Malvern treatment center uses feathered friends to help kids cope with COVID-19 stress


MALVERN, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — A treatment center in Chester County that offers mental health support for teens and their families is using chickens to help patients cope with the stress caused by the pandemic.

Newport Healthcare's Center for Families in Malvern is an intensive outpatient program for adolescents who struggle with things like depression, anxiety or substance abuse.

"Because of the pandemic, what we have been seeing, therapists have been seeing kids really with very, very heightened anxiety and a lot of depression and what we've seen is the chickens really help in grounding the kids, reducing their anxiety," said Elizabeth McCarron, director of outpatient services.

"Just petting an animal can increase serotonin, increase oxytocin which really can elevate mood and then they’re just fun."

McCarron says the chickens have become a benchmark to the program.

"We have Mighty Mouse. We just got some new chickens too, so the kids are working on their names. One of the favorites is Butterscotch," she said. "The kids have really fallen in love with them. They play with them every day, they feed them, they take care of them. They look forward to seeing them."

McCarron said caring for an animal invites kids to let down their guard and feel a sense of trust and connection, as well as a purpose.