Compassion + Care for All Ages

A family-centered, youth-focused model of care to make life better for kids and teens impacted by cancer. 

Here at the Dempsey Center, we provide services—movement + fitness, nutrition, integrative therapies, and more—not only for adult clients, but for youth and families as well. These services can be accessed individually or in groups with opportunities to build connection with others on a similar journey.

Youth + Family Support at the Dempsey Center

We understand that navigating the cancer journey for youth is a unique point in time, and we are here to help you every step of the way.

*Please Note: As of November 13th, 2023 we are not accepting new clients for youth counseling services. We do, however, have numerous workshops, classes, and groups to support you at any point in your cancer journey. Find all of our upcoming workshops at the link below or, for immediate support, view our list of trusted resources here.

Get Started

An Introduction is your first step in accessing our Youth and Family services. For youth, connection to the environment and the people they might encounter are important to establishing the Dempsey Center as a source of comfort and safety. Additionally, this time allows staff to better understand the needs of your family to provide individualized care throughout your time at the Dempsey Center. During the introduction, your family will create a resource bag, tour the Center, and talk about services that are available to you. 

Consultation and Guidance

Talking with your child or teen about your own or a loved one’s diagnosis can be difficult and many adults struggle with how to share the news and answer questions. We understand these feelings and are prepared to help you each step of the way.

To help you navigate your family’s journey with cancer, we’ve gathered some trusted resources that can drive conversations, answer questions, and assist your family in providing open and honest information. 

Meet the Team

Eva Goldfinger, LMSW-cc

Eva Goldfinger (LMSW-cc) holds a Master of Social Work degree from the University of New England. She has experience working with children, adolescents, and families in a variety of settings, such as outdoor education programs, public schools, and outpatient facilities. Eva believes that every human has the innate capacity for growth and healing when shown compassion, unconditional positive regard, and regulation skills to handle difficult feelings. Eva uses a variety of therapeutic modalities, including Narrative Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and Motivational Interviewing. Here at the Dempsey Center, Eva works with youth and families to build resiliency during difficult times. She often incorporates play, art, and mindfulness practices into her counseling sessions.

Frequently asked questions

I haven’t told my children about the cancer diagnosis yet. Do they need to know before they visit and can a Counselor tell them instead?

Yes and no. Children need to be told who is sick and that the sickness is called “cancer” before they visit the Dempsey Center. You are the best person to inform your children that someone they care about has cancer because it reinforces their trust in you. If you have questions about how to talk to your children or answer difficult questions they may ask, our counselors are great resources to listen to your concerns and offer guidance. We also have resources to help you here.

My kids are doing well right now and I don’t want to worry them by bringing them to a counselor at this time. What would be the benefit of introducing them now?

By introducing young people to the Dempsey Center when things are going well, they have the opportunity to meet a Healing Tree counselor at a time when they are not in distress, allowing them to develop a safe connection they can turn to later. It is also important to know that an Introduction is not counseling — it is simply a time to meet, let your children know that they are important, and demonstrate that the Dempsey Center is a safe place for them. An added benefit is that the counselor you meet with will also get to know your family better so that we can provide the best individualized care for you in the future.

I think my children are too young to understand cancer. How do I know if they are being affected by it or not?

Children can be affected by cancer in various ways and at any age. Depending on the relationship to the person with cancer, the age of the child, and the seriousness of the illness, the recommendations and support will vary. Although children under the age of 3 may not have the ability to cognitively understand what cancer is, they feel the stress that their parents are experiencing and are especially affected if their routines are changed as a result. Common warning signs for very young children include regression in skills or behaviors and an increase in “clinginess.” Youth and family counselors can talk with you about your particular circumstance and offer insight and guidance to help you mitigate the impact on your children. Our counselors can also guide you toward possible support options within the Dempsey Center and your community.

What happens if I decide not to tell my children about the seriousness of cancer but still want them to receive support?

Support at the Dempsey Center is still possible and parents and counselors will work together to find a solution that best supports the entire family. The recommended guidance for parents is to give open and honest information in a way that children can understand. This is important because most distress that children/teens experience when affected by cancer is caused when they are unable to express the difficult and complex emotions they feel, ask important questions, or trust that their parents will communicate honestly with them about changes in their lives. Withholding information can damage their trust in you. It is important to know that counselors will never offer specific or private health information to children or teens but they will honor the child’s right to ask questions. It is important to know that counselors will never lie to a child or prevent them from talking about something they wish to during counseling, support groups, or other programming. Creating a safe place to share worries, thoughts, and fears is a central element of support.

I’m concerned for my child/teen but he/she is shut down and I’m afraid he/she will not want to come to the Dempsey Center or not speak while there. What should I do?

This scenario happens often and is most common with teenagers. Teens are often shut down because they are working hard to avoid confronting the upsetting feelings related to this cancer experience. Visiting a cancer center is, of course, in total contradiction to their natural desire to avoid the source of their distress. Despite this, bringing your child/teen in for an Introduction is a great way to de-bunk any misconceptions they might have about what the Dempsey Center is. They do not have to share anything they do not want to and they are the ones in charge during their visit. Healing Tree counselors are easy to be with and offer a warm, energetic, and fun experience that can put even the most reserved youth at ease.

Can I bring a child with me to other programs or services at the Dempsey Center if they have not had an Introduction?

Healing Tree designated services are the only programs at the Dempsey Center intended for youth. Bringing a child with you to a program or service intended for adults may prevent you from participating. Occasionally, if children are older, can entertain themselves quietly, and are not disruptive to a program, the instructor or provider of the service may approve their attendance. Children under the age of 12 should never be left unsupervised. Please be aware that as a cancer support center, cancer is frequently talked about openly. If this is a concern, it is probably a better choice to not bring the child with you to an adult service. If childcare is a barrier for you to receive oncology support at the Dempsey Center or treatment at a local hospital, please ask to speak with the Youth and Family Services Manager to find out more about our free short-term childcare solution through the YMCA of Lewiston/Auburn.

There is a child I am concerned about but I am not their parent. Can I, or we, still use the Youth and Family services?

Yes, you can speak with a counselor for support and discuss your concerns. Following this discussion, a counselor will need to speak with the child’s parents or legal guardians and receive consent in order for them to use services, if you decide that this is still something you would like to pursue.

There is a family I am close to and I think they could benefit from services, could you reach out to them? (i.e. family friend, extended family, etc.)

Unfortunately, no. The Dempsey Center’s policy states that we will not reach out to someone unless they have already given permission to do so. Our recommendation is that you gather information for the family and encourage them to contact us when they are ready. If the family is interested in support but just overwhelmed, you are welcome to schedule a visit on their behalf and/or accompany them to the Dempsey Center.