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
Sarah Cavallaro
Executive Director
Teton Youth & Family Services

 

Employee Assistance Donation

Support Teton Youth & Family Services Employees so we can continue to work during this crisis.

The last two weeks navigating the COVID-19 crisis has shown us that now, more than ever, we need to ensure our children and families who are most at-risk for abuse and neglect have the resources they need to endure. Help support TYFS employees so we can continue to work during this crisis.

WAYS TO HELP
The following are ways we need your help:

Financial Contributions – We are working to support an Employee Assistance Fund during this crisis for direct support to help employees pay rent, purchase food, pay for utilities, and meet other basic needs. The fund will also support childcare help so employees can continue their scheduled work hours to maintain a continuity of service. We employ over 40 individuals who are providing direct crisis care and putting their own lives on hold to ensure our programs are available to help youth and families in crisis. 100% of funds will go towards direct payments to employees and on-site childcare.

Gift Certificates – for take-out food at local restaurants, this benefits our local restaurants and youth and employees at TYFS! Or gift certificates to grocery stores to help with residential program food needs.

Care Packages – Let our youth in care and employees know you care! Include personal touches like knitted hats or a note from you and your family. Send packages to:
Teton Youth and Family Services
P.O. Box 2631
Jackson, WY. 83001

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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

LEARN MORE

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!

Registration is open for 22nd Annual TYFS Golf Tournament

Register now to enjoy some early season golf and raise funds to support children and families in our community. Join us on June 25th at Jackson Hole Golf & Tennis Club for the 22nd annual Teton Youth and Family Services Golf Tournament. An entry cost of $300 (or $1,000 for a foursome) gets you lunch, golf cart rental, green fees, post-golf reception, and an event gift bag.

Register Now

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.