Local organization offers free early intervention services for children in need

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Posted at 10:28 AM, Aug 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-04 17:21:58-04

As many of you know, being a parent is tough, especially after going through a pandemic for over a year and a half. The isolation alone can be quite overwhelming.

But a local organization can help if you have a small child acting out, and the services are free of charge and available throughout the summer.

"For us to remain calm with our children really helps to calm them down. So we really need to work on calming ourselves down before we can help our children calm down," said Emily Chavie, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Supervisor of the Children's Home Society of Florida's Early Learning Center Support Team.

It's a place that provides free, on-site counseling at 10 local daycares in Pinellas County, specifically for the early intervention of babies and toddlers.

"A lot of the counseling for the real young children looks more like play therapy techniques, engaging in social stories, helping them identify and express their feelings," Chavie explained.

And just like the pandemic has affected parents, it's also impacted little ones.

Even babies and toddlers can start to exhibit signs of stress, including biting, excessive tantrums, difficulty with attachment and more.

"Withdrawing behaviors, hitting their peers, screaming, yelling, not listening to their parents, not listening to their teachers, things like that," explained Chavie.

So Chavie's team of mental health professionals provides hope with free counseling and support to navigate the challenges of parenthood, especially if families are going through transitions.

"If there's a death in the family, divorce, separation, even new teachers, like those things are really stressful for kids," she said.

And Chavie recommends to all parents that you must put self-care at the top of your list, take deep breaths, go for a walk, and stay calm to be present and ultimately a better parent.

"You can't do it if you're not taking care of yourself. You just can't be an effective parent. So that's my biggest advice is it's not selfish to take care of yourself," she explained.

If you're interested in enrolling your child in the free Early Learning Program, call 727-953-3354.

And if you need help right away, you can call or text The Family Support Warm Line at 1-888-SEE-ME-03 or 1-888-733-6303. From 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., all texts are free and confidential.

For more information about the Juvenile Welfare Board, which funds the program, visit www.CHSFL.ORG or