Reed Helps Providence Children’s Museum Launch Mental Health Innovation Project Offering New Play-Based Therapy Opportunities for Children & Families
New $150,000 federal earmark secured by Sen. Reed will help PCM and community partners offer a range of free play-based therapy services to help kids explore their feelings and improve mental health
Providence, RI – In an effort to provide mental health support to children in need in a way that’s friendly and accessible, the Providence Children’s Museum (PCM) is launching a new Mental Health Innovation Project thanks to a $150,000 federal appropriation secured by U.S. Senator Jack Reed.
Inspired by PCM’s award-winning and longstanding program Families Together, PCM will partner with three local organizations to provide greater access to mental health resources for children and families, including those who are living in the foster care system, struggling with grief, or are living apart from incarcerated parents. With its longstanding expertise in therapeutic play, PCM will work with local partners who specialize in supporting children to create workshops, mental health programming, and family resources that infuse the therapeutic power of play into the acute needs of their specific populations and the wider community.
“The Providence Children’s Museum is a tremendous community asset that serves as a hub for learning, wellness, togetherness, and fun. It offers kids of all ages an engaging, healthy place to learn, explore, and create through play and interactive exhibits,” said Senator Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science who successfully advocated to include this Congressionally-directed spending in the fiscal year 2022 appropriations law. “A child’s mental health is just as important as their physical health. This federal funding will support engaging, therapeutic programs for at-risk children. PCM will offer kids opportunities to play, learn, connect, and explore and share their feelings in a healthy way that’s good for children, parents, and the community. It will help children and their caretakers learn to communicate and problem-solve together. Ultimately, it’s about empowering each child and ensuring they are getting the care and support that’s right for them.”
“PCM is already an important resource for families. Not only are we able to support families by being accessible and familiar, but we can also provide unique solutions to difficult problems by infusing joy,” says Executive Director Caroline Payson. “We’re thrilled to bring our experience in play-based therapy to families throughout Rhode Island.”
Last October, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health, stating: “As health professionals dedicated to the care of children and adolescents, we have witnessed soaring rates of mental health challenges among children, adolescents, and their families over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, exacerbating the situation that existed prior to the pandemic.”
Play, proven to increase a child’s self-worth and self-esteem, will allow children to identify as capable and valuable, key components in developing resilience. In addition, play will help children and their adults learn to negotiate and problem-solve – building blocks of healthy relationships. PCM will leverage its learning from these collaborations broadly to the community to support all families through activities, seminars, and public programs focused on childhood mental health. This programming, available for free, will promote and foster resilience and coping skills, broaden awareness of childhood trauma symptoms and risks, and can help mitigate some of the mental health challenges that children may face later in life.
“At Friends Way, we focus on normalizing children’s experiences to death and loss. Too often, adults may think that because children are playing, that means that they are not grieving. It is exactly the opposite. Children learn through play; children’s job is to play,” says Friends Way Program Director Ryan Loiselle. “We are so fortunate to have been able to partner with Providence Children’s Museum on this venture.”
“We continue to reimagine the ways we can support children and families. From educational assets to mental health resources, PCM is more than just a place to play but a place to help kids grow into resilient grownups,” says Caroline Payson.
Two community partners for this project are Friends Way and Adoption Rhode Island. A third will be named shortly.
Providence Children’s Museum serves children and adults of all backgrounds and from all communities. Its focus is on children, ages 1 to 11, and the adults who care for them by presenting hands-on, play-based exhibits and programs that explore arts, culture and science, technology, engineering, and math.