• A Parent’s Guide for Talking to Kids, Aged 11 – 14, About Drugs

    As children grow, so does their concern for the approval of their peers. Despite this, parents often have more influence over their children than they realize. A talk with kids about drugs is not necessarily an easy one, but it can be an invaluable conversation to have as they approach the age of curiosity about drugs or first use.

    Here are some steps parents can take to be proactive in preventing drug use in their children:


    Step 1: Take the Lead

    Around the ages of 11 to 14, kids are at a period where they may have heard things about certain drugs, and are curious. More than ever, now is the time to inquire about what children already know through their own research, from peers, or the media. Don’t be afraid to bring up the topic to them and ask what they’ve heard about a specific drug at school, in music or on television, and ask if they have any questions.  

    Step 2: Create An Open Dialogue

    A lot of times adults ask questions, but then quickly try to answer themselves. By giving youth the the chance to speak, it reveals what they do or don’t know. Listening to what kids have to say about drugs is a helpful opportunity to expose their misconceptions on the topic and replace them with the proper information, which can be put into a context they can understand.

    Step 3: Write A Script

    In their youth, kids may find themselves in situations where they are faced with peer pressure. Helping them to come up with a safe way to get out of uncomfortable situations can give them the confidence to navigate these difficult moments. Help them practice what they will say if they encounter someone who wants them to use drugs or alcohol. Another strategy is creating some sort of text script that kids can send to their parents, which signals for their help to get out of an uncomfortable situation. Role playing these scenarios not only helps prepare kids for what to say, but also helps them get more comfortable navigating those moments of peer pressure.  

    Step 4: Get Familiar With Friends

    Most often, kids from ages 11 – 14 are using substances in someone’s homes – not out in bars – therefore it’s important to get to know the people a child is spending their time with. Even if parents are familiar with the parents of their child’s friends, it’s important for them to get a sense of what substances are or aren’t allowed in the house, and what the attitude is in regard to the use of those substances.


    This age range, 11 – 14 years old, can be a pivotal time in life, and it’s important for parents to lend their guidance to help their kids through it. These points will create effective dialogue with kids. 

  • 4 Upcoming Hoyleton Events to Attend

    Our goal is to provide supportive services and resources that give people the tools they need to build healthy, happy, stable lives and family connections. Within the next couple of weeks, there are several upcoming events to attend that offer this to families and individuals, through valuable information or exciting family activities:

    Helping Young Adults Thrive 

    4/25, Thursday, 6pm – O’ Fallon Public Library

    From discussions about common experiences and healthy behavior during this phase of life, to information about how to identify unhealthy patterns, our workshop is designed to equip parents with the information they may need to ultimately help their teenagers thrive. The workshop will close with a forum for any questions on the topic of teenage mental and behavioral health.

    Register here.

    Mental Health First Aid Course & Certification (Free)

    4/26, Friday, 8am – 5pm – St. Joseph’s Hospital

    Identify Potential Risks and Warning Signs

    Mental illness is prevalent, but lack of knowledge and stigmas around the topic don’t always make the signs easy to recognize. This nationally accredited course, iMental Health First Aid, will teach trainees how to identify symptoms of various mental illnesses in the people the interact with in daily life from loved ones to co-workers, as well as guide an action plan to assist someone in crisis. Learning risk factors and identifying early warning signs is a great way to learn how to be pro-active in helping individuals with their mental health.  Perks for this course include free certification, free lunch, a free book, and free continuing education units for LSW, LCSW, LPC, & LCPC (available upon request).

    Register here.

    National Drug Take Back Day 

    4/27, Saturday, 10am – noon – Doehrings Pharmacy

    This year, Hoyleton Youth and Family Service is once again teaming up with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to allow people to dispose of their expired, unused and/or unwanted prescription drugs to prevent drug abuse and theft. In its previous 16 Take Back events, the DEA and its partners have collected nearly 11 million pounds of pills – join in this Saturday to see if you can help top this number for the 17th Drug Take Back Day.

    Register here.


    Hiking & Biking for Hoyleton

    5/11, Saturday, 9am – Maeystown, Illinois

    May is National Bike Month, so it’s only fitting that our favorite biking tradition takes place this month. On May 11, walkers, runners, and bikers can travel across the beautiful countryside surrounding Maeystown, Illinois through a scenic two, five or 15-mile route. Proceeds from this event allow our youth to go on outings like fishing, swimming, visiting the museum, and even allows them to attend Hoyleton Day Camp at Dubois Center. Please join us in Mayestown as we continue to Build Stronger Communities, One Child at a Time! Included with your registration fee are your Hike & Bike t-shirt and a hearty lunch.

    Register here.


  • How Puentes de Esperanza Celebrated Easter: 5 Highlights from Fairmont City’s Easter Event

    For over seven years, Hoyleton’s Puentes de Esperanza program has participated in Fairmont City’s annual Easter-related events, including a vibrant parade and an exciting egg hunt. We’re proud to be a part of such a special day that brings such joy to the community each year with the support of local institutions like the Fairmont City Library, the local police and fire departments, and other sponsors, like Puentes de Esperanza, who want to provide Southern Illinois’ Latino community with a fun day of holiday festivities.

    Here is a quick recap of this special day:


    1. It gets bigger each year

    Each year, this event grows exponentially. This year, over 1,000 individuals were in attendance.


    2. Supporters were as sweet as candy  

    All candy for Puentes de Esperanza’s Easter eggs was donated by Kevin Woelffel, who regularly volunteers for Puentes events.


    3. There were treats a plenty 

    A Place of Grace members helped stuff eggs with treats for the children, while our interns helped coordinate toys to give out. 


    4. Goodie bags aren’t just for candy  

    In addition to the typical Easter treats, Puentes de Esperanza handed out flyers about upcoming events and workshops for the community to attend, and distributed Deterra drug deactivation bags, which allow for the safe disposal of old medication.


    5. Scholarships were the greatest prize of all

    The Latino Roundtable of Southwestern Illinois awarded a $500 scholarship to a high school senior, which was matched by the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois, so that two students received scholarships for their bright futures.


    Overall, it was a great day of fun – we can’t wait to celebrate again next year!

  • 5 Great Podcasts About Youth Behavioral Health

    Every parent hopes to raise happy children that grow up and lead independent, healthy lives. But, life’s challenges sometimes make this more difficult. Fortunately, there are many different services and resources designed to guide parents along that child-rearing journey through difficult behavioral health issues that arise as a result of a variety of circumstances.

    Read our list of five great podcasts with insights from child behavioral experts, parent testimonials, and more.


    1. This is Normal

    As part of USA Today Network’s Kids in Crisis series, this podcast invites youth people to share their struggles with mental health, and how they overcame them. This ‘for youth, by youth’ podcast offers an authentic look into the real struggles of young people, which can help others in similar situations, to feel empowered.  


    1. Child In Mind

    This podcast was produced by the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, which focuses on making mental health services effective and accessible for UK children and families. With episodes focused on topics like help for children with ADHD and how trauma affects the young brain, listeners can find useful information that can help a child dealing with behavioral issues.  


    1. Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (ACAMH) Podcast  

    With so much information about youth mental health and development, and most of it verbose, it’s easy to get too overwhelmed to take it all in. This podcast aims to bridge the gap between academic studies and research, by discussing ways to put them into practice with experts.  


    1. The Behavioral Observations Podcast

    Though not limited to one set demographic, this podcast regularly covers severe behavioral issues as they relate to youth, hosted by Matt Cicora and featuring topics discussed at length with behavioral analysts. Such topics include potential treatment for “aggression and self-injurious behavior,” as well as how to get kids more involved in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for children with autism.


    1. inSocialWork Podcast Series

    The University of Buffalo’s School of Social Work has a podcast series, inSocialWork, that covers a range of topics that social workers commonly encounter in their careers, often including various youth behavioral health issues. This series includes interviews with experts, conversations with social workers, and other critical perspectives from experienced voices in the field on how to address these issues that affect youth.


    There’s no road map for raising a child, but hopeful you’ll discover some useful pieces of guidance and wisdom on your childrearing journey through these podcasts.


  • National Child Abuse Awareness Month: A Curated Toolkit to Effectively Advocate for Children

    Children are some of the most vulnerable among us, and it’s our responsibility to figure out ways we can advocate on their behalf.

    In recognition of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, here are ways you can advocate for their right to safe, healthy, stress-free lives.

    Tune In

    One of the very first steps toward advocacy of any kind is through learning as much as possible about a particular issue. With countless accredited resources on the various issues children face from neglect, to sexual abuse, or malnutrition, it is easier than ever to become informed. Becoming knowledgeable about these issues can be a powerful tool in dismantling the things that enable these injustices to occur.

    Research: Here are some useful external  tools to help you stay informed on the latest advocacy efforts on ending the issues, including:

    Child Trafficking – ECPAT – USA

    Child Abuse & Neglect – National Child Abuse Coalition

    Child Hunger – No Kid Hungry

    Speak Out

    Although many already know about the various issues children face, they may not be necessarily be aware of the prevalence of these issues, or the extent of detrimental – sometimes lifelong – effects they have on children’s lives. Working to consistently spread awareness focused on a specific cause helps the public to collectively empathize and learn about the problems children sometimes have to endure.

    Share: Here are a few different ways to spread awareness about important causes like that affect children:

    Create a campaign

    Invite leaders to speak

    Utilize the power of media

    Show Up

    Having compassion for those in need is only a small part of advocacy – a much more substantial part is taking action. Research organizations that support child advocacy in your community and participate in volunteer opportunities, fundraisers, and donor drives to help carry forward the very same mission you’re passionate about.

    Act: Here are some guides from providers (beyond Hoyleton) on how to get involved in some of the aforementioned causes:

    Child Trafficking: Opportunities to Volunteer for Child Trafficking Causes

    Child Abuse & Neglect: Use Tools That Help Pinpoint Where to Give

    Child Hunger: Ways You Can Help End Child Hunger


  • 3 Ways Foster Families Make Their Homes a Welcoming Space

    The uncertainty foster children experience can be difficult, even if they are used to the displacement, with constant moves from one living situation to the next. Although their stay is only temporary, there are a number of small things families can do that can have a big impact in making kids feel welcome and comfortable while they’re there.


    Keep It Clean  

    It may seem obvious that one should tidy up before welcoming someone into the home, but the reasons why may not be as apparent. Regardless of where they came from, moving a foster child into a messy, chaotic living space can cause them anxiety and unease. When everything in a home is out of place, it’s easy for foster children to feel out of place too. Making a concerted effort to declutter before the upcoming arrival of a child not only has the ability to make them feel more comfortable, but it also offers up more space for their belongings, and creates a sense of organization that allows routines (and ultimately, life,) to flow more smoothly – something foster children are in great need of.   


    Make It Personal

    Even if you don’t have the time, budget or creativity for a home decor project, adding a few small personal touches in a place that is just for them can be quite meaningful. Find out as much as possible about their likes and (such as their favorite colors, characters, animals, etc.) and try to include those things into their room. Or, ask them to pick out a few things after they’ve already arrived. If you prefer to keep the room where they’ll be staying a blank slate, simply create a welcome basket for them with items like books, blankets, snacks, clothes, toys, tailored to their age range and whatever you’re able to find out about their interests to make them feel welcome. Including pieces of them, like photos, school artwork or report cards throughout the house after they’ve settled in can help them feel a sense of home and belonging.


    Give A Choice

    As a parent, providing structure and authority for children is important, but it’s also necessary to give them choices. Often trapped in situations out of their control, it’s beneficial for foster children to be allowed some sense of empowerment in being able to make certain decisions for themselves, even if those decisions are seemingly inconsequential. Give your foster child a few different options and allow them to choose from them when it comes to what to eat for dinner on certain nights, what to watch on family movie night, or even which household chores they want to help out with. By considering their opinions and honoring their wishes on certain things, they will feel respected, valued and included as a member of the family.


    For more information about foster care services or foster care issues, contact us at (618) 688 – 4727.

  • 5 Family Events in Southern Illinois for Spring

    Spending time with loved ones and doing things we enjoy is what gets us through the stresses of life. This spring, you can create happy moments and create fond memories with some fun family outings. Here are a few upcoming events in Southern Illinois to enjoy together:


    Weekly Saturday Afternoon Movies 

    Marion Carnegie Library| 206 S. Market Street, Marion, 62959| 1pm – 3pm

    Create a new family tradition by spending Saturday afternoons at the library for a movie day. Marion Carnegie Library’s Children’s Department has a free weekly ‘Tween Movies’ event for families with kids ages 8 to 12 years old. Other weekly events include Wednesday ‘Teen Craft Nights,’ where there are occasionally special events like the upcoming April 3rd ‘Bob Ross Paint Night’ for teens and their mentors.

    Learn more: http://www.marioncarnegielibrary.org/calendar-of-events/


    April 6th | Annual Afternoon Spring Tea

    Jefferson County Historical Village | Mount Vernon, Illinois | 2pm – 4pm   

    Back and better than ever, this year’s upcoming tea event will have all the fixings of a traditional tea including multiple tea and coffee selections, scones, sandwiches and other treats. Step back in time for this high society tradition with a visit to Jefferson County Historical Village, where families can learn about life in the village.

    Learn More: http://historicjeffersoncountyil.com/images/2019-Tea.jpg

    ($12 JCHS members, $15 non-members – Call to register and book your tickets)


    April 11 -13th | 2019 Southern Illinois Steel Guitar Show

    222 Potomac Blvd | Mount Vernon IL 62864 | times vary, see schedule

    Calling all classic country music lovers… This annual Southern Illinois Guitar Show is packed with tons of local and regional talent featuring Jeanie Seely and Tim Atwood of The Grand Ole Opry. There will be vendors, food, and a singing contest you and the family won’t want to miss.

    (full schedule) http://www.southernillinoisproductions.org/


    April 27th| Kite Fly 

    Joe Gilk Park | 710 E Lake Dr. |Edwardsville, Illinois | 9am – 12 pm

    Take a trip to Edwardsville to fly kites at the park as part of a “statewide kite fly” hosted by the Illinois Association of Park District’s Flying for Kids event. Families can decorate their kites together, then send them up to watch them fly. Goodie bags will be given to the first 50 participants.

    Learn More: https://www.cityofedwardsville.com/Calendar.aspx?EID=487&month=4&year=2019&day=27&calType=0


    May 4 | Locust Street Historic Fair 

    Centralia, IL | 10am – 2pm

    Enjoy a day out and about at the fair with loved ones at the Locust Street Historic Fair. This annual event offers all kinds of modern and historic fun including antique cars, retail shops, food vendors, historical walking tours, craft demonstrations, a Civil War display, and more.

    Learn More:  http://seecentralia.com/event/locust-street-historic-fair/


  • 3 Simple Nutrition Tips That Promote Behavioral Health

    Across all ages and demographics, keeping the body nourished is necessary for proper development, which can last until early adulthood. For both children and young adults, some of which may be dealing with behavioral challenges, this is especially important. With many studies proving a strong connection between behavior and diet, the need for proper nutrition is stronger than ever.

    Here are some tips to help keep youth nourished and functioning to the best of their abilities:


    Snack Smarter

    People have different ways of coping with the trauma in their lives, and some are unhealthier than others. One of these methods is stress eating, which is eating without hunger as a response to stress and/or trauma. Unfortunately, this unhealthy coping mechanism isn’t just reserved for adults and can affect children dealing with “early life stress” as young as four years old.

    Enjoy some “comfort food” after a bad day isn’t necessarily troubling, but habitually consuming unhealthy foods to escape unfavorable feelings or circumstances is not a healthy or sustainable way to deal with things. In addition to therapy, an easy way to start implementing changes is to swap out the usual snacking foods with healthier choices.


    Catch Some Zzzzs

    It’s common knowledge that a good night’s sleep is necessary, but its value is often underestimated, especially for children and young adults who are most strongly affected by lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation is nothing to take lightly, as it can cause difficulty learning due to inattention, forgetfulness, lack of motivation, and irritability. For youth who already struggle with behavioral issues, or intellectual and developmental disabilities, sleep should be prioritized.

    To aid with a restful night’s sleep, consuming natural teas with calming properties, like (chamomile or lavender), before bedtime and avoiding caffeinated beverages, like coffee and sodas, that can keep the body awake, interrupt natural sleep patterns, and cause sluggishness that negatively affects performance in school or at work are recommended. 


    Get a “Boost”

    With the daily stresses of school and/or work, coupled with other challenging life circumstances, it’s easy to slip into a routine of eating cheap and convenient fast food. But, a regular diet of high cholesterol, high fructose food affects more than just weight – it can add to an already stressed lifestyle by failing to restore energy levels, which impacts one’s mood. Fortunately, there are some specific foods that can boost energy levels and, in turn, happiness.

    Instead of consuming fast food that causes sluggishness, try consuming energy and mood boosting foods rich in Vitamin C, such as oranges, strawberries and broccoli. With more energy, kids and young adults can have an easier time paying attention at school and/or work and become less irritable while doing so.


    These are just a few simple tips that can help keep kids and young adults healthy and functioning to their highest abilities.

  • Margie Lewis’ Journey from Foster Parent to Mom

    After being a foster parent for over 30 years, Margie Lewis has impacted the lives of numerous children who have been in and out of her home. “Every child that comes in my home, I treat them like they are my very own. I want them to feel loved,” said Margie. “They may be gone tomorrow, but you love them anyway and try to make a positive difference in their life.”

    But recently, when she found out that her grandchildren (her adopted son’s biological children) were coming into care, she knew she had to do something to keep her family together. So, Margie decided to adopt.

    “The adoption day was emotional for me; I couldn’t believe it was finally happening. Adoption’s bittersweet because you want the kids to be with their bio parents, but sometimes that’s not an option. I wanted to try to keep Parker and Gabby in our family,” said Margie.

    Being in their new environment, Parker and Gabby are thriving and continue to grow every day. Parker, being a child with vision impairment and multiple health care needs, has improved daily. “He’s done what they didn’t think he would do; he has made great progress,” she said. Now, not only can Parker see color, he can identify each color he sees. As for Gabby, Margie felt that when they brought her home from the hospital, she would never see her smile. Now, as a 3-year-old, she smiles all the time and enjoys singing, dancing, and helping Parker.

    Although Margie was not one to brag about herself, Foster Care Supervisor, Susan Hosman, had nothing but praise for Margie.

    “Ms. Lewis was my super foster parent,” exclaimed Susan. “She’s a loving grandmother that has taken on the role of mother and father to the children. Ms. Lewis is an advocate for her grandchildren and she always puts the children first.” Having love and compassion is something that is so natural to Margie as she focuses all her attention on what is best for each child. “She never once complained about all of the doctor appointments that Parker was in need of. She is the true definition of what a foster parent should be,” said Susan.

    This is what adoption is all about – providing the best care for children and allowing them to thrive in a safe and loving home. “My goal is for them [Parker and Gabby] to make the right choices, to be on the right track and break the cycle,” said Margie.

    Margie will continue to work hard to ensure that all of Parker and Gabby’s medical, emotional, and educational needs are met, and she’s giving hope to a second generation. She has faith that they will break the foster care cycle.


  • 5 Books That Help Foster Families

    Every foster families’ story is different;  however, there are a number of situations – both positive and disappointing – that they are familiar with. To better understand and respond to various situation, many foster parents urn to available support, from social workers to therapists, and even books.

    So for National Reading Month this March, we’re helping foster families expand their resource list.  Check out our book list with useful stories and insights about different aspects of the foster care and the adoptive journey: 

    Siblings in Adoption and Foster Care: Traumatic Separations and Honored Connections by Deborah N. Silverstein and Susan Livingston Smith

    The parent-child relationship is important, but the connection between siblings – adopted or biological-  should receive just as much care and attention. This book explores the complex relationships between adopted and foster children and their new siblings, as well as the bond between them and their biological siblings they may have been separated from. Siblings offers insights on this experience and strategies to help foster these different child-to-child bonds in healthy ways.

    Foster Parenting 101: When A Foster Child Leaves by Dr. John DeGarmo

    Through all the tough moments foster parents may endure, having to say goodbye to a foster child can be the most difficult. This book outlines the different ways this affects foster families and provides some ways to help everyone make it through this challenging time when it comes.  

    The Adoptive Parent Toolbox by Mike & Kristin Berry

    Biological or adopted, each new child brings a new experience for their parents. This book shares true testimonies from adoptive families all over the world that provide wisdom gleaned from the many lessons learned. These stories illustrate both unique experiences and common obstacles throughout the adoption process and touch on various challenging aspects of the journey that may crop up in everyday life.

    Wounded Children, Healing Homes: How Traumatized Children Impact Adoptive and Foster Families by Jayne Schooler, Timothy Callahan and Betsy Keefer Smalley

    Parents often experience anxiety when preparing to welcome a new child, whether the child is biological, adopted or taken in from foster care. Those who are expecting a child coming from trauma may experience even more uncertainty. This book is written to address the experience of each party: the child, the parents, as well as others affected by this transition, in order to help calm concerns and navigate expectations.

    Adopting the Older Child by Claudia Jarrett

    The adoption and/or “fostering” process is a very specific experience, but welcoming an older child into the family is an even more distinct part of that journey. This book is widely considered to be a “classic” among adoption and foster care books, as it was written through the lens of each party (i.e. the child, the parents, as well as others affected by this transition) in order to help calm concerns of the family as a whole and navigate expectations to create a comfortable experience for all.

    There is no perfect roadmap to fostering or adopting, but these books can offer lessons and both personal and professional advice that can guide families through the journey.