RANCHO MIRAGE – Two elementary-aged boys were shepherded by a psychiatrist through the corridors of the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center  to discuss whatever abuse they suffered and at whose hands.

Abused children come here each day from Banning to Blythe and all locations in between. Many will come to the Center for about a year, according to John E. Thoresen, director and executive officer. Some will leave but return for what he calls “a mental health tune up.”

But who are these children and how do they get here?

The children who come here have suffered abuse at the hands of strangers, a relative, a mother’s boyfriend, even another child, Thoresen said. Some have been bullied; others have witnessed violence. There is individual as well as group therapy available.

Due to financial constraints, it is difficult for some parents to bring their children to the Center for the help they need. In those instances, there is a program that helps pay for transportation, Thoresen said.

Some of the children are referred to the Center by professionals; some are mandated by the court.

Barbara Sinatra Children's Center Helps Children and Parents

John E. Thoresen

“Sometimes when a child has been a victim of crime and they’re put into foster care, Child Protective Services demands that the children be put into counseling,” Thoresen said. “Sometimes parents find out something and they want to make sure that the child gets the help that they need. Sometimes siblings end up coming here. They feel guilty that something happened and wonder if they could have done something to stop it.”

Some children are referred by educators.

“Sometimes a teacher or school counselor has said something’s going on here. We’re the ones that discover that there’s been some kind of abuse,” Thoresen said. “If all of a sudden a child starts acting differently, starts acting out sexually, is aggressive, their grades have changed, or their eating habits have changed, parents and school counselors will say, ‘Hey, I think something’s going on. Maybe you should go to the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center and maybe have a professional see what’s going on.’”

The Center is not just for children.

“The parents come here, too,” Thoresen said. “There’s guilt.”

For moms and dads, the Center offers parenting classes.

On a weekly basis, offered in both Spanish and English, a licensed therapist facilitates a Parenting Skills Group that is offered to current clients of BSCC at no cost. The group was developed to help improve the parent/child relationship, manage difficult behavior, feel more confident as a parent, create a harmonious and stable family environment and to increase your knowledge of child development and child abuse.

Parenting classes are also offered to high risk youth at continuation schools within the Coachella Valley.

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