Growing Center-Based Groups

By Lauren DeMarco, LSW
Director of Center Based Programming

LaurenWhen I started at the Center this summer, I could not have imagined what a fulfilling and meaningful first year it would be for me at the Center for Grieving Children! With my first program year coming to an end, I am able to reflect on the success, challenges, and remarkable people I have met throughout the year. This program year could not have transpired without the children, teens, caregivers, and volunteers’ dedication to each group meeting ready to support and nurture each other.  I admire the courage and strength displayed in each group by the group members’ willingness to share their feelings, emotions, and thoughts with each other.  Every group was unique and offered the opportunity for members to grow and to learn on their grief journey in a safe and comfortable space.

Our Center-Based groups met every other week from the beginning of September to the end of May offering both children and caregiver groups. The children played games, created artwork and participated in a variety of activities providing different modalities to express their grief, while the caregivers received support in their own group about raising a grieving child. The nine Center-Based groups allowed for 95 children and 71 families to receive support though the Center. One of the nine groups expanded our reach by offering a group for children ages 4-6 at our East Falls location.  Identifying the need to support this group, we will be expanding the group next program year in September.

In recognizing the barriers to hosting groups exclusively at our main East Falls location, we continued our partnership with Tindley Temple Church in South Philadelphia and added a new partnership with CHOP Karabots Pediatric Care Center in West Philadelphia. These partnerships allowed us to host an additional five Center-Based groups to the four Center-Based Groups at East Falls reaching 43 families in the South, West and Southwest Philadelphia areas. We were humbled by the generosity of CHOP Karabots Pediatric Care Center and Tindley Temple Church for allowing us to utilize their facilities free of charge and making the groups more accessible and convenient for families to participate on a regular basis.

The peer grief support groups could not have been possible without the dedication of the 26 volunteer group facilitators and the 3 graduate school interns from University of Pennsylvania, Bryn Mawr College and Philadelphia University. We also have volunteers assist with attending health fairs, preparing for special events, and assisting in the office. To ensure our volunteers were ready for the program year, we offered two volunteer trainings with one in September and one in January. To see more about our volunteers, we highlighted a group a week for Thank You Thursday on our Facebook page starting in March. We are grateful for their support over this year and the groups could not have happened without them! Currently, we are accepting volunteer group facilitator applications to start volunteering in September and the application can be found here on our website.

I am appreciative for each group member allowing The Center for Grieving Children to be a part of their grief journey.  Each grief journey is as unique as the individual with different feelings, experiences and thoughts; therefore, the peer support allows for group members to learn and grow with each other. Without their trust and belief in the program, we would be unable to have a program year after year at The Center and I am appreciative of their support. We look forward to meeting with families over the summer with our series of Summer Family Fun Nights in June, July and August with different activities around the city. With the next program year around the corner, I am looking forward to meeting new families and inviting returning families back to the Center.

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