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Community Grief Groups: Bridging Need with Hope

Uplift Center for Grieving Children

Community Grief Groups: Bridging Need with Hope Logo

Program Website
Winner Status:
Program Type:
Counseling and Support
Target Population:
Children and Adolescents

Program Description

The Center for Grieving Children provides free grief groups to children and families who have experienced the death of a close loved one. For over 22 years, The Center has provided after-school grief groups at a fixed locations. While The Center has evolved to meet the needs of its clients by creating a multi-site model for these groups, many grieving children still face challenges in accessing site-based groups. So how to reach these children? Community Grief Groups that bridge the need with hope. The Center began its Community Grief Groups in schools, running 8-week grief groups for children during the school day at their schools. These groups, facilitated by master’s level trained clinicians, use creative expression, psychoeducation, and trauma-informed therapy to help grieving children and youth process their grief, identify secondary supports, increase relational attachment, and learn healthy ways to cope with and express grief. Last year, The Center ran 74 grief groups in 70 schools. Seeing the success with these in-school groups, The Center began to expand these groups to other vulnerable populations, including adjudicated youth and children experiencing grief due to the opioid epidemic. The Center specializes its curriculum with the input of the population it is serving.


Philadelphia is the poorest large city — and one of the most violent — in America. As a result, numerous grieving children in the city need but lack access to services. Because The Center is one of few organizations located in an urban area, there are no models on which to base support. In response to the need, The Center created its Community Grief Groups, which go to the children. Children are at school, so the school-based groups take place at the school during the school day. Adjudicated youth must check into reporting centers, so The Center runs groups at the Northeast Treatment Center’s Evening Reporting Center. This year, The Center has additional plans for resourceful responses, including a group for grieving youth due to the opioid epidemic at a community center, a grief group in a school where a student died, and groups at the Juvenile Justice Services Center.


The Center for Grieving Children works with bereavement centers across the nation to share the work of the Community Grief Groups (NAGC), so that others may emulate this model. The Center is part of the National Alliance for Grieving Children, an umbrella organization that has more than 350 bereavement centers nationwide as members. Each year, NAGC holds a conference, which many members attend, and The Center’s clinical team has presented on its innovational Community Grief Group programming for the last three years. The Center’s Executive Director was also recently elected to the Board of Directors of NAGC where she will have a role and voice to share this work. The Center also works within the Philadelphia area with victim service agencies and government agencies, including DBHIDS, in the Network of Neighbors collaborative. In this role, The Center can share its programming with other providers in the City of Philadelphia.


The Center funds all of its programming entirely through private giving, including foundation grants, events, individual giving, and corporate support. The Community Grief Groups program is extremely lean, costing approximately $2500 per group. While The Center continually works to build on its private giving, it is also exploring alternative funding sources to increase capacity, including applying for Victim of Crime Act funding to support homicide-only grief groups and exploring partnerships with the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual DisAbility Services (DBHIdS) and the Department of Human Services (DHS). A wide variety of partners have a vested interest in the Community Grief Groups program, including the Philadelphia School District, Charter Schools, DBHIDS, Northeast Treatment Center, Juvenile Justice Services Center, DHS, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). All of these programs refer to and invest in The Center and its Community Grief Group Program, as they are able.


In creating the Community Grief Group program, The Center’s clinical team utilized a core curriculum that it modifies with participant input to tailor each group. While innovative, this core curriculum, as well as the modification model and guidelines, are replicable and transferable. The Center’s clinical team has an extensive background in training professionals on trauma and grief in children, and their expertise in training would make successful transfer and adaptation possible for other organizations. Through its leadership within NAGC, The Center is connected with a wide variety of grief organizations throughout the country. The Center could train, transfer the curriculum, and help adapt the curriculum for interested organizations. Additionally, because there are not many urban-based grief centers, this model could encourage the growth of such centers and give them a framework upon which to build their programs in a way that best fits their community.


Since the creation in 2013, Community Grief Groups has served more than 1,400 grieving children and youth in the City of Philadelphia. While these numbers are impressive, the self-reported results speak volumes. Community Grief Group participants report a 50% increase in their ability to cope from before group to after group. 100% of the group leaders rate the groups as very high quality and 94% would recommend the groups to a professional peer. The Center’s Community Grief Groups are making an impact on the City of Philadelphia, providing safe grief processing and coping skills to youth across the city. This program is equipping the next generation to deal with the problems of today, so that they can prosper tomorrow. This program can be built out to help other cities and communities dealing with similar childhood grief and trauma in underserved communities, bridging need with hope.