They were struggling before, but the pandemic made it worse.
For young people with a history of neglect, substance abuse, and trauma, Lutheran Services Florida has spent the past 40 years providing care and community support. But the pandemic has posed a new challenge as mental health issues among children has seen a major uptick.
Recently the U.S. Surgeon General warned of a “devastating” mental health crisis among young people. And as if that weren’t alarming on its own, behavior issues among this group have also increased 21% since the pandemic began.
Young people need support. But those who care for them need support, too.
That’s where people like Anja Lazic come in. She is a clinical care manager at Lutheran Services Florida and her team exists to make sure that those who care for vulnerable populations get the training they need to be compassionate, accurate, and effective.
“The work we do impacts kids and families with mental health or substance abuse issues,” Lazic says.
Recently, Anja and her team visited E-Nini-Hassee— a residential outdoor therapeutic camp for at-risk teen girls. The staff members at the camp were looking for additional support and direction so they could continue to serve as strong resources for the girls.
Anja recalls their need.
“We went in to help them find a way to scale back some of the documentation processes that [were slowing them down].” The paperwork is necessary to keeping good records, but it can also take away from quality time needed with the young people they care for.
“After our visit, staff members reported having a [smoother process] that now allows them to spend more time with the girls they work with. One team member said she’s reclaimed hours a week.”
When asked what she likes most about working as a community care manager at LSF, Anja says:
“There’s no hierarchy; we’re peers. And we’re always bouncing ideas off of each other.”
And it looks like that collaborative approach has proven fruitful as teams across the state are providing better services through strong, balanced training. Now, thousands more children are getting the care and support they so desperately need.