Healing through tragedy: One school's story - Christian Family Solutions

Healing through tragedy: One school’s story


Stories of Healing and Hope

Healing through tragedy: One school’s story

A local school grows stronger through tragedy and builds a cohesive partnership for healing and help

Even before the pandemic hit in early 2020, Laura Anderson, Dean of Students at Catholic Memorial High School (CMH) in Waukesha, WI, knew that more needed to be done to address the mental health of her student body. At that time the CDC reported that one in five children suffered from a mental health disorder and only about 20% got the care they needed from a mental health provider. Anderson said, “The faculty and staff were just crying out for help to say — how can we support our students?”

Catholic Memorial’s leadership made mental health a top priority – and none too soon. Concerns over children’s mental health have soared to unprecedented heights. In just the next couple of years following 2020 there has been a 29% increase in anxiety and depression in children ages 3-17.

CMH researched options for their school and connected with Christian Family Solutions. They did a needs assessment involving students and families and met with CFS to see what cost and partnership options would work best for the unique needs in their school. CMH began with one-on-one counseling a couple days a week and moved to five days a week, to not only just serve the students, but to also provide additional support for faculty, staff, and parents.

Laura Reinke, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at CFS, and other CFS licensed therapists spend five days a week at Catholic Memorial High School. Reinke’s role as a Dual-Role Counselor (where the school and CFS share the cost of her salary) allows her to fully immerse herself into the atmosphere on campus and collaborate with the faculty and staff regularly. Through a dual counselor role they have established a cohesive plan and an effective partnership.

“Their fees really fit to what we could do and as we saw our need increase, we made sure we could find that budget item and donors that would help support it,” Anderson said. “And we have data to show how our kids are improving and how our faculty and staff feel better about mental health.  Additionally, our donors are excited to know that we are making an impact with children and their mental health.”

Then came the evening in late November 2021 when tragedy rocked the Waukesha community and tested the very support systems in place. Laura Reinke recalls the phone call that late Sunday evening regarding a devasting event in which an SUV plowed through the local Christmas parade killing several people and injuring many more, some with personal connections at CMH.

Reinke took action immediately, called the right people, and by 8 p.m. had a team assembled from CFS available to support Catholic Memorial students, staff, and families on Monday morning. There was a trauma expert on staff to lean on, providing pertinent handouts and support. The CFS team met with school administration and was able to have a plan in place to provide professional help for those who had been impacted.

“I went into this profession to provide healing and hope and that was one of those times where it was really a game-changer, and it helped build up confidence and trust in our relationship and we were there to support the needs,” Reinke said.

“We went through some really rough times,” says Anderson. After dealing with COVID and the parade tragedy, Anderson herself realized she needed help coping in order to be the best leader she could.  She was able to meet with Reinke and set up three telehealth sessions with another CFS therapist. “I have been able to share this with my students – and I can say it’s okay to reach out and ask for help.”

Christian Family Solutions has partnerships like the one with Catholic Memorial in 38 schools in Wisconsin. The partnership leverages all available resources to make professional mental health care accessible to more students and more affordable for the school. The CFS Youth Counseling Initiative focuses on supporting these partnerships and providing the first three counseling sessions at no cost.

We are grateful to our partner schools and our donors who help make care accessible to more youth.