Helping Children Affected by Domestic Violence on their Journey to Healing

Young girlsAt YWCA Evanston/North Shore’s domestic violence shelter, we provide emergency shelter for up to 32 women* and children every night. On average each year, we serve 70 to 80 children living in the shelter. The majority (around 60%) of children are under 5 years old.

Along with service offerings for the domestic violence victim herself, we offer programming specifically designed for children in the shelter. Through their participation in the program, children learn that they are not alone in their journey, find their voice, and experience parts of
themselves that they haven’t yet had the opportunity to experience. Ultimately children can begin to see their future in a new light.

*When we talk about domestic violence, we often refer to women and mothers. We recognize that survivors of domestic violence are not exclusively women. We accept male survivors into our shelter, the majority of our residents are women.

Program Offerings:

  1. Therapeutic Play (for children 5 and under) – Children can work with our staff for up to 8 hours per week in a safe space where they can play freely and learn to interact with other children with gentle redirection. Mothers may also utilize this program when they are in individual therapy in order to have a separate space from their children to openly discuss the abuse that they have endured.
  2. Group Sessions (for children 3 and older) – Children can attend up to 4 group sessions a week where they can participate in activities to help them process their experiences gently and without pressure. Further, children learn to reduce stress, increase their coping skills and mitigate the long-term negative impacts of abuse.
  3. Individual and Family Therapy (for child 3 years and older) – As requested by the parent, children can engage in individual and family therapy on a weekly basis.
  4. School Advocacy – When children arrive at the shelter, we work with their current school or nearby schools to ensure they are enrolled and receiving appropriate services. We act as a liaison between the family and the school and advocate on the family’s behalf whenever necessary.


Our children’s programming focuses on four key elements:

Children may grow physically, but trauma impairs them from growing cognitively and emotionally.
Hillary Douin, Clinical Services Manager
Parents need to heal in order to be parents. Mothers at the shelter adore their children but they don’t always know how to translate that because they first need to know how to love and admire themselves.
Norma Canelas, Children’s Program Coordinator

Mother and childOctober is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

ALL DONATIONS made in October to support survivors of domestic violence will be MATCHED by an anonymous donor.