CHS launches telehealth counseling By Cathy Womble Lake Okeechobee News

FLORIDA — Children’s Home Society of Florida (CHS) is offering free, confidential telehealth counseling for children, teens and families. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, families are facing heightened anxiety and stressors including unemployment and lack of childcare, interruptions to social interactions and daily routines.

Children’s Home Society began in 1902 with the Orphan Trains, and many think of them as residential care or adoptions, but they are so much more, according to Regional Executive Director Phebe Powell-Wehlen. “We started looking at foster care as we currently know it, and how we could end it. How do we meet families where they are before the crisis happens so children never have to go into the foster care system?” she asked. “We know children have better outcomes when they can remain safely in their homes. Counseling is one of the areas where we know families can get overwhelmed, not knowing how to support their children through certain challenges.”

She expressed enthusiasm for the teleheath counseling services being offered. Counseling is a service that is normally offered in the CHS offices or in the students’ homes or on school campuses, but with the coronavirus outbreak, they are now being offered online.

So many families have been catapulted into uncertainty, she said. They have heightened anxiety. Their lives have been turned upside down. So many families feel isolated and alone and don’t know where to turn. In response, CHS launched the Family Support Warm Line connecting users to a real-life counselor with a call, text or click. CHS’ Family Support Warm Line is open to everyone, completely free, multilingual and available day or night.

Ms. Powell-Wehlen hopes these resources will help children and families be better able to cope with the things they are dealing with right now. CHS believes the need is greater right now because everyone is spending more time in the home, and they want to help people not feel as if they have to deal with the problems by themselves, she said. There are many concerns right now relating to the coronavirus. More families are dealing with domestic violence, because abusers are spending more time at home. Families are overwhelmed because they don’t know where to get food because they have been laid off. Children are sick, but parents are afraid to take them to the doctor because they might be exposed to the virus. Teens are depressed because they miss their friends or do not understand their schoolwork. These are just a few examples of the problems families are facing, and CHS is ready and willing to help. As these calls come in, they try to connect them with local resources, give them coping strategies, and let them know they are not alone. To access this service, call 1-888-733-6303 or, they can text a counselor at that same number. The number is manned 24-hours a day seven-days a week and is completely confidential.

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