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Collaborative Effort Brings Creative-Arts Therapy to Abused Children in Somerset County

BRIDGEWATER – A public-private partnership involving the Somerset County Board of Freeholders, the Richard Hall Community Mental Health Center and several local nonprofit agencies will bring creative-arts therapy to abused children from Somerset County starting this fall.

Retired Family Court Judge Thomas H. Dilts, who served in the Somerset County Courthouse in Somerville for two decades, presented the idea to the Freeholder Board in June.  The Freeholders approved a two-year contract for the program later that month.

“In my role of Superior Court judge handling child-abuse cases in Somerset for 16 of my 20 years on the bench, I must say there are far more children to be served than I or I suspect most of us would ever imagine,” he said.

The Richard Hall Community Mental Health Center, located at North Bridge Street and Vogt Drive in Bridgewater, will provide up to 1,500 square feet of space and in exchange, Creative Heartwork Inc., a North Jersey-based nonprofit corporation, will provide therapeutic programming for up to 80 children a year without charge to Somerset County for the next two years.

“Nonprofit/governmental collaboration is one of the best ways to help meet unmet needs in a time of shrinking budgets and diminished resources,” said Freeholder Director Patricia Walsh.  “The Creative Heartwork program promises to be a true win-win for abused children, their families and the people of Somerset County.”

Funding for the programming – $37,000 for the first year – is being raised by the Children's Hope Initiative, a committee of Friends of Somerset County Youth.  The group has already raised over $30,000, thanks in part to a $7,500 grant from the Dombal-Vogel Foundation, a Somerset County organization whose primary goal is to help children in need.

Creative Heartwork will offer creative-arts therapy using art, music, dance, drama and horticulture group therapy, for 1½ to 2 hours per week in approximately eight to 10 cycles of 10 weeks per year, as a treatment option for Somerset County children who have experienced a traumatic event.

Each workshop of seven to 10 participants will be co-facilitated by a therapist and a teaching artist and typically assisted by a screened and trained volunteer.  Examples of workshops that may be offered include those for children who have witnessed domestic violence, who have been sexually assaulted or who are transitioning back into the community after out-of-home placement.  Programming will begin in October.

The services will be offered and available to all Somerset County children in need, including current clients of Richard Hall and children in treatment with private and other nonprofit healthcare providers. They will be referred by their healthcare providers, not by the court or the state Division of Child Protection and Permanency.  Direct referrals from parents or caregivers also will be accepted.  For information, contact Creative Heartwork Inc. President Karen D. Carbonello at 908-231-6441 or karen@creativeheartwork.org