WINDER - A new program piloted by the Barrow County Fire Department will provide free counseling to children who have been affected by a fire or other trauma.
Children After the Fire, as the program is called, is modeled after a similar program used by police departments across the state, coordinator Scott Dakin said. Children who have lived through a fire, a serious car accident, or have lost a loved one through trauma will have the opportunity to attend up to 12 counseling sessions and will be educated about fire safety, Dakin said.
Children in the program will also be able to tour a fire station and meet firefighters, he said.
"It's a very important program to get going," Dakin said. "We wanted to be the one to jump up and go with it. We didn't want it put on the back burner, we thought if no one else'll lead, we will."
Barrow is the only county in the state working on the program, but others are poised to follow if Barrow's is a success, Dakin said. The program is a natural extension of the role of the Fire Department, he said, because it allows firefighters to further assist families they first deal with during a tragedy.
Children After the Fire will hold a kickoff Monday at 11 a.m. in the county commission meeting room with dignitaries such as state Rep. Terry England in attendance. Dakin said he expects the program to serve between 30 and 40 children a year, depending on the number of fires in the county.
Because it is difficult for adults to deal with trauma, Dakin said, it is even more important to catch post-traumatic stress disorder early and help children work through their problems so they can lead normal adult lives.
"They need to have the ability to learn how to deal with emotional stress," he said. "They can get back on their feet and lead a normal life again. They need to know what they're feeling is normal, they need to learn to deal with these emotions."