November 14, 2018

Contributed
The Florida Keys Children's Shelter's Stop Now and Plan coordinator Richard Townsend is pictured with 'Snappy,' mascot of the SNAP program designed to help children deal with stress and anxiety and improve personal relationships.

Contributed The Florida Keys Children's Shelter's Stop Now and Plan coordinator Richard Townsend is pictured with 'Snappy,' mascot of the SNAP program designed to help children deal with stress and anxiety and improve personal relationships.

FLORIDA KEYS — Being in middle school can be tough, but help for both kids during this tender age, and their parents, is now available through the Florida Keys Children’s Shelter’s Stop Now and Plan program.

The new SNAP program helps children ages 6 to 11 to manage their emotions by reducing stress and anxiety and to deal with their personal relationships with family members and friends.

SNAP is a referral program offered on two different platforms: in school or an evening clinical setting.

“SNAP is designed to help kids stop and think about their actions. It’s been proven to help improve children gain self-confidence and develop effective problem-solving skills, and ultimately make better choices,” said Ben Kemmer, FKCS chief executive officer. “It’s a great program for kids and parents. Most kids have issues that they need to work on and this program helps smoothen out the bumps and bruises between parents and their children and it’s free.”

SNAP is being offered through a grant from the Florida Network of Youth & Family Services. It’s an evidence-based, cognitive-behavioral, and family-focused model from the Child Development Institute in Canada.

“It teaches kids to recognize body cues that trigger emotions, and to recognize and relax enough at that time to think of a plan to address the problem,” said Richard Townsend, Monroe County SNAP coordinator “As kids become better able to respond to ‘triggers,’ they find solutions that make their problems smaller, not bigger, so that their behavior doesn’t hurt anyone else.”

SNAP in School offers a 13-week curriculum designed to deflect negative classroom behaviors, while SNAP Boys and Girls is offered during evening hours while parents or care providers are counseled by trained facilitators to address their children’s behaviors. Dinner and childcare for siblings are offered to help facilitate the evening clinical program.

For a child to be part of the clinical program, the child and family need to be referred to the Florida Keys Children’s Shelter. Parents must attend parenting groups that run simultaneously and separately from their child’s group.

SNAP Boys and Girls require an interview by the shelter prior to starting the program to assure that the child could potentially benefit.

As for the SNAP In School, the facilitator and teacher go through the curriculum, according to Townsend.

“This is the age when problems first begin to arise, and if we can provide them with skills to address these behaviors, then there’s less chance of them becoming at-risk teens,” Townsend said.

The trained facilitators are provided with ongoing supervision locally and at the state level to make sure the program is followed correctly.

“It has to be run the way that it’s designed in order to be effective,” Townsend said. “What kids come away with is that they should have a better skill set to deal with bullying, conflicts and personal relationships at home and in school.”

The Florida Keys Children’s Shelter offers the SNAP program, in both platforms, for free. The SNAP Boys and Girls clinical program is offered at three facilities in Islamorada.

For more information, contact Townsend 305-852-4246, ext. 236, or rtownsend@fkcs.org.

tjava@keysnews.com