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Givers Also Get in Aiding Child Clinic

March 10, 1988|JAN HOFMANN | Jan Hoffman is a regular contributor to Orange County Life

They came to give, not receive--but guests at Saturday's luncheon and fashion show to benefit Child Guidance Centers/Clinica del Nino had a good chance of walking away with more than a warm feeling.

The opportunity prizes raffled during lunch at the Anaheim Hilton & Towers included something for everyone: cosmetics, golf balls, free housecleaning and assorted nights on the town.

The nonprofit centers' Prosocial Skills Training Program, said executive director Henry J. Paris, is designed to help 9- to 12-year-olds get along better with adults and their peers.

Originally developed by staff psychologist John Yzaguirre for children with behavioral problems, the program is a departure from traditional methods. Usually such programs are long term and focus on emotional traumas brought on by the behavior, Paris said. But the prosocial program is short term and focuses instead on the child's underlying need for successful relationships with others.

Using games, role playing and a variety of other techniques, the program "helps children get in touch with feelings, their own as well as the feelings of others," Paris said.

"The response has been far beyond our expectations," he said. "We had kids come in kicking and screaming, and afterward they couldn't wait to come back. Now we hope to offer this to all children. You don't have to label yourself as having behavioral problems to benefit from it."

Nine- to 12-year-olds were targeted for the program because "that seems to be the age when you have the least social skills and an increase in acting out of feelings. This (program) helps them create a win-win situation in dealing with others and teaches them skills that the rest of us learn on a hit-and-miss basis throughout our lives," said Paris, a licensed clinical social worker.

The centers, with offices in Santa Ana and Fullerton, offer low-cost mental health services to child-abuse victims, children with emotional and behavioral problems, their families and the community at large. The largely bilingual staff includes psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed clinical social workers and marriage, family and child counselors.

Richard Stafford, president of the centers' board of directors, said he wasn't sure how much money the $35-a-person event raised. "But that's only one of our goals," he said. "Right now we're trying to broaden community awareness about our organization, and we're actively recruiting volunteers who are interested in helping youth."

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