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.

Learning to Take Control

People typically have one of two perspectives on intelligence and innate ability: they either believe it’s fixed and can’t be changed and that exerting effort or making mistakes are signs of stupidity, or they believe it can be improved through hard work and that effort and mistakes will increase their abilities. The former is called a fixed mindset and the latter, a growth mindset. Science has shown that intelligence actually can grow through effort, problem solving, and risk taking. Teaching the growth mindset has been shown to increase student achievement, school engagement, and motivation.

At Red Top Meadows, students typically arrive to the program well below grade level and with countless failures in the classroom.

Over the past two years, the school has taught about the brain and the growth mindset. Students made models of neurons. They demonstrated how intelligence grows by strengthening neural pathways through effort. In writing about a time when they had to work hard, try different strategies, and get help from others to learn something new, they strengthened the understanding of the growth mindset. Students also compared their muscles to their brains to explain how they can grow their intelligence and made brain hats to take on the role of the brain to learn how the different lobes function.

The frontal lobe of the brain, which is responsible for some executive function abilities (planning, problem solving, emotional and physical regulation, and organization), can be strengthened through mindfulness meditation activities. During science class every day, the students do mindfulness activities. The final lesson in the growth mindset and neuroscience unit will have them determine how they can use meditation to strengthen the frontal lobe and take charge of the rest of their body, their thinking, and their behavior.

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.

Red Top Meadows School Newsletter Spring 2018

Personal Finance: As the Personal Finance course comes to an end, the focus has moved toward wise consumerism Students evaluated marketing and brand recognition by viewing popular commercials, reading about teens as the largest market in the country, analyzing how expensive it can be to succumb to marketing schemes, and determining how to negotiate their way through the world of marketing.

 

Language Arts: With the spring wilderness theme of spirituality, reflection, and change, students read the work of several poets, analyzed the different forms of poetry, and created a book of poems addressing issues in their lives.

 

Math: Middle school math students translated written phrases into mathematical expressions, practiced the order of operations, combined like terms in algebraic expressions, and used the distributive property to solve for variables in one and two-step equations. Algebra I students solved real-world and hands- on problems to develop their algebra skills. Students graphed and solved inequalities, absolute value equations, and also used graphing to solve linear equations. Geometry students proved their understanding of several advanced geometry concepts through practice problems. Students learned the material through textbooks, videos, investigations, and online interactives. Topics included points, lines, and angles; proving theorems with deductive and inductive reasoning; parallel and perpendicular lines and planes; angle relationships; equations of slopes and lines; triangles; and segments and angles.

Algebra II students solved systems of linear equations and inequalities. They practiced some of the basics of linear programming and analyzed graphs of linear equations in three dimensions.

 

Reading: Students in reading class played reading games, breaking down words into their affixes and roots and using those to determine word meaning.

 

Science: In Physical Science, students created comic strips to demonstrate the factors that contribute to the  unique climate of the Galapagos Islands. Next, students modeled the phases of the moon by making i-Movies showing how movement within the Earth-sun-moon system results in the phases of the moon. They also modeled how the axis of the Earth results in seasonal changes globally. Students also experimented with nuclear fusion to demonstrate how elements in the sun fuse and release radiation that powers energy-dependent processes on Earth. Biology students practiced using and developing dichotomous keys to identify organisms and illustrated how the processes of photosynthesis and cellular respiration work together to ensure organisms on Earth have the energy they need to grow, develop, and reproduce.

 

Social Studies: Students in Government determined how political parties emerged after the presidency of George Washington. They got two perspectives on the role of federal government by reading the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers. Students created charts and researched the differences between the two main political parties. In World History, students researched and developed Power Points on a nation in Central or South America to investigate concepts of colonialism and independence from England. Finally, students analyzed the French Revolution by answering questions about the reign of Napoleon.

 

Life Literacy: Students practiced and reflected on mindfulness. Next, when the mindfulness unit ended, students shifted to a focus on the Escalante Desert. The class conducted experiments with rust, made observations of artifacts from the desert, and collected and used evidence to argue whether they thought scientists had enough evidence to prove there was once liquid water on Mars.

 

VISION: All students will acquire the academic, social, and behavioral skills necessary for success in school and in life.
MISSION: To increase students’ confidence as learners by providing multiple opportunities for academic, social, and behavioral success; to cultivate students’ capacity to generalize the process of learning in the classroom to learning in life; and to empower students’ ability to make and sustain positive change.

Building Relationships and Starting Conversations

“To help children and families find their way to fulfilling and constructive lives”: This is the mission of TYFS as a whole, and directly aligned with my goal as a therapist for the Van Vleck Group Home and Adam’s Canyon Crisis Shelter.

I took over the role as individual and family therapist for these two facilities back in May of 2017. While they serve different purposes and meet different needs, we begin the relationship with these children and families the same way; by starting a conversation.  By opening these lines of communication and starting this dialogue we begin shedding light on the bigger picture of what factors are impacting the family and child’s life, both positively and negatively.  We become more aware of what aspects of life they struggled with and how we can best begin addressing it as a team. Whether in a long term placement or crisis placement, our residents are in treatment for a limited amount of time and a large part of our job is providing the support and resources necessary to begin setting children and families up for success where they previously struggled. For the family, the conversation starts with focusing on what is going well, what strengths both the parents and the children possess and what has worked in the past. This creates a positive and proactive foundation based on already present strengths and skills of the family as a whole. Once this foundation is established, we move the conversation towards the concept of empowerment and autonomy. This is helping both the parents and child begin to feel that they have some power over the choices they are making as well as the impact those choices have on their life and those around them. Many times we need to understand this to recognize which behaviors are maladaptive and that we have the capability to respond in new ways to old situations.  These skills can range from learning how to ask for what you need to creating choices to accepting responsibility for behavior and responses. This constitutes the bulk of the work done in individual and family therapy as well as in group home and crisis shelter. These concepts of empowerment and autonomy promote social and communication skills, encourage positive peer interactions and aid in establishing healthy relationships.

Whether a 30-day voluntary crisis placement or a long term court-ordered placement, the end goal is to set the foundation for success in the future and provide support and resources needed to facilitate continued success. As an organization we work closely with other community resources to connect children and  families to these supports and ensure the family feels prepared for the future.

2018 Budget Session Update for TYFS

The 2018 Legislative Session is a Budget Session, with many difficult decisions facing our State Legislators on how to form a balanced budget when State revenues have decreased significantly over the last few years. The Department of Family Services and the Department of Health have seen major cuts (about 30%) in their budgets in the last two years. However, this year in response to a proposed State budget reduction in daily rate paid to residential treatment centers and group homes  Governor Mead wrote, “ I recommend denial of the reduction to the standard budget. This reduction impedes a provider’s ability to provide adequate services for court-ordered youth who cannot be served by their local communities.” I greatly appreciate the Governor acknowledging that programs such as Red Top Meadows and the Van Vleck Group Home cannot sustain further cuts in payments received from the State.

He specifically addressed the daily rate paid by the State for service and the Joint Appropriations committee, thanks to in large part to Representative Schwartz, has said via their budget that numbers of youth served should not continue to be reduced.  The statements made by the Governor and the Appropriations Committee were greatly appreciated and speak to the importance of helping troubled young people find a new and better direction while they are still young.

It makes me anxious to watch and listen to the process of discussing how much service we should provide for troubled youth and then read the paper regarding the tragic shootings in Florida this past week. I do not know a great deal about the shooters history  but I know he needed much more supervision and treatment than he received. Because of economics there is a consistent push to make treatment shorter and faster, and I understand there are limits to funding, but we need to be careful to not create tragedies in order to address short falls in budget incomes.

Thank you to Governor Mead, Representative Schwartz and the Joint Appropriations committee for understanding the importance of our work. We hope the whole of the Wyoming Legislature does too.

Staff Highlight: NOAH STRAUSS

Noah Strauss was born in Brunswick, Maine.

He attended the University of Maine in Orono where he majored in Elementary Education. He then moved to Jackson Hole two days after graduation to ski and play.

He was drawn to work at the Van Vleck House so that he could engage in active work with kids, where his fun loving nature could shine through. He likes the fact that there is constant change in his job with all the different kids he interacts with.

Noah enjoys getting the kids to participate in physical activities that they might not have tried before and loves helping to create new experiences for the kids. According to Noah he gets the most gratification from “seeing growth happen, seeing the kids improve their lives, to return home,  and witnessing a-ha moments for kids when they gain insight into their lives.”

Noah has worked at TYFS since 2013. He is currently a Lead Youth Counselor at the Van Vleck House.

ADAMS CANYON STAFF SECURE FACILITY

Over the past year, Teton Youth & Family Services has begun to offer a new service to the community. This service comes in the wake of an increasing number of adolescents who are reporting suicidal ideation. Often these kids show up at the hospital, but are also being identified as at risk by school personnel, their parents or the Counseling Center. The service that we offer is utilizing the Staff Secure portion of the Adam’s Canyon Crisis Shelter to house and care for adolescents in a suicidal crisis for up to 72 hours.

While this is not the same level of definitive care that one would find in a hospital setting, it is a safe and secure setting which allows families to rest knowing their child is in good hands while a more definitive plan is made.     Staff Secure means that we have two staff available per individual resident and that the resident agrees to stay in placement voluntarily with the consent of their parents. We are able to provide this service through a collaborative effort between Teton County Government, St John’s Hospital and the Jackson Hole Community Counseling Center (JHCCC). An adolescent who is identified as in need of help can come into the ER or go directly to the JHCCC for an evaluation. A team decision is then made as to the best course of action given the concerns.

Part of the difficulty in helping teens in this type of crisis is that given our rural setting, it can require many hours of travel to find definitive care for these young people. The distances required to travel to Idaho Falls, Casper or even Salt Lake City put a strain on parents who are scared for their child’s safety or local law enforcement personnel who are sometimes called upon to provide transportation. Additionally, St. John’s Hospital is not equipped with a therapeutic setting and staff to help these kids during a crisis. Our Staff Secure facility allows for close supervision with caring individuals who are trained in suicidal intervention. The staff are supervised by our clinical therapist who also meets with the youth and has the additional assistance of a therapist from JHCCC who performs the initial assessment as well as provides ongoing assessment of the individual.

As a precursor to opening this service, we performed a safety audit of our facility with the assistance of the St John’s Hospital safety specialist. In association with Teton County Facilities Department, we completed several safety upgrades that have rendered a safer and more therapeutic setting for youth. During the past year we have been able to serve 10 youth in various levels of suicidal crisis. This has allowed their families much needed respite. In some cases, the adolescents were able to return home with a safety plan and referrals for further counseling. For others, it meant a brief crisis placement then a return home. Those adolescents with the most acute need were able to access more definitive treatment in a psychiatric setting.

For more information about this service please contact 307-733-6440.

RESIDENTIAL TREATMENT FACILITY GIVES BACK TO COMMUNITY

The theme of fall at Red Top Meadows is community service and the importance of being a positive member of a community. The staff and residents recently returned from their Fall Wilderness Experience where our residents paired up with the Jackson Ranger District Forest Service Trail Crew to work on trails down the North Fork of Fall Creek. The ultimate goal, that we have been working on over the past few years, is to revive a multi-purpose trail that is referred to as “The Knob.” This trail will ultimately provide another option for the surrounding community to hike, trial run, mountain bike, horseback ride and hunt.

Long Draw Outfitters, working out of a hunting camp in the area had discussed, with Trail Supervisor Tim Farris, a particularly problematic   section of low-lying predominately mucky trail near their low camp. As a result, this years mission was to reroute about 1/3 mile of trail out of a low wallow and to drier, higher ground on the side-hill above. Our residents camp on-site for the duration of one week to complete our work. Our crews were fortunate to find sunny afternoons of hard work to warm themselves up from frosty mornings with frozen boots. After crushing out a significant part of the reroute in the first two days, the crew spent the final days perfecting their work and closing the old trail.

This trip provides a valuable opportunity for our residents to take pride in hard work and feel like positive members of a larger community. One resident said after the trip, “I’m proud to have accomplished such a large project with all the other people that were working side by side with me. I felt part of a community when we would stop at lunch and just enjoy each other’s company, then eventually get back to work.”

Go check out their reroute before the snow falls! If you don’t get there this season don’t worry, their hard work will benefit the surrounding community for years to come.