WHY THE JACKSON HOLE LEADERSHIP PROGRAM IS MEANINGFUL ….but don’t take our word for it

As we finish our last month of the Leadership Jackson Hole Program we thought we would share how meaningful this has been for youth in our community. Thank you to the parents of the students who have participated for entrusting us with your child and thank you to the donors who have helped provide funding to keep this program affordable!

“Jackson Leadership Camp has offered our son the ability to grow as an individual and to explore the amazing place we get to call home. Isaac looks forward to camp each year as one of his summer highlights and returns energized with a stronger sense of self worth and an ability to overcome challenge. The leaders have always taken the time to recognize and build on the attendees strengths and individual abilities. I   appreciate the way the leaders focus on each child as a truly unique individual and that they have the knowledge and training to bring out the best in our son.” 
—JHLP camper’s parent 
“Leadership camp for me has been the best experience in my whole life! The counselors are so supportive and never put pressure on us kids if we don’t want to do something. For example, the first year I did the camp we went to the Journey’s School to do the ropes course and team building activities. When it was my turn to do the ropes course I was totally and completely petrified – but they helped me through it!”  
-Camper Issac

How Do We Shift into Summer?

Much the same as for families, shifting from the school year to summer time brings changes in activities, work schedules and  supervision requirements at Teton Youth and Family Services. Children have more free time that gets filled with varied commitments for sports, jobs, camps, and activities.
Our Leadership Program, for any middle school students, is in full swing starting on June 18th. Youth spend a week doing outdoor activities such as canoeing, kayaking, ropes course and/or backpacking all of which involve getting to know, trust and work with a varied peer group.
The Van Vleck House Group Home and Crisis Shelter have a  productive and fun schedule that fills each day. Some students have jobs or other activities in the community. All of which keeps the staff and students extra busy.
While School continues until mid-July at Red Top and is followed by a 24-day wilderness trip, the daily activities shift from skiing and broomball to jogging and soccer with outdoor duties shifting from shoveling to gardening.
Summer at Red Top also brings the opportunity to take seven young men who are not residents at RTM, but have exhibited dysfunctional behaviors at school or in the home, on a 21-day backpacking trip. This incredibly valuable experience is made possible by a generous grant from the Geraldine W. and Robert J. Dellenback Foundation.
The activities and daily schedule at TYFS change with the end of the school year, but what we are really doing stays the same throughout the year. That is, helping young people and families find their way to fulfilling and constructive lives by helping them improve their relationships with peers and within the family and with our community.

Meet our Newest Team Member!

The Hirschfield Center for Children is excited to welcome Nancy Hall, PPC to the TYFS team. Nancy’s education and commitment to children and their families makes her a perfect fit for the position of family advocate. As a family advocate at the Hirschfield Center, Nancy will have the opportunity to support clients through individual child therapy as well as working with the whole family system. Nancy loves kids and shares that she feels privileged to work with them during such critical developmental stages. Her strong belief in the power of play allows for a profound level of communication to develop naturally, even with those with whom trust is scary. She is also thrilled to assist our adult clients, who work so hard to do their very best to provide and care for their children.

Nancy has lived in Jackson for just under a year and believes that she has really found her home in this community. Jackson’s size, culture, and vibrant atmosphere helped pull her here from Austin, TX, where she had lived for the previous nine years. Although she had never visited Jackson, it was a risk that “felt right.” Her intuition is now benefitting TYFS and helping to strengthen the families we serve.

You’ll be likely to see Nancy around town with her dog, Amadeus, or cheer her on as she competes with her roller derby team, the JH Juggernauts.

Teen Power: Fostering Relationships Through Jobs

“Our work is about relationships.”  This message is true and fundamental to TYFS as a whole, and the Teen Power is certainly no exception. Teen Power is an extra-curricular activity open to all Jackson Hole Middle School students. We seek to connect youth looking for work experience with community members who could use an extra hand. But far beyond that, Teen Power is an  opportunity to develop individual character strengths and meaningful relationships.

This past summer an older adult who was having difficulties being active enough to exercise her dog called to inquire about Teen Power’s services. We were able to connect, Jessica, a 7th grade student who lives in the same neighborhood, with Donna and her pup, Bella. Jessica loved the opportunity to make some money, but her parents were more excited about witnessing her place a high value on helping others while demonstrating responsibility. Now that school is in session, Jessica can only help out a few times a week, but in hearing her talk about her first work experience one can easily identify a growing sense of personal power and purpose. Jessica also forged a connection with Donna, who acted as another caring adult in her life.

Not all Teen Power jobs result in long-term relationships, many are one-time home or yard projects or babysitting needs. These still contribute to a student’s sense of self. The weekly after-school component allows for career exploration at the same time as students learn about communication, team-building, gratitude, and other soft skills fundamental to future growth and success.  We believe that by providing a  supportive context in which young  people can feel more connected to something they care about, they will be less likely to engage in maladaptive  future behaviors.  We strive to keep our work centered on developmental relationships by helping young people discover who they are; develop abilities to shape their own lives; and learn how to engage with and contribute to the world around them. If you are interested in learning more or have an opportunity or a student to work, please contact Ben Brettell at bbrettell@tyfs.org or 733-7946.

 

IT’S ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS: A Mom and Son Overcome

I first met Zach nearly one year ago.  He was referred to the Hirschfield Center for Children by his elementary school counselor.  Zach was already meeting with a therapist, but the school staff saw how his behaviors were related to instability at home.  Poor social skills, defiance and anger towards teachers, and a lack of self-confidence were the symptoms. The Hirschfield Center for Children [HCC] collaborated with Zach, his mom, and the professionals already involved to peel back some of the layers and understand more about what was going on for our new young client. Zach’s mom, a single parent, was smart and made a good salary.  She cared deeply for her son but was struggling to find the time and energy Zach needed as she was running on fumes herself. Our plan was multi-faceted and centered around working with the family on their goals to strengthen their relationships.

Zach would meet weekly with HCC staff in the community: having fun, building trust, and learning social and  emotional skills to use at home and at school.  Mom also met with us on a weekly basis.  She found support and a place to process and brainstorm.  She tried new parenting techniques and built in time for connection and fun each day with Zach, even if only for 15 minutes.  As their  attachment and connection grew, not only did the blow-outs reduce in frequency and duration, but Zach’s issues at school also lessened.  He was getting positive attention in   other venues and was also able to vocalize and express his more difficult feelings.  By focusing on empathy and connection, as well as self-care, Zach’s mom found renewed energy, which, perhaps to her own surprise, she needed to tap into less and less.

Sharing a space with Zach and his mom, as we occasionally do in family check-ins together, is warmer, freer, and more natural.  When things are difficult, as they still can be, having the added depth of connection built on empathy, laughter, and shared experiences allows for more choices to present themselves.  Zach is excited about school, has had many positive experiences with peers at camps this summer (including JH Leadership Program!), and is excited about a long weekend trip to Salt Lake City that he and his mom have been planning together.

By welcoming families from all walks of life, and meeting them where they are individually, the Hirschfield Center is able to offer a window into the rewards their efforts will garner.  People sometimes ask us how we keep working in the face of trauma, abuse, and family dysfunction, the answer, always, is focusing on the strengths present.

Working To Prevent Child Abuse

Child abuse in the United States is a significant problem.  In 2007, approximately 5.8 million children were  involved in an estimated 3.2 million child abuse reports and allegations.  Almost five children die every day as a result of abuse; 3 out of 4 are 4 years old or younger.  It is estimated that 1 out of 5 girls and 1 out of 7 boys will be sexually abused by the time they reach their 18th birthday.  90% report being sexually abused by  someone that they know and 68% report being abused by a family member.  Over 60% of patients in substance abuse treatment centers report being sexually victimized as children.  Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education.  The  estimated annual cost for child abuse and neglect in the United States for year 2007 was $104 billion.  All statistics from http://www.childhelp.org/pages/statistics/. 

In Wyoming, by statute, all counties are required to have a Child Protection Team (CPT) that serves the purpose of tracking and monitoring cases where abuse has taken place.  In Teton County, our CPT meets weekly with many collaborating agencies including the School District, County Attorney’s Office, Jackson Hole Community Counseling Center, Teton County Victim Services, Department of Family Services and the Hirschfield Center.  As a team, we discuss cases and try to ensure that child victims are receiving the most appropriate services, however our vision is much larger.

Through the Hirschfield Center we facilitate mandatory reporting and child abuse trainings to Teton County schools, day care facilities, Teton County Parks and Recreation as well as church groups.  Through this approach of educating professionals in the community that spend significant amounts of time with children, we hope to identify kids where ‘something just doesn’t seem quite right.’  Sometimes these children have experienced abuse or perhaps there is a budding mental health issue, but the goal remains the same: provide early intervention.

Through the Hirschfield Center’s Family Advocate Project, we will complete a comprehensive family assessment, write a report and make recommendations for the family.  These families come to the Hirschfield Center through a number of different channels including Department of Family Services, the Counseling Center, the Court System, School District or self referral.  We will work with a family on a number of different issues including parenting education, appropriate consequences and structure for their household, and counseling and referrals to appropriate community agencies.  Our advocates will often spend over 2 hours per week with a Hirschfield Center client in order to assist in helping the family function at a higher level.