the event and was so impressed with KidsPeace that he is working on continuing a partnership in the form of a camp and other programs for our kids. One of the event's very generous sponsors (a local hotel) wants to partner with KidsPeace for next year to help plan the event. The Baltimore Foster Care Office Board of Associates and their families were very generous with their time and their donations, and Chairperson Lee Anderson provided immeasurable professionalism for the post race program. Each board member worked side by side with staff to make this event such a success, and their dedication to KidsPeace is very inspiring. Board members, interns, staff and their family members were joined by folks from Johns Hopkins, Baltimore students and local community members.
The foster families who attended and volunteered were amazed at the magnitude of the race and the community involvement on their behalf. One of the foster children summed it up by saying "Wow, This is all for us!" A big thank you to everyone who helped out and an invitation to bring friends and family to make next years race an even bigger hit.
Saturday, October 30, was a special day for the children and associates of KidsPeace Georgia, as the campus was transformed into a shady oasis that will provide many peaceful places for relaxation and contemplation. Thanks to a Georgia Forestry Commission "Making the Shade" grant, volunteers planted a total of 22 trees, watered and mulched 51 trees, planted 25 bushes and spread 25 bushels of wood chips. According to Executive Director Scott Merritt, these trees will not only beautify the campus, but they will also shade HVAC units, playground areas and buildings, lowering energy consumption and making it more pleasant to be outside during the summer.
Some 52 volunteers worked very hard on the planting, including 10 youth who are in residence at the Bowdon facility and several KidsPeace Georgia associates. State Forester Joe Burgess was there to instruct the volunteers on how the trees should be handled, planted and tended. Adding great energy to the event was KidsPeace Georgia Board of Associates Chair and KidsPeace National Board Member Dick Tisinger, who organized the army of volunteers with staff from his law firm, Tisinger & Vance, and his Agape Sunday School class from First United Methodist Church.
On Friday, October 29, Fletcher Landscape of Carrollton planted 29 larger trees, which Gene Hughes provided to KidsPeace at a huge discount. Additionally, Landscape Architect Chris Threadgill donated many hours to plan exactly where the trees would go. Carroll County EMC donated more than 30 loads of wood chips, which were placed under the ropes course to make landings softer and used as mulch around the campus.
According to Carol Doyle, a KidsPeace Georgia Board of Associates member and the person who made this entire event possible, the adult volunteers told her how much they enjoyed working with the KidsPeace kids. It was a great opportunity for them to get to know the kids and relate on a more personal level to understand exactly what KidsPeace is accomplishing with these boys and girls. It was also a great chance for the kids to see that people are willing to donate their time and efforts to make life more pleasant for them.
Scott Merritt is very appreciative to all of the volunteers and donors who made this major planting event possible and is delighted that the kids took such an interest in making their surroundings more beautiful and more pleasant for their daily activities and visits from family members, community members and neighbors.