Nancy Fenton, executive director of Episcopal Community Services in Maryland, writes about what summer camp instructors are seeing in the art of elementary school students living in poverty and violence. The piece, “Summer Camp turns into trauma center in Baltimore,” Fenton reflects on what the children have been expressing in art projects since the death of Freddie Gray:
In the days immediately following the surge of unrest, our young students in The Club at Collington Square, an after-school and summer camp for at-risk kids, were producing artwork that worried even our most experienced staff member, who has worked with city children for more than 20 years. Over and over, children were creating artwork filled with burning homes and people fighting. This is not just the result of watching a violent movie or having a bad dream. This is the reality of living with the fear of violence in one’s own neighborhood.
Violence affects young children in debilitating ways, and those children who live in poverty are much less likely to receive trauma care:
For young children, prolonged exposure to violence can actually create stress that can change the physiology of the brain’s function. In severe cases, individuals develop difficulties in decision making, mood regulation and memory. For years, Baltimore’s social workers, teachers, and nurses have seen how the impact of violence is expressed by very young children; Sudden emotional withdrawal and escalated responses to normal childhood disagreements are signs of an exposure to violence. So is a negative reaction to law enforcement; for these kids, interactions with police are often associated violent and scary situations.
Fenton sees promise in the outlets that Episcopal Community Services is able to offer through its summer camp, and encourages the city to look at ways to offer counseling and support for children, especially those living in poverty.
Posted by Cara Ellen Modisett