At the beginning of last year, 8-year-old Frank had just moved with his mom to Elgin, a northwest Chicago suburb. He struggled to assimilate into his new school, and often presented angry and withdrawn behavior. At risk of being expelled, Frank was introduced to the Family Service Association of Greater Elgin (FSA). School staff attributed his difficulties to resisting a new life transition, but there was more under the surface. He had witnessed the murder of his grandfather only months earlier.

May 7, National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, is a day we recognize Frank and our partners at FSA. His story is one of countless others that illustrate the mental health support needs facing our children, and what is possible when we invest in childhood development.

Family Service Association is a United Way agency partner that offers a range of mental health services for individuals and families, and where Frank enrolled in a comprehensive school-based mental health program. He began receiving individual therapy three times a week, family therapy and case management for family needs. Once the school staff was informed of his history they moved forward with a coordinated care plan that supported Frank’s healing.

After only a couple months of intensive counseling, his therapist, Roxana, had already noticed leaps and bounds of progress. Frank was engaging in classroom activities without outbursts. He was making new friends. He was no longer at risk of being removed from school. His mom noted that he no longer returned home from school crying.

When the pandemic hit last March, social isolation was an obstacle for Frank. It compounded his existing mental health issues, as it has for children and adults nationwide. In response, he and his therapist were able to establish a new routine with ample sleep and scheduled eating times. As of recently, Frank hasn’t engaged in any self-harming behaviors and he reports feeling better. “I want to play outside again,” Frank said, “I didn’t used to.”

United Way supports partners like the Family Service Association of Greater Elgin because every child deserves to feel safe emotionally, and every child should have resources to know they’re not alone.

Your donation to United Way will provide essential mental health services to children across the Chicago region. Donate today!


By Tate Samata, AmeriCorps Multimedia Journalist