Meet Our Children's Program Director

Emily Pike

Emily Pike is a native of Southern Indiana.  She graduated from Mitchell High School, earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame, and will receive a Master of Public Affairs with a concentration in Nonprofit Management from Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs in December 2013.  

A veteran of the Peace Corps and a variety of socially motivated organizations, Emily has more than a decade of experience working in nonprofits.  Aside from the third sector, Emily’s other passion is children.  Having worked for many years in a number of childcare provision roles, she understands the importance of intentional programming for children beginning early in life.  She first joined the New Hope team in April of 2012 and was excited to transition to the role of Director of Children’s Programming in April 2013.

About the Children’s Program at New Hope
 
Just as heads of families enter New Hope facing any number of barriers to permanent stable housing, so too do their children face a wide range of challenges to their success.  These challenges are often compounded by a insufficient support from parents who must dedicate all of their energies simply to providing food and housing for their families.  The children’s program is designed to complement adult progress by providing individualized attention to each child, to assess any challenges to academic and social success, and to provide compensating services and activities as needed. 
 
In general, these services take three forms: academic support through tutoring and age-appropriate activities geared to stimulate curiosity and creativity; emotional support through individualized attention that allows children to experience and articulate their feelings in appropriate ways; and social support through fun outings designed to expose children to new activities and empower them to develop healthful habits to last a lifetime.  All of the services the Children’s Program provides center on a belief that the most important work of childhood is learning through play.  We work to relieve children of the grown-up anxieties they experience so they are free to be the kids they are.
 
Academic Support
 
Many children come to New Hope with significant academic difficulties resulting from homelessness and its cohorts, including emotional stress, physical illness, and lack of structure.  For these reasons children at New Hope Family Shelter are much likelier than their peers to face academic and social problems at school.  They are likely to have moved away from their school district, to have had friendships disrupted, to share their parents’ sense of crisis, leading to feelings of anxiety about their ability to succeed in school. 
 
Our tutoring program features individualized academic attention for each child at least twice weekly, and every child, regardless of age, benefits from these services.  For the very young, this may be as simple as playing matching games, reading picture books, or exposure to music.  For older children, our attentions center around the work they are doing in school with added encouragement to pursue any subject the children find particularly interesting.  All children are encouraged to participate in twice weekly trips to the Monroe County Public Library, where children’s program staff and volunteers help children to choose appropriate reading.
 
New Hope parents often feel uncomfortable in dealing with teachers and school staff on their own, and they frequently feel ill-equipped to be advocates for their children’s educational needs.   New Hope staff offer assistance in communicating with school administrators and teachers.  New Hope staff, interns, and volunteers encourage parents to participate actively in school activities and events, and offer to attend case conferences and meetings with parents as needed while preserving the areas of confidentiality the families need.  The Children’s Programming Director meets regularly with parents to discuss their children’s educational progress and to suggest ways in which parents can be supportive of their children’s continued success.
 
Emotional Support
 
Children often enter New Hope having been exposed to complex and sometimes very adult crises, and they find themselves unable to process the complicated situation their family is in.  These feelings of confusion and fear can manifest themselves in serious behavioral problems that are significant barriers to their success both academically and socially.  The problems are often compounded by parents who are ill-equipped to understand and address them and who have found that all their attention and time have been insufficient to address their children’s most basic requirements for shelter and food, leaving them discouraged and overwhelmed by higher level needs.
 
The Children’s Program staff and volunteers ensure that children have a chance to spend one-on-one time with an adult who is focused solely on them.  This is a time for children to participate in an activity of their choosing, in which the only objective is being heard and understood.  Adults focus on letting children express themselves in appropriate ways and helping them to think through solutions to problems they might be facing.  In addition to providing their time and attention to the children at New Hope, these adults offer a two-fold service to parents by allowing them a much needed break to have time for themselves and providing valuable modeling of simple ways to spend easy time with their children.
 
Social Support
 
The most important work of childhood is play.  Through playing individually and with other children, kids learn to work through the complex roles they fill in their families, at school, and in society.  At New Hope, staff and volunteers work to provide families a variety of play experiences.  All of our children’s activities are centered around allowing children to be children and encouraging a positive relationship to physical health through enjoyable physical activities.
 
Past activities have included excursions to Brown County State Park for horseback riding, to Spring Mill state park for hiking and spelunking, and to McCormack Creek State Park for a waterfall nature walk and nature center tour.  In the summer, we provide interested children with the opportunity to attend summer camp at the YMCA and take regular trips to the Bryan Park pool.  These activities are augmented by frequent walks to local parks and playgrounds, trips to the Monroe County Humane Society to play with animals, and visits to the WonderLab Museum.  All children who would like one are given a bicycle and helmet upon their arrival at New Hope, and some families enjoy them so much that rides along the B-line trail become an almost nightly ritual.

http://www.newhopefamilyshelter.org/content/childrens-program