The Healer: Candice Cox
By Shadress Burks
Connecting the dots in broken people in efforts to make them whole again is something she works hard at. Helping people find their way back to their center place of peace is what she cherishes. Candice Cox, Founder of K.H.A.O.S. and K.H.A.O.S. Kids does just that daily. As a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), Cox takes the time to do what most of us finds so very little time for…just listen. In a world where a lot of people hear what you say versus listening, Cox creates a haven for people to talk and she simply listens. With ten years in her field, Cox stated this was not her original career plan. With a love for children and passion to fix people, pediatric nursing was what she set her sights on working in. Regardless to what title she would possess, she knew she wanted to be planted in something involving helping people. Realizing she was not particularly fond of the science field, nor death, Cox quickly changed her trajectory. “I just knew I wanted to help people be better, that’s it,” she says which is why she landed in the social work field. Helping people help themselves is what she feels the scope of her job is. Putting her passion to the test, Cox got her start when she moved to Arkansas for personal reasons, though found herself right in the middle of where she was supposed to be and obviously, very needed.
Immediately taking notice to the fact there were no black therapists in a town with a large, black population; Cox dove in head first putting a plan together. “Honestly, I just felt it’s not okay for white people to teach black people about black trauma, because they don’t have any experience with it,” she spoke as the further explained the importance of being able to relate to your patients, so an open dialogue can begin their healing process. Bursting onto the scene with a different approach, Cox tells me of her first encounter with the cradle to prison pipeline that seemed to be occurring within the town. Unhappy with what she was seeing, Cox swiftly took on the role of advocating for the children. Understanding the “it takes a village” mentality, she also began to get the parents together. Holding meetings in a local school, she educated them on what was happening to their children and how they needed to step in now before it became too late. On track to making a difference, Cox created other activities to aid the children in becoming college graduates versus inmates of the state. With her passion moving full steam ahead, Cox created the curriculum to what would be the stepping stone to her KHAOS program.
Yet and still, even when you are doing good, someone will always find a way to dim your light. Spotting other racial issues that were occurring, Cox began shedding a light on other questionable practices regarding minorities within the town. Not happy with the stones in which she was turning over, Cox’s license was brought under attack by a local resident. After being blacklisted, Cox picked herself back up and kept pushing. Determined to not let fear block her, she remained on track and stayed focus on her purpose. Knowing she had touched a part of their lives, Cox remained in contact with the young girls she impacted along the way. Confident in the difference she was making, seeing what was still needed to be done, and working within other programs; Cox knew it was time to create her own life changing program.
“I believe trauma is embedded in our DNA…” – Cox
Believing that mental health issues were the underlying cause to the violence, stress, and other undiscussed problems occurring within the black community; Cox went on to explain how as a people we have never had a chance to heal from the trauma that occurred to us; therefore, we are seeing the after effects of the untreated trauma today. “I believe trauma is embedded in our DNA. We’ve never had a chance to heal from what happened to us when we arrived in this country,” she said. I listened as she explained her broken people theory and absorbed how what she was saying could very well be true. With years of seeing up close the unraveling behaviors coming from a broken family can become; Cox founded KHAOS and KHAOS KIDS. After working at the Boys and Girls club in Cape Girardeau, Cox saw what could happen when you gave kids a voice to speak about things they often felt uncomfortable speaking about. Structuring her program to work on the whole family as a unit; Cox explained how the real healing begins when everyone in the household is a part of it and re-reflects on her broken people philosophy. “I can’t have the kids come in here and we’re working on them and their parents need help as well, it will only reverse the progress,” Cox explains.
Identifying there may be a lot of issues which affect certain behaviors, she breaks down what each patient may need according to their circumstances. This is where her books and characters come into play. As someone who grew up undiagnosed, Cox has an intimate relationship with it and works closely with kids who have ADHD. Penning the book, Please Oh Please, Be Patient with Me; Cox helps parents with children who have the diagnosis better understand what they are struggling with and equips them with the tools to be more patient to how they function. Seeing how characters help children cope and improve, Cox created individual characters for her KHAOS KIDS program. Each character suffers from something that over the years she has encountered being a social worker. The idea behind it is to reiterate the many steps and mottos her programs are built around. Taking one day at a time, Cox allows people to travel their own path and gives all her patients the room they need to come to terms with their healing. One of her biggest lessons since beginning this journey has been that she cannot force people to heal if they are not ready to heal. However, for those that are ready, she heavily instills her KHAOS mindset. Keep healing and overcoming struggles is a mantra she lives by and helping others see how healing and becoming a better person is a daily goal we all work towards and doesn’t mean life has to stop while doing it.