Need for child trauma services rises following rash of violence

Updated: Sep. 2, 2020 at 5:59 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Richmond Police say so far this year 28 children under the age of 18 have been shot and survived the shooting; four were under the age of 12.

The recent rash of violence across the city of Richmond left the new Chief of Police taking to social media to share his frustrations Tuesday night.

RPD said since Aug. 15 there have been 23 shootings and 10 homicides; some of them involving our youth.

“When are we, as a city and a community, going to say enough is enough?” said Chief Gerald Smith. “What will it take? Anytime you have five people gunned down, one of them dies and very few people give us anything to work with. What can we do differently? The Police Dept. cannot fight this fight alone.”

The violence has left heartache not only for family and friends but also for those children who may have lost a sibling.

Additionally, RPD said so far in 2020, six children under the age of 18 were killed; one of them under the age of 12.

“We’re getting referrals from hospitals of kids or families who have been impacted by some sort of community violence, or interpersonal violence,” said Kristin Lennox, a licensed clinical social worker with ChildSavers. “We’re definitely seeing some of those numbers go up, especially over the last couple of months.”

Despite the ongoing pandemic, Lennox said licensed clinical social workers are still meeting virtually with children to help them get through the trauma they may be experiencing.

“We’ll go over some strategies that will help them re-establish some safety and coping skills; deep breathing, things like progressive muscle relaxation which can be very grounding,” she said.

However, the recent violence across the city is no doubt taking a toll on much of our young generation.

“What sense does it make that a 2-year-old or 3-year-old or 5-year-old is shot,” said Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney at a news conference in August.

“The killings are senseless,” added Smith in a tweet Tuesday night. “Teenagers dying. Fights and arguments ending in murder.”

“As all these events continue to unfold, the more stressful things are on our families, but more than any on our low income and less-resourced communities,” Lennox said.

It is why ChildSavers partners with local hospitals and police precincts to let victims and their families know about the resources available.

However, as parents and caregivers, Lennox urges to monitor any changes with your children.

“Some of the more typical things we’ll see are difficulty sleeping or eating, difficulty with feeling safe - so maybe being hyper-vigilant, looking around a lot, being really alert,” she said. “Maybe some depressed or withdrawn symptoms, crying spells, social isolation.”

The non-profit also has a 24/7 Immediate Response team for children experiencing a mental health or trauma crisis. The number to call is 804-305-2420.

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