Tykes & Teens spreads awareness at Brunch for Babies


An inaugural Brunch for Babies event at the Grand Harbor Golf and Beach Club to benefit Tykes & Teens brought new awareness and raised vital funds for the high-quality mental healthcare programs for children and families that it provides.

While the full capacity crowd helped themselves to an endless brunch buffet, sipped mimosas, bid on silent-auction items and enjoyed a fashion show, Tykes & Teens department heads shared stories of the increased need for child mental health services, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic, and the numerous ways their services are addressing the issue.

“We receive individuals looking for help,” said Eric Garza, CEO of Tykes & Teens.

He provided an emotional snapshot of the reasons why families come to Tykes & Teens, reading from some of the intake statements made by their clients: “‘I just want to be a good mom,’ ‘I don’t want my mom and dad to be arrested again,’ ‘I’m trying not to get suspended from school,’ and ‘I don’t want my baby to grow up like me.’”

Garza said that each year, they serve roughly 1,800 children throughout the Treasure Coast, including Martin, St. Lucie, Okeechobee and Indian River counties.

“We started to provide services to Indian River County in 2016 and we have slowly been incorporating ourselves more and more into the community. We are looking forward to establishing an outpatient office in Indian River soon, in addition to our existing facility housing our Healthy Families program and Infant Mental Health programs.”

Laura Girlando, director of Infant Mental Health, spoke about the importance of setting the foundation for social and emotional development, saying that doing so ultimately leads to resilience and success later in life.

“By the age of 6 months, the pruning process to the brain starts and neuropathways start to close. By age 5, 80 percent of the brain is developed. Our role is supporting caregivers in understanding what their child’s needs are and empowering them to support their child to understand what happened,” said Girlando.

Collaborating with teachers and staff of early childcare centers for children from birth to age 5 falls under the umbrella of their Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation services, led by director Elizabeth Appleton.

“We have children in Indian River County that are being suspended and expelled from early childcare centers at astronomical rates because they have experienced some form of trauma,” she said.

“There has been an increase in disruptive behavior like screaming, kicking and turning over tables. Through mental health consultation, we reflect on what we can do differently in the classroom to help these children.”

Tykes & Teens reports that the mental health crisis in children is staggering, with demand for services up 300 percent and high-risk situations up 100 percent. The complexity and length of treatment have also significantly increased.

The nonprofit organization has been a leading mental health provider for children and adolescent-based programs and services for over 25 years. They prioritize children’s mental health in families, schools and communities through a wide range of prevention, education, treatment programs and services.

For more information visit TykesAndTeens.org.

Photos by Kaila Jones

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