Losing a family member or loved one is never easy and dealing with the feelings surrounding death can be quite difficult. Adults often get absorbed in dealing with all the things that losing someone entails. Sometimes they don’t know how to deal with their own feelings. Parents may find turning to outside help difficult. Children (and parents) might be resistant to talking with or opening up to a counselor or a counselor. It might be cost-prohibitive. Fortunately, there are people out there who can help. New Hope for Kids, based in Maitland, is a local nonprofit that serves Central Florida’s children and families who find themselves dealing with the loss of a loved one. Their services are provided free for grieving families.
Since its foundation in 1996, New Hope for Kids has maintained that every child deserves the opportunity to grieve in a supportive and understanding environment. They believe that: grief is a natural reaction to the loss of a loved one for children, and adults; within each individual is the natural capacity to heal; the duration and intensity of grief are unique for each individual; and caring and acceptance assist in the healing process.
“Kids often get pushed to the background,” says Dave Joswick, the Executive Director of New Hope for Kids. “Parents often don’t learn about death before it affects their lives.” But, he says, the work that the organization does makes a huge impact on the children’s and families’ lives, even later in life. Dave, who has a background in criminal justice, says that when he would talk to inmates in prison, inmates would often begin talking about themselves by saying, “when my mom died” or “when my dad died.” He found these inmates had a lot of anger surrounding the death of their loved one that they had never truly been able to cope with. That’s when he decided to start on a path to help kids deal with the anger that they often feel about death.
To facilitate that healing, the organization, which formed out of the Hospice of Central Florida. They provide many services for affected families: group sessions, information and resource guidance. New Hope for Kids also refers families to other agencies when necessary, regular family events and socials, and summer camps. They have seen great outcomes when it comes to helping families cope. Dave finds that families who participate in the program are often more resilient when met with difficulties later in life. Real-life proof of this is every year 4 to 5 of their grief facilitators are adults who the non-profit has previously worked with when they were children.
Weekly Group Sessions For Children
The core of their services are weekly group sessions for children, ages 3 to 18, and parents or caregivers. They are led by staff professionals with advanced degrees in counseling and social work. These professionals are trained volunteer Grief Facilitators. They also help guide families through the grieving process. The group’s focus is on healing through a multi-faceted approach that incorporates verbal communication and creative, positive play.
The organization is also implementing a new program for young adults ages 19 to 25 who experience loss. And they are also creating a scholarship fund to help send the children they serve to college.
Currently, the organization is on track to serve over 400 children for this year. But sadly, New Hope for Kids is serving more children than ever. Although, they still only serve a small portion of the children that have been affected by the death of a loved one. In 2014, the organization conducted a study and found that about 4,000 children just in Seminole, Oceola, and Orange Counties are affected by death.
Legacy and Support
New Hope for Kids has a second arm of their organization: Wishes for Kids. They continue the legacy of the Children’s Wish Program. This program was founded in 1985. It is the longest-running wish program for children, up to age 19, battling life-threatening illness in Central Florida. They have also granted over 1,600 wishes. Since they are a local organization, they provide extra services and support for children outside of just wish to grant. And because most of their wishes are granted locally, the money used goes right back into Central Florida businesses and organizations. If you would like to get involved in granting wishes to children, you can also sponsor a child’s wish or you can host a wish.
New Hope for Kids provides invaluable services to the children of Central Florida. New Hope offers hope to those who may be grieving the loss of a loved one or dealing with a serious illness. If you or someone you know may be in need of their services, or if you feel that you can support the healing of children in any way, do not hesitate to reach out.
This article originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of Park Ave Magazine. Titled “Life Unscripted: A Front Row Exclusive Into The Adlib Threatre” By Alex Dimovski. © Copyright 2019 – Park Ave Magazine. To read past issues of Park Ave Magazine, go to the “Editions” tab on the main menu of our homepage. To order past issues of Park Ave Magazine, please call (407)951-5341.