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Devereux program helps parents and kids tackle real-life behavioural challenges

We’ve all been there. You’re out for a nice dinner and the child at the table next to yours is misbehaving. They might be yelling or crying, completely ignoring pleas from their parents to stop. The furthest thing from your mind would be that the child might be suffering from a mental illness and this is the first time the family has tried to have a night out in months.

This is a reality for many parents managing a child’s mental illness.

Thanks to community integration programs, like the one at Devereux, parents can work together with their child and a clinician to overcome these challenges.

“Our program gives people their lives back,” said David Schultheis, executive director, Devereux Pennsylvania Community Services. “We had one parent who couldn’t take her daughter into a restaurant for five years. She had to go to drive-throughs so she didn’t upset other patrons.”

With Devereux’s help, the family began going to public places with a behaviour specialist who would help the child and teach the parents how to address these difficult situations. The prevalence of these challenges is greater than you might think – Devereux’s program helps approximately 450 children per year in the Philadelphia region alone.

“It’s difficult to be a kid these days. The amount of pressure they feel on every level, from social and peer pressure to academics, to family pressure – the cumulative effects are staggering.”

Devereux is a nationwide U.S. behavioural health care provider that serves both children and adults, with programs that operate in about a dozen states. While they do offer more conventional programs through their campus-based programming, Schultheis’ specialty is working in communities, helping families cope with day to day challenges through programs like community integration and foster care.

“Some of the children we help have such severe mental health challenges their birth families can’t cope with their behaviour, or keep them safe, and that’s where our foster program comes in” said David. “Typically our foster parents are educators or law enforcement agents. They help the child learn how to manage, while the birth parents develop skills to help their child when they return home.”

Most children return to their birth families after spending months, or sometimes just days with a foster family.

“I can’t thank the RBC Foundation USA enough for their time and the gifts they’ve given Devereux,” said David. “The donations have improved our entire organization – without their support we wouldn’t be able to offer such comprehensive programming to the communities we serve.”

“Our relationship with Devereux has developed into a true community partnership,” said Greg Dupee, Senior Vice President, Financial Advisor, RBC Wealth Management, U.S. “By organizing golf tournaments, annual gala auctions and other fundraising opportunities, I’m pleased to personally help Devereux grow their programming initiatives.”

The RBC Children’s Mental Health Project, funded by the RBC Foundation, is a multi-year philanthropic commitment to support community-based and hospital programs that reduce stigma, provide early intervention and increase public awareness about children’s mental health issues. Since 2008, the RBC Children’s Mental Health Project has donated over $16 million to more than 200 organizations across Canada. In the United States, donations are managed through the RBC Foundation USA, which provided $2.2 million in grants to community organizations in 2011.