Early relationships and experiences form the foundation of lifelong physical and mental health, with 85 percent of the brain’s core structures developing in the first three years of life. Yet, High Point’s most vulnerable children don’t have the specialized services needed to support this critical period of development.
Consequently, these children are at risk for failure in school, abuse, neglect and developmental problems because of poverty, exposure to violence, mental illness, cultural and language differences, homelessness, and more. Resources that could help these children and their families are not available in High Point.
UNCG, the City of High Point, the United Way of Greater High Point and the High Point Police Department have joined together to address this gap in Guilford County’s continuum of care by opening the High Point Center for Children and Families (HPCCF) and the Victim’s Justice Center (VJC). The centers, which officially launch with an open house at 11 a.m. Wednesday, April 2, will provide comprehensive intervention programs for young children and their families, as well as victims of domestic violence.
In an inviting and easily accessible setting, HPCCF clients will connect with services scientifically tailored for success. Programs include group and individual therapy for children and parents, transition to school activities, parent education classes, assistance for domestic violence victims, and structured activities to support family visitations for children involved in the child welfare court system. The center, which was completely furnished by High Point Furniture Industry donations, also offers a training and resource room for teachers and foster families.
The HPCCF effort focuses on the High Point Police Department’s highly successful Offender-Focused Domestic Violence Initiative, spearheaded by Chief Marty Sumner. The initiative emphasizes deterrence, improved experiences for victims interacting with the criminal justice system, and changing community norms to decrease tolerance for domestic violence. HPCCF will house an offshoot of this initiative, the Victim’s Justice Center, which will remove barriers for domestic violence victims seeking aid by bringing police, legal and counseling services together in one location. Partners include Family Services of the Piedmont and Legal Aid NC. High Point Police Major Kenneth Shultz will serve as program director for the center.
HPCCF leaders seek to intervene with at-risk families early. Researchers and economists alike note the critical importance of early experiences on brain development. “Investments promoting positive development in the first three years of life are proven to yield major returns later in life,” says Executive Director Chris Payne. “The HPCCF focus on early intervention makes the center much more than a stopgap for missing services. It’s a push for community and economic development.”
At the open house, High Point City Manager Strib Boynton will discuss the city’s commitment to supporting children, families and victims of domestic violence. The 5,000-square-foot center is located at the Southside Recreation Center at 401 Taylor Ave., courtesy of a no-cost lease from the city.
The center has been made possible through generous community donations, including by the Millis family siblings: Molly, Emily and Bill. With the leadership of HPCCF Program Director Leslie Alexander, the UNCG Center for Youth, Family and Community Partnerships will provide many of the initial intervention services and staff via Bringing Out the Best programming and the Juvenile Court Infant Toddler Initiative. Payne will work with Barbara Frye of the United Way of Greater High Point and Vicki Miller of the High Point Children’s Initiative and High Point University to gather community partners and further develop center programming.