Kohlhepp Response

Co-authored by R. Sherard and L.Rovin (Featured in the Greenville News, December 2016)

Uncontrollable rage was documented as early as 15 months, further evidenced during his preschool years, where, “he would sit in a corner and only interacted with children in an angry manner, his mother reported,” notes Eric Connor in his Greenville News Nov 14, 2016 article. “Todd Christopher Kohlhepp has been angry ever since he learned to walk and talk,” his mother described a fractured family and her own inability to handle Todd’s early behaviors. Left untreated Kohlhepp’s rage escalated to rape at the age of 15 and today is an alleged adult serial killer.

Examining Kohlhepp’s early life experiences he appears to have been a toddler who endured trauma and acted out his frustration with rage and other behavioral characteristics described by specialists who manage and treat conditions in children such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Autism Spectrum Disorders. We are left asking ourselves, how might Todd’s life been different if support like that offered by A Child’s Haven were offered when he was a toddler? At A Child’s Haven (ACH,) our behavioral health staff treats children with developmental difficulties and related behavioral challenges AND provides direct intervention with their parent or caregiver. A Child’s Haven’s mission is to treat children with developmental delays as a result of limited resources, abuse, or neglect, and provides support and education for their families.

In 2014, the generosity of Greenville’s philanthropic community enabled us to relocate from Rutherford Road strip mall facility to a state of the art building located in Berea. Visiting our 20 Martin Drive location, some are reminded of attending elementary school at Armstrong Elementary or playing little league with one of Greenville’s many sports leagues for young children. Today this property is thriving once again with children 12 weeks – 5 years old, with BOTH the child and parents learning coping mechanisms that will help the child to be successful in a typical preschool or K5 classroom and later to be a successful contributing adult to society. Parents also learn strategies to handle difficult behaviors and strategies assist them in regulating their own emotions when dealing with their children’s behaviors.

ACH visitors will observe what appears to be a typical child care program – there are therapeutic childcare classrooms with child size furniture – but that’s where the similarities stop. ACH operates one of three therapeutic child care (TCC) programs in South Carolina. Marie Cohen in The Chronical of Social Change, 2/2016, describes TCC as an underused tool in Family Preservation and Foster care. Greenville’s ACH, founded by Eva P. Hunt in 1992, was modeled after Seattle’s Childhaven program. Like Seattle’s program, children receive individualized, therapeutic care by highly trained and experienced staff with low child:teacher ratios. Each child has an individual treatment plan and each family learns strategies to overcome the effect of trauma. Parents whose children are not enrolled in Therapeutic Child Care Services, may participate in one of two different evidenced based parenting groups offered free at our Berea Campus. Offered in Spanish and English, one is a parent resource/education while the other is a parent support group, called Parents Anonymous. Our home visitation program is delivered by highly qualified Family Support Counselors, all who either have or are in the process of receiving advanced licensing credentials in social work or professional counseling.

2017 brings a renewed vision to ACH and a focus on achieving a new level of performance metrics. Under new leadership, the staff and board will devote the year studying how we track and achieve client outcomes, seek strategies to follow children long-term into their young adult years and set upon the massive task of strategies to decrease our Medicaid/government dependency due to the ever-changing government budgets and regulations (from March 2015 to July 2016, SCDHHS imposed 9 different regulations and/or funding cuts) that prevent children and families from receiving treatment. Sadly, managed care organizations (MCO) contracted by Medicaid drive treatment, which prevents some children from receiving necessary treatment. Examples of treatment denied by an MCO include the child who was kicked out of 10 different child care programs; the child who couldn’t be managed in a typical preschool environment, but also unbuckles and thrusts himself out of his car safety seat while the vehicle is moving; or the child who witnessed a sibling murdered by a trusted adult, and the MCO says three months of treatment is enough, while the caregiver, who desperately wants to stop the cycle of trauma, begs for ACH to keep the child and continue working with the family. With your help, we are able to prevent sudden discharge, and let discharge be a joint decision between clinician and family members.

A Child’s Haven delivers treatment in collaboration with Greenville Children’s Hospital who provides an onsite nurse to address daily medical needs, including that of children’s asthma. We are community partners of the United Way of Greenville County, Greenville First Steps, LiveWell Greenville. And through SC Children’s Trust, ACH is the recipient of MIECHV (Maternal Infant Early Childhood Home Visitation funds.) ACH is also blessed with corporate and foundation support from such entities as The Duke Endowment, Community Foundation and Hollingsworth Funds, SYNNEX Share the Magic Foundation, ScanSource, and countless others – including individual and faith based support. Even with all the community support, 49% of the $2.2 million annual budget at ACH is dependent upon Medicaid funding.

The annual cost per child/family is approximately $36,000, a small price to pay when one considers societal costs of institutionalization due to juvenile and adult crimes such as rape and murder, as in the instance of Kohlhepp – not to mention the costs for victim care. Our program enables children to enter a typical school environment ready to learn and better able to regulate emotions rather than lashing out with maladaptive behaviors. Please consider supporting A Child’s Haven during this season of giving. To learn more, take a Lifting Lives! tour, volunteer or donate online. 864-298-0025 or A Child’s Haven 20 Martin Drive, Greenville SC 29617.

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