Northern Colorado Nonprofit Heals Those Suffering from Childhood Sexual Abuse

In Colorado, one in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday and are at risk for psychological, emotional, social, and physical problems that can last well into adulthood. These children and adults can still be treated successfully and lead a full and productive life. One nonprofit organization is bringing this help to the northern Colorado community. Based in Fort Collins, ChildSafe Colorado has developed a program for people ages two to 90 that provides a comprehensive, community-based approach to the problem of child abuse.

ChildSafe is Northern Colorado’s only comprehensive outpatient treatment program for child and adult victims of childhood abuse, particularly child sexual abuse, and their non-offending family members. ChildSafe treats 700-800 clients every year with programs combining group, individual, and family therapy to heal the trauma from sexual abuse. The organization also provides in-service training and consultation to area professionals and community groups on child sexual abuse issues.

Founded in 1986 by a group of therapists specializing in trauma-informed therapy, ChildSafe helps individuals find their voice and inner strength to put them on a path to healing. ChildSafe educates families and loved ones on how to provide the right support for traumatized children.

“We initially provided services for 10 victims and their families out of a need for a comprehensive, community-based response to child sexual abuse,” said Val Macri-Lind, clinical director at ChildSafe Colorado. “We soon realized there was a huge demand for our services in the community and we needed to provide a path to healing.” 

In 1998, the organization was converted to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit so that it could pursue grant funding for the growing number of clients with limited financial resources. Since that time, the organization has operated as a nonprofit governed by an active board of directors who provide oversight, governance, and fundraising.

How Does It Work?

ChildSafe works with law enforcement, including the district attorney’s office, child protection agencies, schools, medical professionals, and other mental health providers to ensure a coordinated response to the complex issues that arise for abuse victims. In 2018, the organization saw clients from 36 different referral sources as well as those who seek help directly.

ChildSafe will see the entire family of non-offending members, including the primary victim, caregivers, siblings, grandparents, and extended families such as aunts and uncles. Caregivers can take parenting classes, engage in individual and family therapies and the organization also offers support groups for victims and their families. ChildSafe offers not only child victims of sexual abuse but has developed a program specifically tailored for adult men and women who were sexually molested as children or adolescents.

“ChildSafe provides evaluation, individual, family, and group therapy for these survivors,” said Macri-Lind. “The goal is to process their trauma and empower them with the skills necessary to establish a healthy, balanced lifestyle.”

The first step of the process of healing is through the first intake meeting where the clinical director gathers a client’s history, completes the necessary paperwork and signs releases so the organization can access the appropriate resources for a particular case. At that point, she appoints a therapist best suited to meet the client’s needs.

ChildSafe’s staff of male and female therapists and clinical interns have their Master’s degrees and are highly trained in clinical mental health and family/marriage counseling. They have been trained in-house on trauma-informed therapy and are able to apply experiential methods such as art, play, and sand therapy. There’s also a Spanish-speaking therapist and those experienced in helping those with developmental delays and disabilities. Staff members specialize in specific age groups and can provide neuro-feedback for those clients who have become dysregulated in some way.

Putting Clients at Ease

“It’s extremely important to us to put our clients at ease as soon as they walk in the door,” said Carol Bennis, executive director for ChildSafe Colorado. “Our therapy settings combine a variety of creative modalities that bring a sense of calm to everyone. We are especially proud of our therapy dog, Chester, who is like a little ray of sunshine for our clients. He is trained to be a calming and loving presence to everyone in our offices.”

Bennis emphasized that ChildSafe is a place of joy. She says clients are getting what they need, understanding what happened to them, and acquiring the skills they need to move forward.

“When we see a child run up to a therapist with a big hug and a smile on their face, we know they are succeeding in the healing process,” added Bennis. “We’ve had tremendous positive feedback about our services. We track each client’s progress as we go along and as a result, we’ve heard comments such as, ‘my child smiles now,’ ‘thanks for getting my child back,’ and ‘I can see a future now.’ That demonstrates that we are giving clients the tools they need to survive and thrive.”

Is It Affordable?

ChildSafe doesn’t turn anyone away due to their inability to pay for therapy services. There is a fee on a sliding scale according to the ability to pay, and clients who are victims of crime can apply for the Victim Compensation Program.

Grants and donations also provide the resources needed to help the community. There are already four fundraising events scheduled for 2020 as well as smaller local community events at breweries and pizzerias to raise money.

ChildSafe also welcomes volunteers who can help with fundraising programs and activities so that the organization can concentrate on its clients first and foremost.

“Our volunteers are extremely creative and have come up with great ideas and initiated activities that help bring in funding,” said Bennis.

Looking Ahead

Last year, ChildSafe moved into a bigger building which has exactly the right number of offices, play therapy rooms, and flex spaces to provide the services necessary.

“We are excited because we have the opportunity to build a remarkable capacity by resolving our financial obligation to the angel investor who made the purchase of the building possible. By repaying this loan, we can provide 2,500 more appointments each year without increasing our annual revenue,” said Bennis. “Our goal is to never have a waiting list – which in our growing region is going to be difficult to achieve. We will be able to support many more families and increase the number of parenting classes we offer. We also train professionals in our region so they can readily identify when a child might be in danger.”

ChildSafe Colorado treats all people with dignity and respect, regardless of race, religion, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation, nationality, country of origin, or belief system. It is committed to making the region a great place to live for everyone and continues to advocate for and provide quality services for all who need them. To get help, or find more information on how to donate or volunteer with ChildSafe, please visit https://www.childsafecolorado.org/ or call 970-472-4133. ChildSafe Colorado is located at 2001 South Shields Street, Building K in Fort Collins, Colorado, 80526.

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