Spring 2022 Newsletter

Fall 2021 Newsletter

Mitch Dann

A letter from Board President Mitch Dann

Mitch Dann
Thank you for your support of Teton Youth and Family Services (TYFS)! I am starting my fifth year as a board member, second (and last) year as president of the board and celebrating nearly 20 years as a supporter. TYFS helps youth and families in many ways by providing family counseling and youth training, a safe home when the youth’s home is not a place they can be, and an alternative path for restitution and juvenile jail. TYFS does a lot.
In short, my view of TYFS is we help youth to help themselves to find a better path, one that leads to a higher quality of life through relationships with others and contribution to society as opposed to a life potentially of societal dependence. My right brain revels at the help we provide to these youth and family and my left brain revels at the amazing return on investment between a lifetime of contribution vs. dependence.
Covid has created special challenges for us. We did not have a choice to shut down this spring we had to operate with the youth in our care. It was an interesting learning experience. A Covid Plan was rapidly developed, implemented and iterated as we learned. The organization rose to the challenge and I was most impressed by the actions taken to help reduce our employees stress and worries. Of course operating in the times of Covid has meant increased expenses.
About one- third of the organization’s $3 million annual budget comes from philanthropy. We receive good support from the County and Town. The State has offered some challenges and we are still awaiting budgetary changes they have told us are coming. At the same time we along with the other service providers in the State have been advocating with our constituents there.
The nature of the payment structure of the State is that our expenses exceed what we are paid for the services we provide. Perhaps that is the State’s way of saying we want the local community involved. The good news is we have a great local community who has generously supported TYFS over the years. Being able to help these youth and families help themselves, makes our community stronger, as families are the fabric of a community.
I hope as you are making your Old Bill’s list you will once again consider Teton Youth and Family Services! We greatly appreciate your support and your recognition of how TYFS makes a difference and builds a stronger community.
With Best Regards,
Mitch Dann
TYFS Board President
Jackson hole leadership program

What is the Van Vleck House?

Jackson hole leadership program
I want to let you know more about an incredible part of Teton Youth and Family Services- The Van Vleck House.
The Van Vleck House provides programming to children and adolescents in our community along a continuum of care.
Our programs include:
  • The Jackson Hole Leadership Program which is a summer camp focused on social skill building, problem solving and having fun in the wilderness
  • Crisis Shelter for youth in need of a short-term break from the issues that they are experiencing so that they and their families can gain new perspectives and new tools
  • Group Home for youth who are in need of longer term treatment for mental health and behavioral struggles
  • Staff Secure Holding Facility for youth in an acute mental health or legal crisis which acts as a bridge to more definitive care
These programs offer a wide spectrum of opportunities and interventions. For youth who participate in the JHLP, they are offered the opportunity to interact with others who they might not normally associate with which brings up many opportunities to try new things and learn how to communicate more effectively. Kids participate in group challenge activities, canoeing, ropes course, camping and overnight backpacking.
Youth in the Crisis Shelter may be getting help with their issues for the first time and are encouraged to see their struggles from a new perspective. Parents receive help in understanding and re-connecting with their struggling teen. They then have the opportunity to practice what they are learning through reintegration to the home while practicing these new skills.
Youth in the Group Home have typically been struggling with the issues that brought them to us for many years. As such it can take some time, often many months, to learn to trust adults and to develop healthier behaviors and habits. This takes place in the context of the family also learning new coping mechanisms and building on the strengths and resiliency of their child.
The Staff Secure facility allows a child to be safe while their family regroups to formulate a plan for further intervention. It also provides a safe place for kids who have made poor choices and sends the message that they are not criminals.
All of our staff is trained to work from a strength based perspective which encourages kids to grow based on their resiliency, what is working and what they are already doing well. At all levels of programming we emphasize that the quality of one’s life is directly affected by the quality of one’s relationships.
I love seeing the progress the kids make over time knowing that they have worked hard to achieve their goals. TYFS programs are all about developing relationships with kids and their families that in turn help them to make a greater connection with each other and with their community.
Please consider supporting our essential services this year during Old Bill’s Fun Run- together as a community we can make a difference.
Jeremy Silcox
Director of the Van Vleck House
28-Day Wilderness Adventure

A letter from Tom Concannon: 28 days in the mountains

28-Day Wilderness Adventure
Our Special Wilderness trip ran from June 14th to July 3rd this year and our regular Wilderness Trip went from July 13th to August 6th.
These trips are always quite challenging due to our route and the duration of the trip. Most people are not physically prepared to hike with a heavy pack for 21-28 days in the mountains. In addition to the normal physical challenge, this year the weather was rather wet in June. The boys and staff persevered through these challenges, realizing many individual goals and forming a cohesive unit, working together to make it through.
Our trips are designed to help young men change their perspective of themselves and their perspective of the world around them. Completing difficult physical labor allows a boy to see himself as capable. Completing a difficult physical task in the company of the same small group of boys allows a boy to see himself as capable of caring about his buddies, helping a buddy in need, and seeing himself as capable of having quality friendships. Completing a difficult task in the company of adults who keep you fed, on track, and safe allows a boy to see the adults in the world as caring, safe, reasonable, and worthy of his trust.
The 13 boys who completed this trip all experienced major gains in self-confidence, social skills, and a sense of community. They also developed individual skills with the assistance of the trip therapist and the field staff.
We watch these boys thrive after their experience in the wilderness and we are especially appreciative of our donors who make this trip possible year-after-year. Our donors’ generosity makes a significant positive impact on the health and well-being of many young men in our community.
Thank you,
Tom Concannon
Director, Red Top Meadows Treatment Center
Wilderness Program

An Update from Sarah Cavallaro

As I write this, we are serving 5 youth at the Van Vleck House8 boys at Red Top Meadows, all of which just left on their 28 day backpacking trip (see the photo above from a past wilderness trip), 42 families at the Hirschfield Center12 youth in the Juvenile Diversion Program, and 180 youth in our Summer Leadership Program.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have remained fully operational as we became like first responders with youth who were court ordered to us, youth in significant crisis who need a safe place to go, families in crisis, and youth who needed an interactive and meaningful summer camp.
Never in a million years did I think I would have created more than 30 pages of policies and procedures about how to work through a pandemic. BUT we did and I think we did it well!
I want to tell you a story about our Group Home. During the shut-down we had to restrict any home visits or visitation to our facilities. These visits are a big part of the program as home visits and seeing family is “practice” for actually going home.
During the community closure we had all boys at the Group Home, each one was struggling, if not failing in school. Over the two months or so during the community shutdown the boys worked with staff on their distance learning school and actually completed their assignments early. We’re proud to say that every boy in the Group Home passed their classes (there was no grading occurring just pass fail).
When able to return to home visits at the end of May, the boys were thrilled to go home and had made significant progress with their families during Zoom therapy sessions. Each boy was able to appreciate their family in a different way. The forced separation highlighted how much love and care was actually there.
During the closure the boys also created a deep connection to each other and to our staff. One day a boy turned to staff member and said, “Hey, it’s kind of like we are just hanging out with the guys, huh?”
While I would not choose to go through the pandemic again, there were a lot of silver linings for our staff and youth as they became more trusting and connected with one another.
As an overall community we have seen some concerning trends. The rate at which abuse and neglect calls are made locally to the Department of Family Services has gone from averaging 15-17 in a month to 2 calls in April and 5 calls in May. This is primarily because teachers are where 80% of where reports come from and children do not have the extra sets of eyes and ears on them to help them if something is going wrong in the home.
Our plan is to remain strong and stable despite the pandemic and the significant state funding cuts that are coming our way. We have a strong team of employees that are deeply dedicated to making sure children and families in our community have what they need during this crisis and in others. We will remain flexible and available to help meet the needs of those we serve and will strive that every child and family member in our community has the supports they need when they need them.
The year to come will be uncharted territory but I do know that connecting with our advocates and supporters will make the bumpy waters a bit easier to navigate.
 “What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
This quote reminds me of the small but mighty nature of TYFS. We are a small non-profit compared to many, but the work that is done is very mighty and that is because of the people that run our programs, utilize our services, and advocate for those we serve.
All my best,
Sarah Cavallaro
Executive Director
Teton Youth & Family Services


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Jackson Hole Leadership Program

Jackson Hole Leadership Program sign-up begins Monday, February 3rd

Jackson Hole Leadership Program (JHLP) is a summer program for Teton County children grades 5th through 10th. The program teaches outdoor and problem-solving skills, and helps build positive peer relationships and effective communication. JHLP is open to all community youth.

We’re excited for the 2020 summer programs! Registration for this year’s JHLP opens at 9am on Monday, February 3rd. Please share with any parents who may be interested in joining us this summer.

If you have any questions, please email leadership@tyfs.org


Jackson Hole Leadership Program

New Bike Program at Red Top

New Bike Program Red Top
New Bike Program at Red Top Teaches Many Lessons
The obvious metaphor a bike presents is that of a vehicle. However, it can also be a tool, an adversary, a teacher, or a relationship. It truly is all those things and more. Biking presents the invitation to move beyond our perceived limitations, build a new definition of “what is possible”, and learn from immediate feedback provided by a non-judgmental source, the trail. Biking has several therapeutic benefits. While biking we confront fears, apply coping skills, practice problem solving, and improve our emotional regulation and tolerance.
Red Top Meadows students just wrapped up a successful mountain biking season. This was the first full season for Red Top students to get out and spin the tires on a fleet of Specialized Bikes donated to RTM through a grant with the Specialized Foundation, recently re-branded as Outride. Outride is nonprofit organization that provides evidenced-based cycling interventions to improve social, emotional, and cognitive health. Outride is a national program aiming to increase accessibility to cycling through both fun and sustainable school cycling programs. And through these programs—along with the research—they hope to advance the understanding of how riding bikes can help improve the social, emotional, and physical wellbeing of children, with a particular focus on those with learning differences like ADHD.
Each student was assigned a bike at the beginning of the season and were given the responsibility to maintain it properly. Students had to make sure they kept the bikes clean, and learned some basic bike maintenance to keep their bikes in working order.
During physical education class, our students learned the essential skills necessary for handling and riding a bicycle safely. Focus was given to balance, gear shifting, turning, and tracking what’s upcoming on a trail. Gradually students progressed from pavement to gravel roads and then from gravel roads to single-track. Throughout the course of the season students started to put together the benefits that getting good exercise could have on their ability to engage and manage themselves in the classroom.
During free time our students and staff worked together to create about a mile-long single track around the property. Once the on property single track was completed, the bike program really began to thrive. Students, of varying skill level and ability, were given the freedom of going at their own pace and were able to challenge themselves by riding hot laps around the property. With advancing skills and increased physical fitness, students started to explore further onto some of the trails that are part of the Munger Mountain trail network.
We hope that our students will take the lessons learned through our bike program back home with them when they return to their communities and hopefully continue to explore the world through riding bikes! Special thanks to JD Haas for providing much needed bike maintenance guidance and fleet checkups throughout the course of the season. We also want to express gratitude to Hoback Sports for helping us get our program off the ground.
by Teddy Nichols, Wilderness Program Director

Reducing Stress in Children’s Daily Lives

Reducing Stress in Children’s Daily Lives

Back-to-school season — we all know it well. And even though children and parents are often thankful for the familiar routine of the school day, the transition from summer back to school can create stress. Kids are just as susceptible to this stress as parents, but sometimes it harder to see in our children.
Children display stress much differently than an adult does as their communication skills are less developed and their coping mechanisms not established. Recognizing specific behaviors can help parents support their children through the stressful time and increase the child’s confidence in future stressful situations. The following are potential reactions children may have to stress:
• An increase in oppositional behavior
• Loss of interest in things the child normally enjoys
• Changes in eating patterns
• Regression in behaviors like clinginess or frequent crying
• An increase or decrease in energy levels not due to an illness
It is normal for children to go through phases where life may seem more difficult, providing some simple structure and guidance can assist the child in moving through the phase. Teaching your child stress management techniques can build self-esteem.
Communicate. Try to generate an open environment and create opportunities for your kids to express themselves. Parents can facilitate these openings by asking straightforward, non-threating questions about school, friends, classmates, and teachers. It can even be as simple as, “How are you feeling?”
Eat Healthy. We’re all on the run and once school starts, it is harder to keep track of everything our kids are eating. But a healthy body is one that is better equipped to withstand stress.
Encourage Physical Activity. They don’t have to be flying down the slopes or getting in aggressive activity, but regular exercise can help with health and, especially, with mental health. A daily walk or bike ride can help them sort out their thoughts- and feel better about themselves.
Establishing a Bedtime Routine. Work on getting your child in the routine of going to bed at ‘school time’ and waking up accordingly. The Mayo Clinic states that school-aged children need 10-11 hours of sleep, in comparison to adults who need 7-9 hours. A sleep deprived child will be a child who has less energy for school and activities and will need time to make-up for their sleep deprivation.
Listen. Learning to listen to your child and their needs is a skill developed throughout parenthood and is unique to each child. As a parent it is easy to give advice and not hear what your child may be saying about their perspective on what is happening in their daily life. Taking moments to hear your child’s perspective is a great way to understand what the sources of the stress may be and how you as a parent can best support and show your love for your child.
Matia Wilson

Staff Highlight: Matia Wilson

Matia is a Therapist for the Van Vleck Group Home and Crisis Shelter in Jackson, Wyoming. She was born in Shrewsbury, VT and attended the University of Vermont, majoring in both Psychology and Anthropology. The day after college graduation, Matia moved to Jackson to guide horseback rides in Grand Teton National Park.

In 2015, Matia went back to graduate school at the University of Wyoming and received her Master’s in Social Work. During her search for an ideal job, Matia was drawn to work at the Van Vleck House because of TYFS’s strengths based approach and community involved atmosphere. She enjoys helping kids and their families create meaningful connections and rebuild relationships with themselves and those around them. A sincere thank you to Matia for all she does at TYFS!