Despite the ongoing pandemic, the Children’s Advocacy Center of Bristol County never broke stride last year in its work to serve victims of child physical and sexual abuse and their families.
The CAC purchased the Fall River building it had been renting at 58 Arch Street and broke ground on a major renovation and expansion project. The groundbreaking ceremony was held in April 2021 and to date the CAC has raised $3 million for the project.
The expansion will be completed in 2022, tripling the size of the organization and providing more space for forensic exams, counseling, medical and other services.
The CAC also resumed full in-person services for victims and families by June of last year, as law enforcement, representatives from the Bristol County District Attorney’s office and child welfare partners returned to its Fall River offices.
Reports of physical abuse diminished in fiscal year 2021, with the pandemic keeping children from face-to-face contact with teachers, coaches and other mandated reporters. Even so, complaints of abuse via social media rose, and the CAC received over 585 referrals of abuse victims, only 85 fewer than the prior fiscal year. To date in Fiscal Year 2022, the CAC has received over 600 referrals.
JRI’s day schools continue to excel
Anchor Academy Gym
JRI’s day schools continued to thrive during the second year of the Covid pandemic, reaching more students in need of the integrated services our schools provide, engaging more families, and adding new facilities and programs.
And they accomplished it despite changing Covid guidelines that required staff and students at various times to adapt to on-site, remote and hybrid learning environments. Both overall student attendance and achievement saw increases during the year thanks to the dedication of our professional staff, students and families.
Anchor Academy expands, increases enrollment
Anchor Academy in Middleboro increased its enrollment from 35 to 50 students by building a new gymnasium and adding three classrooms.
Anchor students were able to choose from nine off-campus vocational opportunities, including Battleship Cove in Fall River, Buttonwood Park Zoo in New Bedford, and the Soule Homestead Education Center in Middleboro. Students participated in these opportunities on a rotating basis, learning new skills in each setting. In addition, thirty-seven on-campus vocational jobs were offered and maintained by students.
Ten Anchor Academy students graduated with high school diplomas, and four enrolled in college. One student was in a dual enrollment program at Massasoit Community College, one decided on trade school, and four students enrolled in the gap year program.
Bay Cove Academy graduates 100% of seniors
At Bay Cove Academy in Brookline, staff ensured all students had what they needed to access their schooling and achieve their goals. Daily check-ins, in person visits, and unique and exciting COVID friendly activities to keep students engaged attributed to some of the highest rates of student attendance the school has experienced.
One hundred percent of Bay Cove Academy’s seniors graduated with a high school diploma and eighty percent of the graduates went on to college or full-time employment, while taking part in young adult transitional programming intended to help students succeed following graduation.
Granite Academy sees gain in parental engagement
Despite the challenges of changing Covid guidelines, Granite Academy in Braintree, recorded a 40-percent increase (from 52 parents to 73) in parental engagement through workshops intended to increase parental support for the school and its programs.
Workshops included topics such as workforce readiness, managing anxiety, equine-assisted therapy, managing students’ use of technology, book club, and supporting LGBTQ students.
The Victor School students were awarded scholarships
The transitions department at The Victor School in Acton ensured students still had access to internships, career fairs and college fairs even if held virtually due to Covid. College tours continued, moving from virtual in semester one to on-campus in semester two.
Five of The Victor School’s students were in dual enrollment programs where they earned college credits.
Nineteen students graduated from The Victor School in 2021. One hundred percent had post-graduation plans: four-year or community college, full-time work or a gap year program. Five students were awarded scholarships, ranging from the Presidential Scholarship, which is a full ride to UMass Lowell, to $7,500 per year and admissions to the honors program at Keene State College to $29,500 per year at Curry College.
JRI is a pioneer in permanency
JRI is committed to ensuring that the young people in its care can depend on at least one permanent relationship with an adult, someone who cares how their day went, if they’re struggling at school or made a new friend.
Each young person who enters a JRI residential program has a permanency plan “before crossing the threshold,” said Meredith Rapoza, division director of permanency and latency services. That can mean everything from adoption, or legal permanency, to relational permanency, meaning regular engagement with an adult who could be a coach, an aunt or even a JRI staff member.
As a pioneer in the issue of permanency, JRI has developed training not only for clinicians, but for all direct care staff. A cook in a congregate care setting knows to keep an ear out for clues to adults who have been important in a child’s life. Whether it’s an uncle who played ball or a school nurse who bandaged a knee, almost any responsible adult has the potential to become someone a child can count on to remember a birthday or visit now and again.
JRI clinicians also work with clients’ identified families to strengthen relationships with parents, siblings and other family members, so that children who return home can find a more supportive environment.
“The emphasis on permanency is ever-evolving and growing,” said Shannon Siracusa, clinical director at Littleton Academy. “Over the past year, a new program, Big Heroes-Little Heroes, was established to encourage relationships between older clients and their younger counterparts.”
“We’re on the cutting edge and pushing the envelope all the time and getting better and better,” said Rapoza.
“We use data throughout JRI, but we really rely on data in our residential programs since our time together is so limited and the presentation of acuity is so high,” said Kari Beserra, JRI executive vice president.
Data derived from JRI’s Client Assessment Tracking System (CATS) guide a clinician’s assessment of a client and the efficacy of a given therapy. The CATS system uses a battery of assessments that are nationally validated and look for and track small indicators of change across a multitude of symptoms, including trauma, depression, anxiety, and executive functioning.
For instance, an 8-year-old client of Little Heroes Group Home, in Dracut, MA, has been working so hard to make strides in his treatment to overcome his complicated and significant symptoms of trauma. His treatment course includes several intense treatment modalities and interventions. Often times, progress can be hard to see in someone so young, because the presentation of symptoms can be so complicated, overwhelming, and confusing. Also, trauma symptoms do not heal in a linear path, and often move in a series of ups and downs. Additionally, brain change to healing is not often seen first on the outside or in behaviors, but it is still happening. Compounding treatment even further, the outside events of life continue to happen, testing paths of treatment each day.
For example, when this little boy came to JRI, he was really struggling to manage overwhelming symptoms of trauma. His symptoms were acute and scary. JRI quickly began a treatment plan that included several clinical interventions designed to help him manage these symptoms. But symptoms like this are large and complicated, and treatment change happens slowly and in nonlinear ways. So watching for change can be hard, especially with 8 year olds who struggle to notice changes in their body.
Thanks to the JRI CATS data, the team was able to track and analyze his change in symptoms, even in small increments. The CATS data showed steadily that this little boy was making progress, that his clinical symptoms were decreasing, and his ability to manage overwhelming emotions were slowly but steadily increasing.
As for so many youth trying to manage trauma, external events that are hard to predict or prevent continue to happen over the course of treatment. For this little boy, unexpected changes in the schedule to the visits with his family happened, and really tested his ability to manage his trauma symptoms in a way that were overwhelming to him. During this time, he began to show some extreme behaviors to try to manage changes that were unexpectedly overwhelming to him.
On the surface and in general observation, these behavior changes were large, and resembled behaviors from when he first came to JRI. The change in symptoms did not clearly link to change in plans with his parents. Additionally, the increased symptoms of aggression looked at through observation appeared to be overwhelming and in other circumstances would have led an outside observer to think this little boy was getting worse, not better. Because of the CATS data to assess treatment progress, the team was able to determine quickly that despite the aggressive behaviors, overall, this little boy was getting better and his trauma symptoms were dissipating. The timelines could also link the aggressive behaviors to changes in his plans with his parents. Therefore, the team knew progress was happening and could continue on with therapies that were clearly helping him to heal.
“Trauma is so complex and we have a lot of treatment modalities,” Beserra said. “Data helps us understand the brain changes that might be going on behind the scenes, so we don’t switch gears too early. It helps us make sure we are working as quickly and effectively as possible.”
In Our Emplyees
In 2021, we endured the second year of a worldwide pandemic, which presented a host of challenges as we continued to serve the populations who depend on us. As challenging as events have been, our employees remain committed to one another and to our clients, meeting every trial and overcoming every obstacle.
Obstacles are inevitable in every human undertaking, but the dedication, skill and training of the staff who work at the more than 100 JRI programs serving individuals and families in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut will enable us to continue doing the essential work of building safer, stronger and more just communities. That is why JRI invests in its employees, who all have the opportunity to build new skills and grow professionally through our comprehensive training and leadership development programs. In addition, JRI offers a college scholarship program that enables all employees to continue their education and gain additional responsibility and better pay as they complete academic degree studies. JRI annually is selected as one of the Boston Globe’s Top Places to Work, thanks in part to our commitment to growth and development of all our employees. We train future leadership who will be able to meet the toughest challenges and who believe passionately that their devotion to the cause of social justice can change the world — one community at a time.
Over 50 employees received scholarships to study at Boston University, Simmons, William James College and Bridgewater State University.
In 2021, we spent $782,540 on scholarships and tuition reimbursement for employees.
On average, JRI offers our employees 20 internal trainings and professional development opportunities each month.
“JRI is about opening doors for people.”
Anissa Lomba-Ghantous, LCSW
Granite Academy, Braintree, MA
Co-Chair for the JRI Diversity Advisory Group
In Fall 2019 she began working at Granite Academy in Braintree, MA. Granite is a therapeutic day school program for middle and high school-aged students who have social/emotional challenges. She started out as a milieu coordinator, and was a clinical intern both at Lindencroft and Granite Academy. She was then hired as a clinician at Granite after completing her master’s program. Her special interests are helping youth who face racial trauma and substance use challenges.
Anissa got her bachelor’s degree in social work from Gordon College and then received a full JRI scholarship to pursue her master’s in social work at Simmons University. While at Simmons Anissa received an award for Outstanding Competence in Multicultural Practice, and also was a SIMPACT SOWEP scholar, where she received training in integrated and evidence-based substance use prevention, treatment and recovery. Anissa graduated from Simmons in August 2021 and recently passed her licensure exam.
She completed her master’s degree while working through the height of the COVID pandemic. Although it was challenging to navigate, what sustained her was the continual support of her family, supervisors, peers, along with the financial aid the JRI scholarship provided. She enjoys working in direct care with clients, and also serves as a co-chair on JRI’s Diversity Advisory Group. DAG serves not only to assist JRI leadership in developing programs for hiring, training and fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce, but also so that JRI can continue to educate its employees to be able to provide clients with more informed and holistic care.
“I’m very grateful and blessed for the opportunities and investment that JRI has given me, I feel like I’m just getting started!” she said.
in 2021 JRI gave away thirty $5,000 scholarships to our employees to help pay down their student loans .
“I’ve worked with some amazing kids at Glenhaven Academy.”
Glenhaven Academy, Marlboro MA
Five years later, he joined Glenhaven Academy as a residential counselor and made new plans for his future. He was amazed by some of the students he worked with, he said, and decided to take advantage of JRI’s scholarship program. Last year, he earned his master’s in clinical social work at Boston University.
“It was very challenging, but I learned a lot about scheduling myself,” said King-Jeffrey, a father of three who lives in Webster.
In addition to helping with his tuition, JRI offered encouragement and flexibility so he could accommodate work and study. JRI clinical social workers were always available to answer his questions, he said.
“JRI was very supportive,” Danso said.
Now that he has earned his master’s, King-Jeffrey already has spoken to his supervisor about participating in JRI’s leadership program. “I’ll be taking part in that in the near future,” he said.
“I felt like JRI always had my back.”
Director of Training & Partnerships
My Life My Choice
She took a full-time position running the MLMC training programs in 2015. She applied for and received a JRI scholarship and spent three years studying part-time toward her master’s degree in social work at Boston University.
“I was the first student at BU from JRI,” she said, crediting her supervisor with opening Boston University to the JRI scholarship program, in which students pay one-third of the cost of their degree program; JRI and the university split the remainder of the cost.
She has two years of clinical experience at MLMC and is pursuing independent licensure to enable her to do more to prevent child sexual exploitation and trafficking, and to help its victims.
“I’m interested in systems, and JRI was very responsive.”
“My experience and training at JRI can take me in so many directions. I have a path.”
Cape Cod and the Islands Total Achievement Program
They received a JRI scholarship to study for their bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Human Services at William James College, graduating in 2020. The following year, they received a JRI scholarship to pursue their master’s degree in social work at Boston University.
For the past four years they have worked as a Therapeutic Counselor at JRI’s Total Achievement Program in Yarmouth Port on Cape Cod, running group therapy sessions for up to 12 youth ages 16 to 25 who are in need of mental health services and coping with complex trauma.
They take advantage of JRI’s regular training programs and have been part of the yearlong Futures program for JRI staff with leadership skills.
“I want to be running my own summer camp, maybe focusing on grief” for youth in need of mental health services.
Actual Operating Revenue by Service Category
by Program Category
TOTAL INDIVIDUALS SERVED
[OVER 30,000 WHEN YOU INCLUDE THE CLIENTS’ FAMILIES WHO ARE ALSO SERVED]
CONTRIBUTED 12,085 HOURS OF SERVICE,
VALUED AT $265,870
JRI Board of
(Honorary Board Member)