Safe Harbor Family Information
Safe Harbor is founded on the belief that every child, teen and adult deserves the opportunity to grieve in a supportive and understanding environment. Our society often fails to understand or support the needs of children, teens and adults in grief. The four principles of Safe Harbor are:
- Grief is a natural reaction to the loss of a loved one for children and teens as well as adults.
- Within each individual is the natural capacity to heal oneself.
- The duration and intensity of grief are unique for each individual.
- Caring and acceptance assist in the healing process.
Process and Groups
Safe Harbor provides a safe place to be with others who are grieving the death of loved ones. The program offers group support for children, adolescents, teens and their parents or guardians who are grieving the death of a sibling, a parent, a primary caregiver or a peer. Safe Harbor provides every-other-week peer support groups designed to support family members of various ages during the bereavement time.
Our groups are facilitated by trained professionals and volunteers, and are coordinated by the Safe Harbor staff. One basic rule is the “I Pass” rule. Talking in the group is optional, and no one is pressured to share. Each participant chooses how long he or she will continue to attend a group.
Children and Adolescents’ Groups
Children and adolescents meet separately for 1½ hours every other week. These support groups consist of children who have experienced the death of a parent, guardian, sibling or friend. Our children’s groups include talking circles and time for unstructured play activities. Play is a very important part of grief work for the children. They express their grieving through the powerful language of creative play. Children choose where they will play and what they want to do. Their play opportunities will include an art room, puppet theater, sand tray, music, pretend play, etc. Pet Therapy will be available for interested children. To assure their safety, a volunteer facilitator or staff person always supervises them.
Teens meet every other week for 1½ hours. This support group consists of teens who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling, guardian or friend. Our teen groups are structured to provide time to discuss issues with peers and trained facilitators. Teens can choose to talk or engage in other unstructured activities such as art, music, foosball, air hockey, etc. Pet Therapy will be available to interested teens. For safety reasons they are always with a trained facilitator or staff member.
Safe Harbor offers adult support groups, which meet at the same time as the children and teen groups. These support groups provide an opportunity for the adults to meet with other adults to discuss concerns about parenting grieving children and teens. Parents will be given an opportunity to share their own experiences of grief and provide mutual support. Safe Harbor highly recommends that the parent/caregiver attend this group.
Attendance and Continuity
Regular attendance at groups is very important and encouraged of all participants. Continuity helps create a safe and supportive group. If your family needs to miss a session for illness or any other reason, we request that you call our office prior to that session.
Confidentiality and Privacy
Confidentiality is your right of privacy. It provides a safe environment for people to share feelings, thoughts and stories. We consider that anything shared at Safe Harbor will remain confidential and will not leave Safe Harbor. This understanding allows people to share freely. We accept the obligation to honor confidentiality for children, teens and adults to assure the ongoing success of the support groups. The Safe Harbor staff is available to discuss with you their impressions of your child or teen in a general manner, but we will not disclose specifics of what is said or done in groups. Your child or teen can share with you things that he or she said or did, but is not free to share what others said. No written records are kept on what children, teens or adults disclose in groups. The only time that confidentiality would not be honored is if a safety issue becomes a concern.
Supervision of Children and Teens
Children and teens must be with a guardian or parent at all times at Safe Harbor. Before and after a group, the parent/guardian is expected to be supervising their own children or teens. Adult supervision is important because of safety and liability issues, in case of a medical emergency, or for the emotional needs and support of the child/teen.
Referral and Emergency Services
Safe Harbor offers peer support groups for bereaved families. Safe Harbor does not provide private counseling services for individuals or families.
We recognize that a family may need more than a peer support group in processing grief. When requested by a family, we will provide the names of several therapists as referrals. The family is responsible for selecting the therapist of their choice.
A family member in grief may have suicidal feelings and/or thoughts, or may misuse drugs or alcohol. For the safety of the person and to assure a healthy grief process, we will provide referrals to grief therapists, substance abuse treatment centers and emergency crisis services associated with Abington Memorial Hospital.
Hungry children and teens have difficulty concentrating on healthy grief work. Please be sure that you child or teen has eaten before coming to group.
Feedback and Family Evaluations
We hope that your family will give us your feedback and ideas about improving the Safe Harbor program. Your constructive evaluation, creative ideas and affirmative feedback can help us improve this program for you and future families. We will periodically ask participating family members to complete an evaluation form, which will help us assess and modify our program.