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Cleveland Wants To Train Rec Center Staff To Look Out For Trauma In Kids

A mural on the wall of Cudell recreation center on Cleveland's west side. [Nick Castele / ideastream file photo]
A mural on the wall of Cudell recreation center on Cleveland's west side.

The city of Cleveland plans to hire the mental health provider Frontline Services to train recreation center staff to recognize trauma in kids.

The plan is part of the Jackson administration’s effort to reduce violence in the city, especially among young people.

Program officials and trauma experts from MetroHealth Medical Center spoke with city council members Monday during a hearing on the proposed one-year, $1 million contract.

“What we know is that children that we’ve been seeing for 20 years go to the rec centers because they feel safe there,” Rosemary Creeden, the associate director for trauma services at Frontline, told council members.

One part of the plan, according to Creeden, is to work with the children who’ve been kicked out of rec centers.  

“And to bring the parents in and bring the child in and bring the staff together to mediate what happened and try to get a better resolution,” she said, “so we keep these kids who need to be at the recreation center at the recreation center.”

Councilman Ken Johnson pressed witnesses for more details about the program, such as how to determine which kids need help and what role parents play.

“If you can’t get parents to cooperate with you, where does this situation go? What happens?” Johnson asked.

Creeden replied that without parental consent, her organization can’t provide children with mental health services.

“All we can do is work with the child at the center,” she said.

Councilman Matt Zone said the safety committee, which he chairs, would also hold a hearing on the proposal. There is not yet a date for that meeting set in council’s calendar.

Dr. Lisa Ramirez, a MetroHealth child psychologist who works with kids in the Cleveland schools, recommended sticking with the program over several years to give children a sense of stability.

Ramirez also said the city’s young people have shown resilience despite facing many kinds of trauma.

“One of the metaphors that I’ve taken to using lately is many of these students essentially are being held underwater from birth, and they have developed a new way of breathing,” she said. “And if we can help provide a life raft to get them out of that water, their strength is going to be incredible.”

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.