Top 10 ReadyKids Moments of 2018

In our 97-year-history, each year at ReadyKids has been full of defining moments. 2018 is no exception. As we continue our day-to-day work with children and those who care for them, we also reflect on the accomplishments of the year. We feel so blessed to be a part of this wonderful community that has supported us over nearly a century!

Here are the ten fan favorite moments that you helped make happen at ReadyKids in 2018!

#10 – Helping Children Find Calm

Our STAR Kids educators visit local preschools and early childhood centers with puppets. Their child-friendly lessons teach self-regulation, problem-solving and safe choices. In February, a STAR Kids educator relayed this story. It’s about how a lesson gave a child the words to voice her home life.

#9 – ReadySteps, an Important Partner at Friendship Court and Beyond

ReadySteps encourages parents as a child’s first and best teacher. Through early learning playgroups within their home communities, parents get a chance to learn more about child development. Playgroups happen in five neighborhoods through out Charlottesville, including Friendship Court. ReadySteps works closely with parents to help children have strong, positive and nurturing relationships.

#8 – InsideOut Counseling Sneak Peek

InsideOut provides counseling to help kids and families who have experienced trauma begin the healing process. Shannon Noe, the program director for Youth Counseling, gives you a sneak peek into some of the stories our counselors hear from kids.

#7 – ReadyKids Reaches More Children, Families and Early Childhood Educators than Ever Before

In Fiscal Year 2018, ReadyKids reached 8,836 local kids, families and early childhood educators. Our participants are more diverse than ever. We also continue to lower the cost per participant, even while we increase participant satisfaction.

#6 – Aspen, the ReadyKids Therapy Dog, Wins the Red Cross Hero Award

Aspen is a black lab who has worked in over 200 therapy cases in InsideOut Counseling. Aspen provides a calming presence for kids who are exploring difficult topics. She is beloved not only among the children in our InsideOut program, but also by our staff!

#5 – Bilingual Book drive for ReadySteps and Healthy Families

ReadySteps and Healthy Families work with more than 175 participants who do not speak English as a first language. An important part of developing literacy skills is parents reading to their children. But, how can these parents do that in their native language? Many local donors gave to buy over 50 books in Dari, Farsi, and Spanish.

#4 – Charlottesville, A Year Later

The events of August 2017 in Charlottesville were deeply upsetting within our community. Our counseling staff offered ways to talk with and support children to cope with the difficult thoughts, emotions and behaviors the one-year anniversary might bring up.

#3 – Diaper Drive for Healthy Families

Throughout the year, donors like you have given thousands of diapers to our Healthy Families program. Healthy Families fosters nurturing family relationships for pregnant moms and safe environments for young children. No government benefits cover diapers. They are one of the top requests we get from families who are barely making ends meet. Thanks to you, if a new mom needs any size diaper, we can supply it for free!

#2 – Teen Counseling Crisis Line, A No-Cost Service for Charlottesville Area Families

In Fiscal Year 2018, 180 teens and parents called the ReadyKids Teen Counseling Crisis Hotline and over 3,500 people viewed information about the Hotline on Facebook. The ReadyKids Teen Counseling Program provides individual and family counseling to foster positive, nurturing family relationships to ensure that teens are healthy and safe.

#1 – Virginia lawmakers vote to require rear-facing car seats for kids 2 and under

In March, Virginia voted to join nine other states in requiring children under the age of 2 to be in rear-facing car seats. This came as a surprise to many participants and community members. It was the most shared story on our Facebook page this year. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children are 75% less likely to sustain serious injury in a rear-facing car seat.

What an eventful year it’s been! We can’t thank you enough for all you do to keep our programs running. We’re able to Open Doors to Bright Futures for Kids because of generous friends like you. We hope you continue to support ReadyKids in this new year!
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Meet Kayla

By the time Kayla came to ReadyKids, shortly after her fourth birthday, she had lived in three different foster homes, experienced chronic homelessness, substance abuse exposure, neglect and suspected sexual abuse.

At ReadyKids, Kayla met weekly with a trained trauma to heal from her past.

For Kayla, and the 1,273 kids in the ReadyKids service area like her who experienced abuse or neglect last year, the effects of trauma on their developing brains can have lifelong consequences.

The ReadyKids InsideOut program is the only program providing counseling for children who have experienced physical, sexual, emotional abuse, and neglect in the Charlottesville area at no charge to the victims’ families.

“We are fortunate to provide free long term counseling,” said Ashley Wood, Senior Trauma Counselor for InsideOut.  “We aren’t limited by Medicaid.”

There is no “magic wand” to heal children from trauma. Likewise, recovering from trauma isn’t a “one size fits all” treatment.

Much like a doctor studies a patient’s symptoms to narrow down a specific diagnosis and treatment, the InsideOut counselors hone their assessment skills to know what interventions will work for each child on their caseload.  But they don’t do it through asking questions or waiting for the child to tell them what happened, they use play.

“Play is a child’s primary way of communicating,” said Shannon Noe, Program Manager for Youth Counseling.  “By utilizing play therapy techniques, children are able to share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a way that is natural and more comfortable … play allows them to have a tool to communicate without having to talk about it verbally.  Healing happens in these moments!”

Here are a few activities our counselors use to get a glimpse into a traumatized child’s inner life and begin healing.

Sherman the Raccoon PuppetReading “A Terrible Thing Happened”

This story tells about Sherman, a raccoon who saw something awful happen and he can’t forget it, no matter how hard he tries.  The book describes many of the behaviors and feelings children experience after traumatic events, like stomachaches or sleeplessness.  But also, “problem” behaviors like, “Sherman had to play more, run faster, and sing louder in order to forget the terrible thing he saw.”  Sherman goes to see Ms. Maple at school.  Ms. Maple listens. She helps Sherman understand what happened was not his fault.

After reading the book, InsideOut counselors will use a raccoon puppet who looks like Sherman to talk to a child.

“Sometimes I have kids who will only talk to Sherman, not to me,” said Wood.

The book ends by showing Sherman’s progress and reassuring children. “Nothing can change the terrible thing that Sherman saw, but now he does not feel so mean.  He is not so scared or worried.  His stomach does not hurt as much.  And the bad dreams hardly ever happen … I think you should know that.”

Putting feelings onto paper

You may have heard that right-brained people are creative, while left brained-people are logical.  These insights come from brain science, a burgeoning field offering us more insight on how traumatic events damage a child’s brain development.  Thanks to brain scientists, counselors now know that a child who has experienced trauma responds better to right brain therapies, therapies that use creativity and imagination – like art therapy or play therapy.

One form of art therapy many ReadyKids InsideOut counselors use to begin a session is a “Color Your Feelings” activity such as this one.  The child’s coloring is an assessment tool, and as a way to track progress through therapy.

“The color your feelings activity is a great way to track progress over time,” said Noe.  “It also provides us with a way to normalize having multiple feelings at any given time and to affirm a child who is willing to express emotions that are harder to contain.”

Imagining the future

Trauma and abuse can create a sense of hopelessness and unworthiness in children. Another activity ReadyKids InsideOut counselors do is give kids art materials and ask them to draw “A Bridge to the Future.”  In the drawing they must include what they hope for, what might be in their way, and what tools they will need to get there.

“In this picture, the shark is the girl’s trauma, threatening to keep her from the island of her hopes and dreams,” said Niti Patel, InsideOut Trauma Counselor.  “Her tools were her paddle, and if you look closely you’ll see that she put a number one on the boat, indicating that she will always put herself first.  She said the big sun showed that she had a lot of hope.”

When a child imagines itself as a force of hope, capable of changing his or her future, this increases resilience.  Building up resilience to help children overcome difficulties is the main goal of InsideOut.

Through grants and donations from generous donors like you, the ReadyKids InsideOut program has been able to reach more kids each year by adding more counselors to our staff.  But the work of healing trauma is deliberate and slow, and requires a genuine relationship.  Because of this, our waitlist is growing.

Help us to reach each child who needs us. Please consider a donation to ReadyKids to keep the work going.  We can’t do it without you!

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NBC News ranked the Aug. 11 and 12 rallies in Charlottesville as one of the top 10 news stories of 2017.  The Atlantic rated the photo of protesters being hit by a car on 4th street the top news photo of the year.  For those of us living in Charlottesville, 2017 was a tense and stressful year, particularly for our children.

Athena Gould, Executive Director of Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Blue Ridge was moved to find ways to speak words of hope to Charlottesville’s children.  From this was born that #DearYoungPerson campaign.  Recently, ReadyKids was a recipient of dozens of #DearYoungPerson postcards.  They came from Louisiana, New York, Texas, Illinois, Mississippi, Florida and even as far away as Norway.  Each one had touching words of inspiration and light.  These postcards now hang in the ReadyKids waiting room where children in the Inside Out program, who have experienced trauma, can read them.

If you also need a pick-me-up, take some time to read what beautiful people all around the country took the time to say to hurting kids.  It’ll make you believe the world is a good place again.

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We’re smiling bashfully from ear to ear.  We’ve gotten a lot of positive attention lately!  Everyone at ReadyKids is passionate about the work they do, and we’re so glad our work contributes positively to our community.

Last week, our Executive Director, Jacki Bryant, was interviewed for the CBS19 Community Counts Segment.  This week, ReadyKids’ hard working teams of InsideOut, ReadySteps, and Child Care Quality were featured on the local Charlottesville news last night in two separate stories.

InsideOut Receives Heal Charlottesville and Concert for Charlottesville Funds

We are proud to announce publicly that we are one of the proud recipients of donations from the Concert for Charlottesville and the Heal Charlottesville Fund of the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation.  This summer, partly due to the trauma of the Aug. 12 rally, our wait list for trauma counseling climbed to over 54 kids.  These funds from CACF will go towards hiring an additional trauma counselor to meet the needs of our city’s youth.

Click on the photos to be led to the CBS19 video with Shannon Noe, the program manager for our counseling programs.

 

ReadySteps and Child Care Quality Featured in Reporting on Affordable Childcare

As the cost of child care in Charlottesville rises, more parents are forced to chose between affordability and quality. ReadyKids wants to make sure that this decision is less painful for parents.  Whether you choose to opt out of the workforce and stay home with your children while they’re little or you go back to work but feel nervous about child care options – there is a ReadyKids program for you.
For those at home with kids, ReadyKids ReadySteps program brings regular early learning playgroups to children and their caregivers in their home communities.  ReadySteps teaches parents how to be their child’s first teacher, helps families connect with other families in the community, and helps families gain access to a support system that grows with their child.  They currently meet in five different Charlottesville neighborhoods including Agnor Hurt, Friendship Court, Greenstone on 5th, Southwood, and Westhaven.
For parents working outside of the home, ReadyKids Child Care Quality program improves the quality of early child-care and preschool settings by offering coaching, training and support to early childhood teachers and directors.  If you are in need of resources to find affordable, quality child care in Charlottesville, check out this list of resources compiled by the Child Care Quality team.
Click on the picture of Shannon Banks, ReadySteps Program Manager, or Gail Esterman, Child Care Quality Program Manager, to be linked to the CBS19 story on the riding cost of childcare in Charlottesville.

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The upcoming Alt Right Rally scheduled for August 12th may be challenging for youth in our community.  For some, it may trigger feelings of stress and fear.  This may include: memories of experiences they’ve had, stories they’ve heard, or worries that are part of their daily life already.

For youth who have not personally experienced racial bias or injustice, they may feel confused or unsettled knowing that this is taking place in a community that otherwise has felt safe to them.  Either way, we are here to help.


 

Below are some tips and resources that we hope you will find helpful.

  1. Media-coverage can increase fears and anxiety in children, graphic images and stories may be particularly upsetting but also can be a great way to launch conversations about what is happening and how you and your family can be part of a positive solution.
  2. Discuss together what’s happening and reflect on your own experiences and feelings.  Keep an open dialogue and seize opportunities for communication.
  3. Plan time away from the event and coverage of the event.
  4. Make a plan ahead of time about how you’ll respond if you find yourself in a stressful situation or confronted with racial bias/injustice so that if it happens you’ll be ready to respond safely and constructively.
  5. Seek help if you’re struggling or if you feel treated unfairly.  Our teen hotline is available for you 24/7 and we’d be happy to talk about community resources, be a sounding board, or help advocate for change wherever we can.  That number is  434-972-7233.

    Building Tolerance

    Things youth can do to build tolerance:
  • Appreciate their own and others’ cultural values
  • Object to ethnic, racist, and sexist jokes
  • Refrain from labeling people
  • Not judge others, especially for things they have no control over

Adults are integral in providing a positive, healthy example for youth to follow. By being tolerant themselves, they can pass that behavior onto the youth with whom they interact.

Things adults can do to help youth:

  • Educate the community about hate crimes and diversity
  • Making sure that those who work closely with youth (teachers, school administrators, police officers) receive diversity training
  • Help develop constructive activities for youth

Helpful Links!

10 ways youth can engage in activism – While we do not encourage youth in our community to attend the upcoming rally, we do encourage youth to find positive outlets to express their passion for whatever is closest to their hearts.  This link provides some suggestions for safe and constructive ways for youth to make a difference.

Culture and Trauma – This compilation of resources from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network contains several resources useful for increasing cultural awareness, sensitivity and understanding for anyone working with diverse youth and families.

Making Sense of News Stories about Bias and Injustice – This article is aims at helping adults facilitate conversations that will engage youth in a constructive dialogue about what they may be seeing on the news.

Book Suggestions – Books can be a powerful tool for helping youth navigate difficult topics.  This link contains a comprehensive list of suggestions for all ages. 

The Youth Counseling Team at ReadyKids hopes for a safe weekend for all.  Please do not hesitate to reach out if you need additional resources during this stressful time in our community.
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