If you walk the halls of Shodair Children’s Hospital, you will pass brightly colored walls displaying the artistic expressions of Montana children. But this art isn’t filled with blooming flowers, rays of sunshine, or stick figures adorned with smiling faces. These paintings and drawings tell a deeper, and often times darker, story.
One painting from a young Shodair patient is a chaotic self-portrait. A bright yellow background is muddied with frantic strokes and swirls. A large open mouth with razor-sharp teeth dominates a blue face. “No matter how much I yell, no one hears me,” explains the child.
It’s a stark contrast to the innocence typically depicted in a young child’s artwork. But the dedicated professionals at Shodair are all too familiar with the trauma and challenges of Montana’s youth. Serving children as young as 3 all the way up to 18, Shodair is the only facility in the state to offer both acute and long-term residential and outpatient psychiatric treatment. Shodair is also Montana’s only Children’s Miracle Network-affiliated hospital.
And miracles are certainly what Shodair is working toward every day. It’s not without challenges, hardships, and hard work, however. Things you won’t see in the children’s units are strings over 6 inches long, including necklaces, teenage girls using eyeliner pencils, or children with shoes on – this slows down any attempt to run away from the facility. With children in such emotional distress, the staff must take every precaution to keep their patients safe, oftentimes from themselves.
It’s hard to imagine the crisis the children at Shodair are in when they walk through the doors – ongoing physical, mental, and sexual abuse; suicide attempts; a history or exposure to violence; and critical emotional and behavioral challenges. The staff at Shodair are often the first time many children have a relationship with an adult they can trust.
Shodair’s programs are designed to provide a safe, therapeutic, and nurturing environment to promote the positive change these children need. School-age children are able to continue schooling at the facility’s own accredited school, providing a much-needed sense of normalcy in their lives. Special therapies and activities, such as swimming, music, gardening, and art, are provided. There is even a Shodair prom for the high schoolers.
For the employees, making a difference is an everyday challenge. With 99 percent of Shodair’s patients coming from Montana, helping the children is met with resolve and unwavering dedication. Staff know they can’t change the trauma a child has been through, but they can help heal and guide their future. And, because they don’t want any family to worry about the cost to help their loved one, Shodair doesn’t turn anyone away regardless of whether they can afford treatment or not. That is why donor support is vital. Learn more about how you can support the treatment of Montana children at Shodair.
Founded more than a century ago, Shodair Children’s Hospital is dedicated to creating a healthy and hopeful Montana through specialized psychiatric care for children and adolescents along with a nationally recognized genetics program providing comprehensive care for all ages. Learn more about Shodair.
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