Almost all children experience the death of an important person in their life. In a recent study conducted by the American Federation of Teachers and New York Life Foundation, statistics showed that nearly 70% of teachers have at least one grieving child in their classroom. It is likely you work with grieving children every day, even if it does not seem obvious.
Experiencing a death as a child increases the probability for many stressors and adversity, and can disrupt a child’s development. While school can offer children a healthy distraction and a predictable environment, many children struggle to adapt to their learning environment after a death. Difficulty concentrating, being distracted, forgetfulness, and having trouble learning are just some of the challenges students face. Additionally, students are faced with the task of navigating emotions and feelings of isolation.
ABOUT CLASSROOM COMPANIONS
Not all students are able to attend Erin's House on-site peer support groups, so we bring the program to the school. The 6-8 week in-school program provides students with the opportunity to explore and express their grief through a variety of outlets. Like all of Erin's House services, Classroom Companions in-school program is offered at no cost to the schools or to the students.
The in-school program is a peer support group that meets bi-weekly for 6-8 weeks. School groups are offered for students K-12 and are facilitated by 2 Classroom Companion volunteers/staff. Each week has a different theme with related activities determined by age and developmental appropriateness.
Opportunity for students to connect with peers who have also experienced a death; enhancing their sense of belonging at school
Provide a safe, nonjudgmental environment for students to express their grief
Explore and normalize grief reactions and experiences
Educate students about grief manifestations and triggers
Learn new coping skills to adapt to life after a death and manage emotions
Find ways to honor and memorialize that align with student’s needs
Schools interested in bringing the Classroom Companions program to their school must meet the requirements listed below:
A minimum of five participants are required in order to initiate group services. It is suggested that students are within 2 grade levels of each other.
A consistent meeting time that allows for no less than 50 minutes long.
A prearranged space that can allow for an uninterrupted/private group meeting.
An official MOU signed by both parties prior to services. (A sample MOU and curriculum may be provided upon request.)
We will be offering our programming to a limited number of schools each semester. Groups will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis and depending on staff/volunteer availability. You must have the required paperwork submitted and dates finalized before the enrollment period ends in order to qualify for services.
Enrollment for Fall Semester is CLOSED.
Enrollment for Spring Semester is CLOSED.
If you or your school is interested in the Classroom Companions program, please fill out the interest form below.
Questions? Email Kathryn McLaughlin, School Liaison.
Upcoming Training Opportunities
Stay tuned for future opportunities!
Become a Classroom Companion
For Erin's House to provide our Classroom Companions program, we need compassionate volunteers who are looking to make a difference in the lives of grieving children.
We are seeking individuals who are available during day-time school hours and can commit to all 6-8 group meetings to give students consistency. Classroom Companions receive training to equip them with tools to effectively support grieving children and teens in a school setting.
And, of course, Erin's House provides all activities, supplies, and gas compensation (for schools outside of Fort Wayne) so that all you need to give is the love in your heart to help heal the hearts of children and teens.
We're currently not accepting new Classroom Companion volunteers.
We encourage you to check back soon!
Other Services Offered to Schools
Schools are in a unique position to provide support to grieving students, and to provide preventative interventions through understanding, compassion, and a non-judgmental environment. Erin’s House partners with schools in order to support their efforts to be a grief sensitive school.
In conjunction with our Compassionate Classrooms in-school program, we also offer a variety of training and resources to enable access to grief support to those who cannot attend our regular on-site program.
Customized grief training and education for schools and parents
Grief education materials for staff, students, and families
Phone consultation with schools and staff about needs and resources
A one-time service to support schools immediately following the death of a student or school personnel
Tours of Erin's House for classes and school professionals
Grief Book Bags as a resource for students and families after a death (limited 1 bag per school)