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The non-profit started at St. Christopher's Hospital in 1995. Photo: https://upliftphilly.org
The non-profit started at St. Christopher's Hospital in 1995. Photo: https://upliftphilly.org

How the Uplift Center for Grieving Children has helped Philly youth cope with the COVID-19 pandemic

The nonprofit has seen a massive increase in the need for their services over the past year.

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Uplift Center for Grieving Children has been a much-needed program helping children learn the process of grieving since 1995. 

They officially received nonprofit status in 2000.

The program was founded by the Bereavement Program at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children as relief for social workers and staff members after they would lose a patient from the hospital.

Their mission is to help children grieving a death handle their emotions in a healthy way, and also strengthen the bond between children and their family members.

“The staff at St. Christopher’s Hospital was really affected by the death of a child, and we would lose contact with their parents,” Teresa Méndez-Quigley, the Special Populations Coordinator at Uplift told AL DÍA News in a recent interview.

Méndez-Quigley, who once worked at St. Christopher’s hospital as a medical social worker, said the hospital believed that children who were grieving needed the support to help deal with their feelings.

“At this point, they founded the bereavement center at St. Christopher’s hospital because there was very little support in this area for children who were grieving,” she said.

Uplift offers peer support and individual sessions for children in grades K-12 who have lost someone close to them.

“It is crucial to support not only children but their families too,” said Kevin Carter, the Clinical Director of Uplift.

Although the program used to serve students in Philadelphia schools, Uplift has managed to virtually bring sessions and meetings to children and families amid COVID-19.

“We have been providing virtual sessions since April, we only closed the second week of last March,” said Carter.

Those who did not have access to the Internet were also not forgotten as clinicians call the homes of families to make sure that they are safe and using the proper exercises when dealing with grief.

Since the pandemic, there have been over 24,876 deaths in Philadelphia alone.  

This devastating time has also led to an influx of gun violence and homicides in the city.

“Our enrollment in the number of people that we serve has increased, and some of that is related to COVID, some of that is related to homicide,” said Carter.

Uplift has always been involved with children who dealt with the death of a loved one in many ways.  Between 2000-2010, Philadelphia also saw an increase in drug overdoses due to opioid addiction and left youth grieving.

“Some sources of death occurred before these children were born, but this leaves them questions with, ‘Why does this person have grandparents and I don’t?’ said Méndez-Quigley.

The services are free, and individual groups get one hour sessions. 

All groups are divided by age and developmental level to best tailor the support programs.

The clinicians are trained at a master’s level, and experienced in responding to childrens’ needs.

“We also check up on the families and guide them through supporting their child,” said Méndez-Quigley. “It’s hard enough to parent, but if you are parenting a grieving child and your grieving yourself, it kind of gets tricky.”

The nonprofit also has grieve support groups for caregivers as children are put with their peers.

“In those groups we do a lot of activities, because not a lot of children have the same vocabulary as one another,” she said. “We do arts and crafts, music and movement activities, breathing and grounding techniques, so they can find their way in dealing with that grief.”

The program has also been providing bilingual clinicians for families who are not comfortable speaking English.

Uplift center is also sponsoring a helpline called Philly HopeLine, a free service that also provides bilingual services to Spanish-speaking families.

“It is crucial to start getting families involved in the grieving process together,” said Carter.

For more information on Uplift Center check out their website.

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