This moment…

A Friday ritual. A photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment we want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.


Rochester’s Littlest Book Worms!

african-amer-mom-child-reading-dreamstime_400255.jpgWhen parents and small children read together, the children are actually learning the basics of speech and language. Reading with even the littlest children helps develop critical early skills including logical thinking, enhanced concentration, language development, and social-emotional competence. Can you recall a time you saw a child pick up a book, and pretend to read? Most of the time, the child is just speaking gibberish, however this is an important pre literary step! The more jabbering they do, the closer they are to learning how to sound out words on their own.

Not only is reading with children important for them, but for parents and caretakers as well. As children grow and become more active, they will frequently be on the move. Incorporating book sharing is a great way for families and children to slow down and connect.

SPCC is seeking donations of NEW children’s books appropriate for children birth through 3 years old. Board books, bath books and cloth books are excellent choices. Please withhold donations of books for older children or books that are worn. Through the Parents as Teachers (PAT) model, SPCC is able to provide families with support and engage parents in understanding their child’s development through play, and book sharing is an essential component of that practice. The PAT model is shown to help in having parents more involved in their child’s health and development and increase school readiness and success. SPCC provides up to two books a month to over 70 families, promoting early reading and parent child attachment. Books are costly, and it can be difficult for us to give books on a consistent basis. With your help, we’d like to change this!

Here is a link to a list of titles that are particularly valuable, we most frequently use, and can be found at most children’s book stores.

If you would like to purchase a book through Amazon, please go to and choose Rochester Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children as your charity of choice.

If you have any questions or need more information, please contact Becca Schmeer at

For more information on the critical importance of book sharing, click this link: Early Moments:

Holding Our Babies In Mind: The Need for Infant Mental Health Informed Immigration Policy and Best Practice

hugs-goodbye-20111By Megan Smith, MA, LCAT, Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Therapist, SPCC

A local family’s daily activities became widely reported following a traffic stop on 3/23/17 in Geneseo. A woman from Guatamala and her 12-year old brother were detained by Border Patrol or ICE in Irondequoit, NY while her four children (Ages: 2 mos, 6 mos, 2 yrs, 4 yrs.) were separated from her and sent home with her sister, and her sister’s four year old daughter. The woman and her young brother were then sent to Buffalo for further immigration processing.

In my role as the Infant/Early Childhood Therapist working in the Family Trauma Intervention Program at SPCC, the parent-child relationship and early childhood development of social-emotional needs are my primary focus. I honor the potential for this diverse family structure to support the children’s social-emotional needs during this stressful time of not knowing what will become of their family members. I also wonder at the infant and young children’s experience, specifically the loss of being able to touch their mother, and if they are missing her voice and her smell, the familiar way she holds them right before they fall asleep and how she knows which cry means “hungry” and which cry means “set me free”.

I wonder who, if anyone, explained to the young children what was happening to their mother and family member at the time of the traffic stop, and if so, in what language? What kinds of facial expressions were the police and border patrol officers wearing when they acknowledged or didn’t acknowledge them? I wonder what sights and sounds and smells the children will remember from waiting on the side of the road while authorities gathered, and then were sent home without their mom to put them to bed.

 To be suddenly removed from your familiar caregiver has potential to be detrimental to children’s developing sense of self, and sense of the world. We know that children’s brain’s grow fastest in the age range of 0-3 years, and the effect of traumatic events can be buffered by primary caregiver relationships. How can we process something that we don’t yet have language or understanding for, but also no one to help us regulate and contain the grief, anger, sadness, and fear?

In a statement by the Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health, systems such as Border Patrol are encouraged to consider the unique needs of infants and young children, instead of separating them from their mothers due to immigration laws:

The Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health (Alliance) joins the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in firmly opposing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposal to separate immigrant mothers from their children when they arrive at the U.S. border. The science of infant mental health is clear that relational health is the foundation for optimal social, emotional and cognitive development across the life span. That is, the parent-child relationship provides safety, comfort, and security, ingredients required to promote good mental health for infants and children. This relationship provides a protective bond, an interruption to which is traumatic and places the young child at risk for significant developmental and behavioral disorders in early childhood and later years. We know that building on a shaky foundation is risky for sustaining physical and mental health. We encourage all systems that interact with families  to take into account the needs of infants and young children for emotional and physical safety by assuring that no young child is separated from his/her parents.

Deborah Weatherston, PhD, Executive Director, Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health, Inc. ® Margaret Holmberg, PhD, Board President, Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health, Inc. ® Marcy Safyer, PhD, LCSWR, IMH-E® IV-C, Board President, New York State Association of Infant Mental Health

As an IMH specialist I must bring myself into the work, and acknowledge that my experience as a white, straight, American, female offers me privilege and potential for bias. I do not have a meaningful understanding of this family’s culture and values, but I do understand that the evidence-base that makes up our field of IMH is clear in acknowledging that very young children require consistent and adequate care from a primary caregiver to develop into healthy adults.

I would like to use my position to start a conversation about how we can begin to support systemic change that takes the unique and diverse needs of young children and their relationships to their primary caregivers into consideration when developing policies and practices.

To learn more about SPCC’s Infant and Early Childhood advocacy, treatment and training, contact Megan Smith, MA, LCAT at:, or Sarah Fitzgibbons, LMHC, MT-BC, IMH-E® (IV-C) at


this moment

A Friday ritual. A photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment we want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

this moment


A Friday ritual. A photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment we want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

Aiden & The Hulk: A Story of Music Therapy.


Sarah Kliman, MT-BC, SPCC, Supervised Visitation Specialist

As a music therapist, I have seen the power of music many times. It can be a means of communication, a container for emotion, and a safe place to process hard feelings. From children with special needs to adults with severe psychiatric illnesses, and from babies in the NICU to the bedsides of the actively dying, music can be a powerful tool for healing.

SPCC’s Supervised Visitation/Exchange Program works with children and families from all walks of life. Sometimes, a child’s walk has been hard and they become completely overwhelmed. This was the case on a recent Saturday when I yet again witnessed the capacity of music to validate, nurture, and calm.

Aiden comes to the Visitation Center with his brothers and sisters to visit their parents. Like so many other kids in foster care, Aiden and his siblings are not able to be placed together and currently live apart. As a child, Aiden struggles to understand why he can’t live with mom and dad anymore, and why he can’t be together with his brothers and sisters.

On this particular visiting day, a sibling spat escalated and Aiden became inconsolable. He was screaming, crying, throwing, hitting, and kicking a plastic play kitchen.  Although I didn’t know Aiden (another SPCC staff works with the family each week), I do know the potential of music. Teamed with the Program Senior from our Therapeutic Visitation Program, Nancy Gearhart, I entered the room and sat down.

Within music therapy, there is a well-known concept called the Isoprinciple. The idea is that you use the music to meet someone exactly where they are. If someone is highly agitated, you don’t sing “Kumbaya” to them; rather you match their intensity and attempt to mimic their actions and screams with music.

Guitar in hand, I strummed in sequence with Aiden’s kicks. When he kicked faster, I played faster. After a minute or two he stopped kicking, so I stopped playing. He kicked once, hard and fast; I strummed once, hard and fast. Aiden laughed and continued kicking at full speed; I strummed loud, I strummed fast, I strummed until my thumb was raw.  I asked Nancy to play along with my buffalo drum and she matched Aiden’s kicking too. Aiden stopped; I stopped, Nancy stopped.

Suddenly, Aiden’s attention was no longer directed at kicking the play kitchen. Rather, he took an interest in the drum. Buffalo drums are durable – I have seen a grown man jump on mine with no damage – so I invited Aiden to punch the drum as hard as he could. It became a game where we took turns hitting and kicking this drum. His need to physically vent his anger was met without destruction or potential injury.

Aiden was hooked on the music. Aiden, Nancy, and I played a Follow the Leader game and took turns being “the leader” – when the leader played their instrument, the rest followed. When the leader stopped, the others stopped. Not only was Aiden now calm and following directions, but he was smiling and laughing too.

And then, Aiden asked if we could write a song. “Of course!”, I responded.  At this point, Aiden was shirtless, shoe-less, and he had just spent several hours raging, stomping, and destroying. Following his lead, Aiden wrote a song about the Hulk, and it was so clear how Aiden felt– he WAS the Hulk. A boy with huge feelings inside. A boy who could easily become out of control and full of rage and hurt. We sang his song together several times, and he giggled continuously while sitting next to me. Aiden put his shirt back on and found his socks and shoes- the Hulk slowly disappeared and Aiden came back. The entire Supervised Visitation team joined us and Aiden performed his song for them. He was so proud.

All in all, I spent nearly 90 minutes with Aiden. Through music, his anger was validated and he was given opportunities to express his feelings. With music, I could start to place boundaries on Aiden to de-escalate his behavior. And overall, the music became the container for Aiden’s anger. It no longer overpowered him or caused him to be the Hulk, rather he could express himself and feel heard.

For me, it was the ultimate synthesis of my two fields – music therapy and social work. Equipped with my training and background as a music therapist, while viewing Aiden and his situation through a social work lens, my two modalities seamlessly came together to do what I love most: helping sad, angry kids feel better.

this moment


A Friday ritual. A photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment we want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

this moment (belated!)

We were busy at SPCC last week, and we forgot to take time out for one of our favorite things: our ‘this moment’ photo! We have exciting things happening in many of our programs, and we are gearing up to celebrate the agency’s 140th birthday in April! All of that said, it’s in times of great busyness that we most need to slow down and reflect on meaningful moments that are flying by. Here’s ours.

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