The Boys & Girls Club of Central Texas hopes to expand services to local children by offering a counseling program.
The nonprofit organization serves children at 26 sites in the Central Texas area, including Killeen, Harker Heights, Copperas Cove, Gatesville and Lampasas. It is laying the groundwork to provide mental health-related services along with its other programs.
“We have about 2,000 children come through our doors each day after school, and we see that some of them have mental health issues,” said Jon Charles, CPO for the Boys & Girls Club of Central Texas. “We want our children to succeed, and that means being mentally healthy as well as physically healthy.”
Charles took the first step toward realizing that goal last month, when he brought Jo Newton, a certified counselor, on board as the organization’s counseling services coordinator. Newton said some parents face financial and scheduling challenges when trying to get counseling services for their children.
“It’s difficult when you have to pull your child out of school once a week to get those services, and we have the advantage of getting to see these kids each day after school,” Newton said. “These are also services we can offer at no cost to the parents.”
Newton said she is working with the organization’s employees and volunteers to help them learn to deal with children who may exhibit signs of potential problems.
Newton and the organization have talked with local institutions of higher education — including the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Texas A&M University-Central Texas and Southwestern University — to find counseling students who might want to intern with the Boys & Girls Club.
“Depending on where they are in their education, they could get practicum experience, or just work with kids in some of our programs,” Charles said.
The club currently offers several character-building and life-skills programs for children. They include SMART Leaders, which prepares teens as leaders to help their peers resist using alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, and Passport to Manhood, which promotes and teaches responsibility to boys ages 11-14.
While plans to offer counseling services at Boys & Girls Club locations are still in the early stages, Charles said that laying the foundation to offer such services would fill a critical need in the community.
“We view this as a long-term commitment,” Charles said. “In the end, the goal is to have a healthy child."