In stunning Denver Colorado, surrounded by snow capped mountain ranges, I spent the week of 2nd to 6th June 2014, at Mount Saint Vincent Home. This was my second visit to Mount Saint Vincent in as many years and approaching the gateway on my first day, for the first time in weeks, I felt a sense of familiarity and connection.
Mount Saint Vincent Home is located just a short bus ride from downtown Denver and is situated on a 16 acre property, offering a running track, football field, multiple playgrounds and a swimming pool. Founded by the Sisters of Charity Leavenworth Kansas in 1883, Mount Saint Vincent had it’s origins as an orphanage. With social change and the move away from orphanage based care to out of home foster care and residential treatment, Mount Saint Vincent moved with the times and now prides itself on being a treatment center for children ages 3 – 13 years.
Mount Saint Vincent specializes in treatment of children who have suffered abuse, neglect, trauma and/or mental illness, offering services with a child-focused but family centered approach acknowledging the importance of the family in a child’s healing and recovery. Referrals to Mount Saint Vincent Home come largely from the County Human Services Department of Child Protection, School districts and other mental health services.
Mount Saint Vincent offers a variety of services to clients including:
- A 36 bed residential treatment program consisting of 3 cottages each housing 12 children
- Individualised day treatment programs for up to 55 children
- In home treatment and follow up services
- K – 8 School program that affords children developmentally matched education rather than chronological determined education.
- An early learning child care program
All of the services offered by Mount Saint Vincent operate under their treatment philosophy that focuses on the regulation of a child rather than compliance; that care is developmentally appropriate and matched and that they afford a child an environment of safety that allows children to ‘try on’ and develop positive relationships.
Mount Saint Vincent has some very innovative service elements including:
- Creative Arts Therapy team who provide music therapy, dance/movement therapy and art therapy;
- An animal assisted therapy program onsite using dogs and guinea pigs and offsite using horses
- An onsite volunteer tactile therapy program offering clothed massage, yoga, meditation/mindfulness, bach flower remedies and reiki for example.
- Individual Therapy
- Bike Riding
- Group Therapy Programs including Lego Group and Psychodrama
- Sensory tool boxes for each child and program
- The school program has a dedicated mental health clinician to support the inclusion of developmentally matched regulatory activities for the students so to assist in maintaining a state of regulation, coupled with an intervention team able to take students in the moment and provide co-regulation for children to assist them back into classroom learning activities.
Like everywhere else I had visited up to this point, the staff at Mount Saint Vincent Home are dedicated, passionate and committed to making a difference in the lives of children. I watched and listened to staff talk openly about their love of the work, the challenges it brings and most importantly the changes they feel privileged to be part of in the journey of these children. Like all services operating with the public health system there were clearly challenges that the programs were having to manage and deal with, but that aside the Mount Saint Vincent team not unlike Sandhill, Cal Farley’s, Sumner Mental Health and Alexander Youth Network were thoughtful, authentic and so very respectful in their work with children and families.
In 2013 Mount Saint Vincent Home’s Creative Arts Therapy team published an awesome resource called, “Doodles, Dances and Ditties: A Somatosensory Handbook”. This book is a collection of creative, sensory and movement based activities you can use to regulate children. You can get it on their website http://www.msvhome.org or via amazon – where I see it now comes in a Kindle version.