Covenant Care, founded in 1983, is one of the largest and most comprehensive freestanding, unaffiliated hospices in the nation. Serving over fifty counties in the Florida Panhandle and Southern Alabama, Covenant’s geographic area includes some of the most rural and impoverished regions of both states.
The mission is to provide palliative care to people with life-limiting illnesses and to support their families, including children, for at least 13 months after the death of our patient. We serve many disabled children, including those who are themselves dying, those with a serious chronic illness such as diabetes or sickle cell who are also receiving aggressive care, and through our bereavement services, children and adolescents who have suffered a loss.
The Children’s Bereavement Initiative is birthed through the realization that Covenant Care does not only serve elderly patients. Children experience and process grief in different ways than adults, and Covenant Care staff members are equipped to handle their special needs with innovative programs and services that help kids feel like kids again. There are many children throughout each community that can benefit from support. Covenant Care has developed Covenant Kids, a special program offering services for both children that have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and children that have suffered a loss. This program offers a solution to the gap in children's bereavement care and overall wellbeing in our communities.
According to Dr. Wolfelt, a leading expert in children's bereavement, America is a "grief avoidant" society. Most people are afraid to feel the pain of grief and, in turn, shelter their children from grief instead of providing a comforting environment where children feel safe to express their sorrow through loss. The resulting atmosphere is one where children feel like it is "bad" to feel sad and they feel should hastily dismiss their sad emotions. There are strong expectations in the American society to feel happy again quite quickly and this demeanor promotes the disguise of sorrow. Allowing children to express grief in a healthy environment with adequate support promotes children's wellbeing in every facet.
The counties in our rural region are seeking additional grants to meet the need for supplies to handle children’s grief counseling with a licensed MSW. The poverty rate in this area is much higher than the national average. Access to the statistics for children’s bereavement within the area are provided by Covenant Care. Covenant Care is in need of bereavement materials for their child clients. Covenant Care always strives to make sure their needs do not exceed their supplies. The needed supplies would consist of materials required for therapeutic play for children who are terminally ill or grieving, reading materials for children as well as caregiving adults for grieving children, and items needed for art, puppetry, games and stories to aid in coping with a terminal illness or the loss of a parent or loved one. Covenant Care is dedicated to helping children develop a strong sense of self, purpose and belonging through its specialized grief program.
The most influential gift that Covenant Care can give to a child and their family is a free resource kit called a "Butterfly Bag."Covenant Kids is proud to offer age-appropriate Butterfly Bags to children working through the loss of a loved one. Inside our bags, kids find activities and resources designed to help them explore and communicate their feelings in healthy ways. This resource bag is packed full with books, journals, education, and fun items for children and their caregivers who are grieving. Covenant Care hand-delivers each bag to the child and family, and goes through the contents of the bag with the caregiver and talks to them about how to use the contents. The licensed MSW counselor may answer any questions the family and child may have and this counselor is available for follow-up questions and concerns. The "Butterfly Bags" have allowed caregivers and grieving children to feel equipped to better handle their grief. The "Butterfly Bags" support the idea that grief is a natural response to loss, and children who are supported in a healthy way generally respond best in their own environment surrounded by loving family members and friends.
Talking to children about death and dying can be difficult and confusing. Adult caregivers may be distracted and overwhelmed with caring for their dying loved one, and not always well equipped to discuss death and loss with children in terms they can understand. The book Scarlet Says Good-Bye is designed to help bridge this gap. This engaging activity resource created for children 12 years old or under follows the journey of Scarlet, a little girl whose grandfather enters hospice. The last part of the book, filled with puzzles, free space and other activities, is dedicated to creating a lasting memory and legacy for the child. This resource is provided free of charge to our patients and families.
Providing specialized bereavement counseling is Covenant Care's top priority.