Whole Child Initiative 101

January 14, 2015

Whole Child Initiative 101

by Mary Beth Ketchum

 teenager struggling to read
7-year-old girl who doesn’t thrive in school
young lady disrespecting her authority figures
 who doesn’t want to go to church

These are just a few of the many struggles children living at Palmer Home face. When children first come to us, there’s a certain level of unknown.

We can gather basic facts through the admissions process—age, gender, siblings, medical concerns, and school history. We can know what brings them to our doorstep. For the most part, their parents are simply unable to care for them – due to circumstances like substance abuse, mental illness, and incarceration. Our children may have suffered from extreme poverty, abuse, or neglect.

We easily recognize the great need and usher them in with open arms – but they rarely come to us with information on who they are as individuals – as the unique beings fearfully and wonderfully created in the image of God – can’t be found in a file.

With the right resources, it’s easy to welcome children into our care. We can commit to loving, supporting, and caring for each and every one. We want them to flourish and thrive. But in order for that to happen – and for the impact to last – we want to know each and every child… their personalities, struggles, gifts, strengths, and fears.

Whole Child Initiative is the vehicle that helps us learn, serve, and honor each child that passes through our doors.

The Whole Child Initiative is the lens through which we view our children. It encourages us to look at four key areas of the child’s life — emotional healing, educational support, physical development, and spiritual growth. Assessing a child in these areas allows us to see a child’s situation more clearly and develop a plan to holistically address his needs. The Whole Child Initiative also recognizes how each area is interconnected. Strengthening a child in one area will inevitably strengthen him in another.

A thorough physical assessment revealed that our teenager struggled with vision issues, which prevented him from reading effectively. Through vision therapy, he’s been able to catch up in school and grows daily in his self-confidence.

After being given the opportunity to participate in a curriculum program tailored to her needs, the seven-year-old is flourishing in school – and doesn’t want to miss a single day!

With a little encouragement, our young lady pushing boundaries admitted her fear of falling down the wrong path. This fear drove her outbursts of disrespect. Once we were able to address the root issue, she was able to develop a positive relationship with her teacher and is improving by leaps and bounds academically.

Through further discussion and discovery, the boy who doesn’t want to go to church needs more than a weekly church visit – he needs relationships with Christian adults and peers who provide safe places for him to ask hard questions. He has that now – and is on his way to building a relationship with Jesus.

When we address the four crucial areas of our children’s lives, we’re able to get to know each child as the individual they are – as a unique container of God. Whole Child Initiative allows us the chance to provide opportunities for growth, tailored specifically for the child in need. By placing these four areas at the forefront of our minds when interacting with the children, we can not only address their needs, but we are free to build up their strengths and help them achieve their maximum potential.


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