Pawtucket, RI – Senator Jack Reed, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, and Congressman Patrick Kennedy announced today that the Central Falls School District has been selected to receive a $398,625 federal grant for a school counseling demonstration program. The funding will be used to hire four new certified guidance counselors for elementary schools in the Central Falls school district, effective September 2009. Currently, there are no guidance counselors at the elementary level in Central Falls. The district will also implement a comprehensive Pre-K -12 guidance program, effectively expanding counseling services to all school children. It is anticipated that the grant will be funded at the same level for the next three years, bringing more than $1 million to Central Falls schools.
“I am pleased that this federal funding will allow Central Falls to hire four new guidance counselors to help students succeed in school and outside the classroom. Counselors are trained to be proactive and help kids and parents before long-term academic or behavioral problems arise,” said Reed, a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.
“As Rhode Island’s Attorney General, I saw first-hand the enormous change that supportive, involved adults can make in students’ lives through the after-school and mentoring programs we built at Oliver Hazard Perry Middle School in Providence,” said Whitehouse. “School guidance counselors, social workers and other educators deserve to be recognized for their dedication to our children.”
“School guidance counselors, social workers and educators are on the frontlines and often can indentify immediately when a child is in need of support, tutoring and mental health services. Counseling and support services can make all the difference for a child, academically and socially. This funding will expand counseling services to the elementary schools in Central Falls, enhancing the ability to identify issues of concern among children earlier and foster a comprehensive approach that includes the parents,” said Kennedy, who has been a leader in Congress on mental health issues. Kennedy recently introduced H.R. 1932, The Child Health Care Crisis Relief Act, which would institute a number of mechanisms to enhance the child and adolescent mental health workforce. Children lack access to mental health services in large part because of a national shortage of qualified mental health providers.
“The School Counseling Demonstration Program is very important for the students in Central Falls. Providing counseling services allows children to get the help they may need. With language barriers, financial constraints and lack of information of available services some children are left behind. The easy access to such services at school will ensure each child has the opportunity to get the services needed. I applaud Congressman Kennedy, Senator Reed and Senator Whitehouse on their efforts to obtain this grant which will be a great benefit to the children of Central Falls,” said Mayor Charles Moreau.
The Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Grant Program supports counseling programs in target elementary schools. The funds can be used to establish or expand counseling programs through hiring qualified school counselors, school social workers, school psychologists, or child and adolescent psychiatrists. The goal is to expand the availability and quality of the counseling services available. Services will be designed and implemented with the involvement of parents and students. These funds will help to close the gap between student and mental health professional ratios and reduce the number of disciplinary referrals in schools participating in the program. Other identified goals include improved school attendance and academic performance, parental involvement, counselor professional development, and collaboration with community-based organizations that provide mental health services to students.
School counselors help gather information about students’ social, emotional and behavioral adjustments to school and the community to help young people cope with issues and relationships in their everyday lives. They can also help address truancy, another pervasive problem for schools across the country. Students who skip school are at an increased risk for substance abuse, delinquency, teen pregnancy, and school dropout. Counselors can also provide on-going intervention services when students develop chronic patterns of non-attendance.