• NFSB’s Collaborative Partnership with Nutley Public Schools

    Laura Munoz-Torres

    Laura Munoz-Torres, LAC, ATR-P, NCC, Clinician facilitated school groups.

    Nutley Family Service Bureau (NFSB) has enjoyed a long, mutually beneficial partnership with Nutley Public Schools, providing students, families, and staff with valuable resources right in their own backyard.

    “I think it’s very reassuring for the schools to know we’re here for them and can help at a moment’s notice,” said Staela Keegan, MSW, LCSW, LCADC, Clinical Director at NFSB. “It’s a very collaborative relationship, whether the schools seek our feedback on certain programs, refer students for counseling, or need assistance during a crisis.”

    Here are just a few examples of how the NFSB partnership with Nutley Public Schools benefits our community.

    The Power of PEACE
    The Power of PEACE (positivity, encouragement, attention, control, and empathy) is a group program that gives elementary school students the opportunity to learn about impulse control, developing empathy for other students, and other positive behaviors.

    The program involves three separate groups of students – first and second graders, third and fourth graders, and fifth and sixth graders. Each group meets once per week for six consecutive weeks in a virtual format.

    “As part of this program, we chart each child’s progress,” Staela said. “For example, children are asked at the beginning and end of each group session how they feel about themselves today. We can often see visible improvements in children’s mood and behaviors as they continue to learn about the five pillars of PEACE.”

    Suicide Risk Assessments
    Schools are required to report any incident of a child expressing suicidal ideations to determine if the child is at risk to himself or herself or anyone else. While children are traditionally referred to the emergency room for an evaluation, Nutley Public Schools can refer students to NFSB.

    “Children who come to us don’t have to experience the trauma of going to the emergency room” Staela said. “In most cases, children are just verbalizing a struggle they’re experiencing and have no intention of hurting themselves, but every case needs to be taken seriously.”

    Students and families who visit NFSB for an evaluation feel a sense of comfort when they go to a familiar place. They can develop a relationship with their counselor and quickly begin therapy to address any issues identified in the assessment.

    “Right now, there is a high incidence of self-harming behavior among adolescent girls,” Staela said. “It seems to be part of the culture now. We have a number of middle school students in individual and family therapy learning more adaptive coping skills to handle stress and anxiety.”

    Ongoing Collaboration
    NFSB has developed a collaborative relationship with Meredith Gerkens, Coordinator of School Counseling for Nutley Public Schools, and the entire school community.

    “We’re often asked to help the schools in different ways,” Staela said. “We’ve been asked by the school counseling board to provide in-service personal development training for staff, participate in panel discussions, and provide input on mental health awareness curriculum.”

    Many students from the high school and middle school volunteer at the Pantry and Thrift Shop, while local scouts participate in the annual Scouting for Food Drive. Familiarity with NFSB can make children more open to therapy and counseling and help them overcome feelings of fear, anxiety, and shame that are often associated with mental health.

    “NFSB has been part of the fabric of the Nutley community for more than 100 years,” Staela said. “School staff, students, and families know who we are. They drive by our facilities. They volunteer. Children can come for therapy on the way home from school instead of driving an hour or more to an unfamiliar place. Our services are convenient and affordable, and we’re always available when the schools need us.”

    To learn more about NFSB’s mental health services for children and families, contact the Center at NFSB today at 973-667-1884.

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