Staying Active is Important for Kids at Van Vleck Group Home

For most people in this valley, daily outdoor activities are a critical aspect of a healthy well balanced lifestyle.  However, for kids and families in crisis, this is an aspect of life that becomes less of a priority when taking care of the basic daily essentials and when dealing with challenging situations.

One of the ways we fulfill our mission to help children and families find their way to fulfilling and constructive lives, during the summertime, is to help the kids improve their sense of physical control, joy and belonging through outdoor activities. We make it a priority every day that the kids at the Van Vleck House participate in some form of physical activity in the  out-of-doors. Youth Care Workers are integral in making this happen and are always looking for creative ways of motivating the kids to participate in new and fun adventures.

Activity highlights from this summer include what we like to call Student and Staff Olympics. This is a day of field games with teams of staff and students participating together in games such as tag, relays, “jousting” and a basketball/ultimate Frisbee/team handball hybrid called Versaball. The kids volunteered for a morning in exchange for time on the Snow King Ropes Course. This involved helping to spread bark chips on the pathways and culminated in several hours of high adventure. Each of the kids returned with stories of daring and excitement. Other outings have         included fishing on the lakes, skateboarding at the skate park, tennis at the park and hiking.

Summertime at the Van Vleck House presents the staff and kids with a multitude of opportunities that aren’t normally available during the school year. Summer break allows us to spend more time with the kids and present them with some new activities and challenges. With the longer and warmer days we can travel further afield and get into activities which expose the kids to things they may have wanted to try but couldn’t or to activities that  transform into a new interest. The increased time together also allows for a focus on therapeutic issues and an increase in attention to maladaptive behaviors. This is a time which enables us to more clearly identify what the  issues are and gives ample time to practice and process new ways of thinking and trying out new behaviors. It is also a time to play, which as we know, allows for the residents to let their guard down and just be kids, which can be extremely healing. By trying new things, the kids are able to increase their self-confidence and resilience by challenging themselves to push the limits of their comfort zone. Trying new things in a fun and relaxed way increases kids’ ability and motivation to experiment with new behaviors in relation to their world view, family  system and peer relations.



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.

What is the Juvenile Court Diversion Program

The Juvenile Diversion Program works with eligible youth to pursue an alternative course to formal adjudication. While participating in Diversion the youth address their offense in a meaningful way, ultimately reducing the chance for recidivism. By seeking out community-based alternatives youth offenders can learn to avoid problem behavior and develop effective life strategies which improve community safety and  re-offense rates.
Criminal activity is often indicator of much larger issues the youth may be experiencing. As part of the Program the Diversion Officer conducts an initial assessment and evaluation that looks not only the offense, but family relationships, home structure, academic performance, behavior, social activities, drug and alcohol use, suicidal ideation, physical or sexual abuse, neglect and general ability to complete the Program. Expectations and terms are then developed and put into a written contract with the youth.
A successful Diversion participant may complete community service, substance abuse counseling, maintain steady grades and complete any additional projects deemed beneficial to meet the greater needs of the youth. Restorative Justice Conferencing may also be implemented, bringing together victim(s), community and offender and offering them the opportunity to make amends for harm caused to the community and collaborate on ways to deal with the aftermath of the offense.
Upon successful completion of the Diversion Program, the youth will not have a record of criminal conviction, an enormous benefit to minors who are concerned about applying for jobs or to colleges. Diversion cases vary in terms of length, but an average term is 5-6 months.
For more information visit- TYFS COURT DIVERSION PROGRAM or contact Dan Oas at

Teton Youth and Family Services Raises a Record $64,000 at 20th Annual Golf Benefit

92 Golfers enjoyed 18 sunny holes of golf at Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis, raising funds for youth and families in need of prevention, crisis and residential services.

JACKSON, WY. On June 22nd Teton Youth and Family Services hosted its 20th annual golf fundraiser at the Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis Course raising $64,000 to provide direct services for children and families in the community.

Fundraising for these programs supports prevention, crisis and residential services for hundreds of children and family members each year. Teton Youth and Family Services is the umbrella organization for the Hirschfield Center for Children, Family Advocate Project, Teen Power, JH Leadership Program, Van Vleck Group Home, Adams Canyon Crisis Shelter, Court Diversion Services, and Red Top Meadows Residential Treatment Center.

The Benefit was a huge success this year highlighted by a stunning golf course, perfect weather, and a longstanding group of incredibly supportive sponsors and players. “It is wonderful to have such strong community support as shown by the sponsors and players. The increase in participation and funding demonstrates the importance of our services for children and families.” remarks Bruce Burkland, Executive Director of Teton Youth and Family Services.

Players were able to enjoy some friendly competition and the overall winning teams included a Men’s Team of Chet Phillips, Robert Gill, Scooter Gill, and Patrick Gill, a Mixed Team of Paul & Shirley Piper, Bob Benz, and Karen Chatham, and a Men’s Senior Team of Roger Kintzel, Jerry Carlson, Jack Howe, and John Hechinger. Contest winners included longest drive winners Chris Tarpey and Margaret Brady and closest to the pin winners Patrick Gill and Shirley Piper. The “Hole in One” Contest, honoring the memory of the late Karen Oatey, had a desirable Subaru Outback donated by Teton Motors, although many were close, a hole in one did not happen this year.

The fun, friendly and successful event was a great way to kick off the summer season and remember the importance of providing for the essential needs of children and families in the community.

Contact: Sarah Cavallaro, 307-413-2767,


Teton Youth and Family Services’ mission is to help children and families find their way to fulfilling and constructive lives. The organization has been providing services to the Jackson Hole area for 40 years.



To see more pictures and what a great time was had please click HERE

Dellenback Foundation Pilot Program

In late February, Teton Youth and Family Services was privileged to receive a grant in honor of  Robert Dellenback from the Geraldine W. and Robert J. Dellenback Foundation. The grant will be used to establish and implement the Robert J. Dellenback Scholarship Program. The scholarship will make it possible for young men struggling with behavioral, emotional and mental health issues to access services at Red Top Meadows (RTM) so that they may live healthy and constructive lives. The generosity of the Dellenbacks will allow us to develop an option for youth in need of residential care at Red Top but who may not be court  ordered to the program.

Since 2011, the Bob and Dine have supported more than 30 scholarships for the Red Top Summer Wilderness Experience and attended each  summer wilderness ceremony. They have heard and seen firsthand the impact the wilderness program has on re-directing and improving the children’s’ lives. And the couple loved hearing from and meeting the boys and staff, taking great pleasure in making the opportunity possible for students that would otherwise not receive help. In the course of attending the ceremonies, and talking with the staff and students, they developed a deeper understanding of the boys in our residential treatment program. They learned that when a youth demonstrates internal struggles, by acting out in school, becoming depressed, being suicidal or physically aggressive, or is in an abusive or neglectful home environment, the Department of Family Services will intervene with the judicial system and may place the child at the Van Vleck Group Home or Red Top Meadows Residential Treatment Center.

The Dellenbacks also learned that State financial concerns have begun to limit access for youth receiving the important  services they need, and they wanted to help make it possible for more young men to have access to our services, including our wilderness experiences. I talked with Bob about the need for youth to access care in November 2016 and he was immediately  interested in helping meet the need. Tragically he was never able to see the  scholarships reach the students they will benefit, as he suddenly passed away in December. Knowing how much this meant to Bob, Dine has elected to carry out Bob’s  commitment and we are honored to be able to  provide treatment for  young men in Bob’s memory.

The Geraldine W. and Robert J. Dellenback Foundation, Bob and Dine  specifically , will make it possible for as many as four young men who have learned to not trust  anyone and to constantly be on guard, to gain new perspectives on people, the world  and their future which will improve the rest of their lives. 

That would make Bob very happy !




Red Top Meadows School Spring 2017 Newsletter

Personal Finance (Modern World and You) Students learned how to be responsible shoppers in order to set themselves up for successful financial futures.

Math Geometry students used proofs to understand geometric theorems. The work was challenging but they overcame the challenges through independent practice, partner practice, and consistent feedback. They proved their skills and knowledge by scoring highly on a final exam. Algebra students learned how to read and draw graphs. They wrote stories based on graphs. The class is now moving into using the distributive property and writing equations. Pre-Algebra students translated written phrases into mathematical expressions. They used the distributive property and solved for variables in one and two step equations.

Language Arts In Language Arts class, students explored the use of poetry as a mode of expression. They found literary devices in songs and poems, read and analyzed famous poetry, and became proficient at writing multiple types of poems.

Reading Students read the novel Wonder by R. J. Palacio and started reading Auggie and Me by the same author. Following each reading session, students spent time responding to writing prompts to analyze and make connections with the text.

Science Biology students demonstrated their knowledge of meiosis by showing the stages as well as inputs and outputs using string, beads, and pipe cleaners. Next, students compared and contrasted the processes of mitosis and meiosis. They then learned the skills and vocabulary necessary to model the processes of transcription, translation, and mutations with K’Nex building toys. They demonstrated their understanding by acing a test that required them to model the processes with Twizzlers, Mike n’ Ikes, toothpicks, and Dots. Physical Science students triangulated the epicenters of earthquakes, determined their magnitude, built a seismograph to develop a scale for mock earthquakes, and used data to determine the age of rocks through radiometric dating.

Social Studies World History students researched prominent Roman figures and conducted oral presentations on their findings. The class also did an in-depth study of the Roman empire and correlated its downfall to current American political, economic, and social realities. U.S. History students researched individual mountain men involved in the western exploration of America and analyzed the role of the United States in the exploitation of lands and people spawned by the concept of Manifest Destiny

Life Literacy/Issues in Diversity Students read the graphic novel American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang and practiced finding evidence to support arguments about the text. All students participated in two Socratic Seminars, completely run by students, in which they posed questions, directed the discussion, and built on their understanding of themes within the book, their lives, and the world. For their final project, students prepared responses to discussion questions and presented their thinking in oral presentation. The class also viewed the film The Mask You Live In, which explores issues related to male stereotypes.

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.


Dick Lundeen has retired after 35 years of working as a Therapist for Red Top Meadows. Over the course of 35 years Dick counseled well over two hundred and fifty young men and boys. Dick had a unique ability to connect with even the most challenging of young men.  Dick was passionate about serving our population,     Wyoming kids who need some guidance toward living a healthier life, and being safe, contributing members of society. During his years at RTM, Dick remained very strong in his conviction of the power and effectiveness of the Red Top approach.  This approach entails caring and trusting relationships, physical activity, individual and family therapy, gaining knowledge, and wilderness experience. Dick also served as a mentor and teacher to several decades of Red Top staff.  He was always willing to take the time to talk with young staff about how to work with kids, and how to take care of themselves while doing this challenging work.  In the course of this mentorship Dick formed many lifelong friendships and had a profound effect on the lives of many people.  Dick has given so much of his energy, spirit, and wisdom to Red Top Meadows; the kids, the staff, the facility have all benefited enormously by having Dick as a member of the community.  It has been less than two months since he retired, and his presence is missed daily.  We will continue on at Red Top, helping kids to become healthier, and we will carry on the traditions and work that Dick leaves behind after his many years of service.