Healing Gardens Help Children Overcome Abuse

New Jersey rooftop space provides a refuge to children who have suffered abuse or trauma.

May 6, 2016


On the rooftop of the Audrey Hepburn Children’s House in Hackensack, New Jersey sits an oasis of plants, flowers, gardening areas, scarecrows and more. To most, this garden may seem no different than any other rooftop garden with an urban backdrop. But for the clients and the staff, this “healing garden” provides an outlet to those who have gone through traumatizing events.

We want to take a moment to highlight the services of our community partner, the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Center at the Hackensack University Medical Center. The rooftop healing garden – opened in October 2015 – is just one of the many services this unique facility offers children who have suffered abuse or trauma.

As the medical center explains, the garden, “designed by City Green in conjunction with the Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center® at Hackensack UMC, incorporates different spaces within the garden, including a sitting area for casual lunch or snacking, a lounge-like, confidential space for therapy sessions and a garden work area with potting bench and raised planter beds.

“The heart of what we do here is healing,” Dr. Anthony D’Urso, section chief and supervising psychologist at the House told The Record when the garden was dedicated. The sustainable gardens, D’Urso added, compliments the work they do. “Sustainability is important because abuse is not something that is a one-time thing and we need an environment that is sustainable to the therapy.”

To see the garden, check out this local news broadcast about it.

The Audrey Hepburn Children’s House is a division in The Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital and is a state-designated Regional Diagnostic Center for Child Abuse and Neglect serving Bergen, Passaic, Hudson, Morris, Sussex and Warren counties.

As the CDC notes, child protection service agencies reported about 702,000 children were substantiated victims of child abuse or neglect in 2014. Approximately 1 in 10 children are the victim of one of the four types of abuse – physical, emotional, sexual and neglect. More than 1,500 children died in the United States in 2014 from abuse and neglect.

The Audrey Hepburn Children’s House annually treats more than 1,200 children. Its professional staff includes physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers and child life specialists who have clinical expertise in all areas of child abuse. The staff provides comprehensive care for both the child and their family. The House also takes on a multidisciplinary approach to the investigation, diagnosis and treatment of child abuse by collaborating with community agencies that service child victims and their families.

Now in its 14th year, the Audrey Hepburn Children’s House is named for the film icon, who was a symbol of beauty and style. Hepburn, who died in 1993, dedicated her life to helping children around the world. Her sons, Sean Hepburn Ferrer and Luca Dotti, through a fund in their mother’s name partnered with Hackensack University Medical Center Foundation to open the facility.

Hepburn’s dedication to children came from her own experiences as a young girl growing up in World War II Europe. In Nazi-occupied Netherlands, a starving Hepburn would turn to eating tulip bulbs to stay alive. It was experiences like these that pushed her toward work with organizations like UNICEF.

Now through Audrey Hepburn Children’s House, the work continues. As her long-time partner Robert Wolders said, “What I feel she would have wanted, had she been given more time, would have been to continue her efforts on behalf of children - because she knew it is a never-ending task with much still to be accomplished. If there is anything she would have wished for it is that her work be continued.

Given the immense love and tenderness she felt for her own children - the knowledge of having inspired them to continue her work would have been her greatest reward.”


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