Posted by: kempefoundation | December 24, 2009

Denver Post: Kempe Center Restores Trust, Safety for Abused Kids

Sandi Garcia of the Kempe Center plays with one of the children at the Kempe Therapeutic Preschool, which works with children who are victims of abuse and neglect. (John Prieto, The Denver Post) (Click to read more)

In 1962, Dr. C. Henry Kempe co-wrote a paper that changed the way the medical profession looked at child abuse. And 10 years later, he opened a nonprofit facility in Denver, the Kempe Center, to help treat the young and innocent victims that had undergone abuse and neglect.

“He really was the pioneer for child abuse and neglect” treatment, said Jesse Wolff, president and CEO of the Kempe Center. “And for the last 30-plus years, we’ve been working at developing better treatments for kids, advocating for children and doing research on treatments that work.”

It’s important work, especially when you consider the statistics from state- and federal-level human- services departments. Nearly 1 million children were victims of abuse and neglect in the U.S. in 2008, more than 10,000 of them in Colorado.

Most children treated at the Kempe Center are recommended by child- welfare agencies and live with kin or foster parents. Often, Kempe is the last resort for such children, who have been kicked out of other day- care/preschool situations because of the issues they’re forced to deal with.

Kempe is one of the agencies applying for funding from this year’s Season to Share campaign.

If Kempe receives a Season to Share grant, the money will be used for its preschool program for 3- to 6-year-olds traumatized by abuse and neglect.

The Kempe Center’s preschool has two components: The preschool director is a child psychiatrist at the Children’s Hospital and at Kempe, and the classroom director handles the day-to-day operations. Both positions require an unusual human being with a rare disposition.

“It’s just a combination of patience, love, discipline and being able to communicate in ways most of us can’t,” Wolff said of his colleagues. “It does take a special person with a unique skill set and a lot and patience and ability.”

The Kempe Center has many success stories, but one that Wolff is particularly proud of involved a young girl who was sexually abused by her caregiver. Every day for 18 months, the girl’s foster mother drove from the northern suburbs to drop the child off at the Kempe Center’s preschool.

“Kids, when they’re traumatized like that from whatever kind of abuse they’ve been through, they’ve lost their trust of adults and tend to act out in different ways,” Wolff said. “She got one-on-one sessions with some of the clinicians and therapists from the preschool. And now she’s able to play and interact and go back to public school without any special programs.

“There are always longer-term issues, but that’s the kind of stories we see all the time.”

Ricardo Baca: 303-954-1394 or

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