In times of crisis, children look to their caregivers for stability and support. But in order to offer that support, caregivers must themselves feel secure. All too often, when children have been exposed to violence in the home or community, the adults around them often feel helplessness and despair themselves. The Child Witness to Violence Project, founded at Boston City Hospital in 1992, works to provide support to caregivers and children whose lives have been touched by violence.
This chapter describes the project's efforts to assist adults - parents, teachers, and medical professionals - who interact with children who have been exposed to violence. For parents and caregivers, the project emphasizes that children need to have a sense of order and routine reestablished. Parents should listen to children's fears, and honestly deal with them.
The Child Witness to Violence Project has sponsored intensive summer workshops for teachers to learn about children's responses to violence and their resiliency in the face of such violence. These workshops also give teachers a chance to share with one another the challenges they face and the classroom strategies that have worked for them. The project has also worked with physicians and other health care providers to help them better recognize and address the needs of children traumatized by violence.
Each of these groups-parents, teachers, and medical professionals-has an important role to play in the lives of children who have experienced violence. The Child Witness to Violence Project works with them and other stakeholders - police officers, court officials, religious leaders - to craft a community-based response to violence in the home and community.