Social and Emotional Skill Building

With the start of the school year upon on us many parents begin to shift focus towards best supporting their child’s academic achievement. Social and emotional skills play a fundamental role in academic outcomes, as well as promoting positive behaviors and  mental health. The following are some tips for parents to engage in this learning process. The good news is that our schools are already heavily invested in social and emotional learning. The best news? Lifelong outcomes to promote educational success while reducing problems associated with substance use, criminal activity, and mental health.
By helping kids manage their emotions we are preparing them to learn. We can help by acknowledging their emotions and then finding ways to increase their emotional literacy and feelings of self-control by having them name their emotions. Then we can model empathy by putting ourselves in their shoes, validating their feelings, and not jumping in to rescue them. As much as we want to protect our kids don’t we really want to send the message that they are able to solve their own problems? That we trust them and they can trust themselves.
By acting as consultants, we can unpack our own conflicts by taking responsibility for our emotions, teaching the valuable lesson that only one person is responsible for how we feel and how we handle those feelings. By sharing our own calming strategies (deep breathing, counting, taking a break to cool off before returning to the problem, etc.) we are not only modeling the process, but that we are actively identifying our own patterns so that we can grow too.
Whether we are trying to instill self-regulation, improve attention and focus, or cultivate problem solving strategies, the basis of social and emotional development is in trusting relationships. The Hirschfield Center for Children can help families foster relationships built from a place of worthiness – from there the possibilities are endless.

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.

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.