For five years, Barrow County Emergency Services “Children after the Fire” program has been helping children and families who have been involved in a fire or who have lost a family member due to a traumatic death.
Last Wednesday, the award winning program celebrated its fifth anniversary with a luncheon at Constance Manor in Winder.
Members of the coalition including Barrow County Emergency Services, The Tree House, Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation, Barrow County Sheriff Office, Winder Police Department, Barrow County Family Connection/ Communities in Schools, Barrow County Schools and the American Red Cross were on hand to discuss the success of the program to date and how the program could be expanded to help more people.
Program coordinator and Barrow County Emergency Services public information officer Lt. Scott Dakin said he is proud of what Children after the Fire has accomplished in terms of awards, but is more concerned with the program’s impact on children and families in times of crisis.
In the past five years, 77 Barrow County children have gone through the Children after the Fire program, Dakin said.
“That’s 77 children that through this program can work towards living a normal productive life,” he said. “We’ve gotten a lot of recognition, but the most impressive thing to me is those 77 children.”
Dakin has first-hand experience helping children through this program. Two years ago, Dakin was called to the scene of a fire. Two young boys escaped the burning house, but their grandmother, who was their primary caregiver, did not. Not only did Dakin and other members of the coalition help the children with their immedi ate needs, Dakin personally accompanied the youngest child upon his return to school in order to explain to teachers and classmates what the child had just experienced. Later, both children underwent counseling through the Children after the Fire program.
“It helped the boys start the process of healing,” Dakin explained.
At the end of their four months of counseling, the boys were allowed to invite friends and family to a final session. The boys asked Dakin to attend.
During that final session, the youngest boy said he wanted to be a firefighter someday. Dakin was touched.
“I thought that was pretty cool,” he said. “You get a little understanding about why this program is important and what it does for everybody.”
Children after the Fire was launched in 2005 and includes the Children after Recent Traumatic Events (CARE) program. In 2006, Barrow County Emergency Services received the International Fire Chiefs Association’s Award of Excellence for the program.
The program offers counseling and education services to children affected by traumatic events. Each child is eligible to receive up to 12 sessions. Counseling services are provided by The Tree House. Barrow County Emergency Services, the Barrow County Sheriff’s Office and the Winder Police Department also offer educational sessions tailored to the child’s needs. The program is offered to the family at no cost.
This past year, the program was expanded to include a school re-entry program which provides support services for children as they make the transition back to school.
Dakin hopes the program will continue to grow and would like to see other communities create their own Children after the Fire programs.
“There’s a great opportunity for it to grow,” he said. “I want it all over the State of Georgia.”