In Bethlehem: “The Holy Child Program”
The Holy Child Program was founded in 1995, by the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist and is one of the very few centers in the Bethlehem area serving children with severe behavioral and emotional problems in a therapeutic day treatment setting. Located in Beit Sahour (the place of the Shepherds’ Field), it was founded at the request of parents whose children were suffering from psychological distress, resulting from the first Intifada, or military incursion into the West Bank by Israeli forces. The Program currently serves 35 children and their families. It provides additional outreach programs in the West Bank, including being a training center for local universities and other agencies serving children and families in the region.
As a day treatment program, children attend regular academic classes, as well as participate in specialized therapeutic activities, including personal counselling, land and animal therapy, and those centered on the arts. The Holy Child Program uses the “Incredible Years Program”1 as a framework for these creative therapies, aiming to help each child achieve mastery of their psychological and behavioral problems, as well as teaching problem solving skills, increased emotional and social competence while reducing disruptive and aggressive behaviors. Parents are expected to participate in family meetings, mothers’ programs and educational activities designed to foster strong family foundations and encourage a systemic change for both the child and the family.