Jedi the shi tzu, Cece the havanese and Bailey the golden retriever — these are just a few of the therapy dogs now helping children entering the city’s foster care system, and getting a few belly rubs as reward for their good deeds.
The Administration for Children’s Services has partnered with the Good Dog Foundation for a new program that aims to reduce stress and promote recovery from trauma for some of the city’s most vulnerable children and youth.
Jedi, Cece, Bailey and their handlers are three of 11 Good Dog teams visiting the Nicholas Scoppetta Children’s Center, where most children and youth are processed into the foster care system. During the twice monthly sessions, the foundation’s handlers explain to the children how to properly pet and play with the dogs, as well as teach them how to perform tricks.
“We are often working with children at some of the most vulnerable times in their lives, and we want to make sure their experience with us is as healing as possible,” ACS Commissioner David A. Hansell said. “This new therapy dog program will offer additional comfort and support to children who have experienced trauma.”
Studies suggest the use of therapy dogs with children suffering from trauma can help reduce anxiety, stress and depression. One study by Yale University, published in the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology in October 2018, found that interacting with animals “boosted children’s positive emotions and reduced anxiety."
Good Dog Foundation founder and president Rachel McPherson said one of the nonprofit’s core missions is to help children recovering from trauma. Each of the organization’s dogs go through a training program that culminates with a temperament evaluation before certification is granted.
“For our teams at the Scoppetta Center, it’s all about giving kids awaiting homes in NYC’s foster care system a safe, joyful ‘time out’ to connect with unconditionally loving and healing animals. We’re thrilled to partner with ACS,” she added.