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Cleveland Staffs Rec Centers With Social Workers To Help Kids With Trauma

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s office says it has hired most of the social workers it needs to help kids at recreation centers who have endured trauma.

Tracy Martin-Thompson, who leads the city’s efforts to reduce violence among young people, briefed Cleveland City Council Monday morning.

The city has hired 10 social workers for its 22 recreation centers and plans to hire one more, Martin-Thompson said. The social workers, also called coaches, will look out for kids who show signs of trauma and connect them with services.

Martin-Thompson said the city wants to turn rec centers into community resource centers. Last year, the city hired FrontLine Service to train rec center staff on recognizing trauma.

“That training is ongoing, and I want to underscore the fact that it is ongoing,” Martin-Thompson said. “Because what we’re trying to do is to change the culture of our recreation centers. It’s not about participating in training just for the sake of participating in training.”

As part of that culture change, recreation centers are changing how they deal with young people who act out or cause disturbances.

“We’re in the process now of not kicking kids out for misbehavior,” Public Works Director Michael Cox told council. “What we’re doing now with the social workers that are in there, we’re talking with them, we’re trying to see what’s going on with them.”

Martin-Thompson said the city would offer new programs at rec centers, with a focus on six areas: education, job readiness, health, youth leadership, arts and sports. She said the city aims to work with both children and the adults who take care of them.

“We want to get not only the child into the recreation, or the future community resources center, but also that family as a whole,” she said, “so they can access the support services and the resources that they need to help them to get on the right track.”

Jackson’s administration has sponsored legislation to hire consultants to develop and provide summer rec center programs. The city also proposes to work with the nonprofit Neighborhood Leadership Institute to offer evening programs in schools and rec centers.

Council has not yet voted on the proposals.

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