Mediation Center to Launch COPE Program at Park Place Outreach

Staff Report From Savannah CEO

Monday, July 31st, 2017

The Mediation Center of the Coastal Empire’s new “Children of Peaceful Engagement” program – or COPE – will be rolled out to help Savannah’s youth after a successful pilot program earlier this summer. 

The COPE program teaches children who are going through stressful situations how to better cope with their anger and other emotions and manage their response using proven engagement strategies that focus on understanding and emotional learning. Typically, attendees are early school-age children and participation consists of two one-hour lessons, which take place during a one-week period.

Lee Robbins, Programs Director at the Family Law Resource Center and its parent organization, the Mediation Center, worked on developing COPE by researching and designing the interactive program through collaborations with educators and therapists. He introduced it to the Mediation Center earlier this summer. Now Robbins and his colleague, Crystal Commodore, the Mediation Center's Youth Program Director, are about to bring this beneficial service to another Savannah nonprofit committed to helping the community’s young people.

Starting Aug. 15, the two will implement COPE at Park Place Outreach, which provides services to at-risk youth and their families, aims to increase their functional levels, and reunifies families whenever possible. Once per month, Robbins will provide a one-hour lesson on a Tuesday, followed by another one-hour segment, taught by Commodore, on Thursday. Robbins will focus on understanding emotion, managing response and owning actions, while Commodore will educate participants on communicating when in conflict with others.

Mediation Center Executive Director Jill Cheeks is delighted COPE has been well-received and looks forward to increasing its availability by partnering with more Coastal Empire organizations and educational institutions.

“The community already knows we offer a variety of conflict-resolution services, but we also are pleased to be able to provide programs like COPE. These resources enable us to educate youth at an earlier age and equip them with skills to handle difficult situations and respond in a more positive manner to stress and conflict,” Cheeks said.

Park Place Outreach, a youth emergency shelter, provides support for troubled children and teens from Savannah and the surrounding area. It is open 24 hours a day to youth in crisis, adolescents who are homeless, young people who have been abused, runaway youth, or those who may be thinking of running away. According to Park Place Executive Director Julie Wade, they also assist those who are referred through the Division of Family and Children Services and the juvenile justice system.

Wade had been in talks with Cheeks about possible collaboration efforts between the two nonprofit entities, and she thinks COPE is a great place to start.

“A lot of these kids come in with a whole host of challenges. They don’t have stable families, and they’ve often experienced violence and crime since the beginning of their lives, so they don’t have a lot of anger-management skills or coping skills. They just don’t have the communication skills to regulate their behavior,” Wade said. “We are trying to bring in some instruction on conflict resolution, which will help the children we serve communicate better and regulate their emotions appropriately.”

She believes Park Place Outreach’s efforts with the Mediation Center will benefit both organizations, as well as the segments the nonprofits strive to reach and serve.

“Everyone has incentive to collaborate; it’s just getting everyone to the same table,” Wade said. “Most kids are here about three weeks, so we don’t have much time with them. But we’ll offer COPE once per month, so we should be able to include everyone. We’re excited to have the opportunity to do it.”