One at a time Print
Fonder Ponders
Thursday, Jun. 02, 2016 -- 12:00 AM

Fonder Ponders column by Jackson Fonder

Sometimes I feel like I am too small and the problems around the world are so big. I watch the news or read an article and get exhausted from the onslaught of depressing, discouraging, and sometimes crazy news stories. The presidential election. Immigration. Police issues. Racial disparity. The list goes on.

It's overwhelming. And then I remember how Mother Teresa focused on helping just one person at a time. What a great lesson.

I've asked Jerilyn Robinson, our director of family programs, to give an example of how Catholic Charities is doing this with our Behavioral Health in Schools (BHS) program.

Behavioral Health in Schools: A unique partnership

The origins of BHS are rooted in a concerning statistic: nearly one in five children struggle with mental health challenges.

BHS is a unique partnership with Catholic Charities and the Madison Metropolitan School District to provide school-based therapy for students with significant mental health needs. Research tells us there is a strong relationship between mental health and school success.

Nationwide, 60 to 90 percent of adolescents with mental health disorders fail to receive treatment. By placing a licensed therapist in the schools (where children spend a majority of their time), BHS ensures that all children in need of mental health support have access to this care.

We served 59 students in the 2015 to 2016 school year. For 90 percent of them, this was their first time receiving mental health services.

Testimony from students, families, and teachers

Most students achieved at least one treatment goal and experienced improved behavior. While this "hard" data is certainly useful, the most powerful and compelling outcomes are from the voices of students, families, and teachers.

Jon is a father and spoke to us in a voice heavy with emotion and gratitude about his son's notable progress and the positive impact BHS had on their family. Another parent, Clara, told a story about how her son's demeanor has changed. She explained how she was taught as a child to hold feelings in but her son is now learning to share his feelings, especially with her.

Emma is in middle school and wrote about her intense anger and how she used to "snap" at everyone, often leading to suspension from school, "Counseling has really helped me to manage my anger. I learned how to calm down which has saved me from a lot of trouble."

The needs in our community are staggering; however, as we conclude a very successful pilot year of BHS in three Madison schools, we are a little bit closer to our goal of giving every child in our community the opportunity to reach their full potential -- one school and one child at a time.

Jackson Fonder is president and CEO of Catholic Charities Madison. Catholic Charities helps nearly 30,000 people in need in the 11 counties of the Diocese of Madison. Visit for more information.