I Am: A Care Moment Between a Residential Youth and Staff

At the ground-breaking event, Diana recited a poem that earned a standing ovation from the crowd titled 'I Am'. We are so proud of her for getting in front of the crowd and showing how amazing, genuine, and bright she is. Residential Therapist Rebecca Rudolph and Program Manager Deanna Howard each worked with Diana, our youth in care who was selected to speak at our groundbreaking ceremony.

Diana is a 14-year-old foster youth who has experienced trauma and is also intellectually and developmentally delayed. Since arriving in January, she has made significant progress. “I've learned to control my anger and use my words to communicate better,” Diana said. She likes the staff and admits they've helped her a lot. She helps her peers too. “They know they can come to me for help,” Diana added.

Diana selected Deanna to sit with her at the ceremony. Deanna indicated that she has a strong rapport with Diana as a result of their many talks in the evening (relationship based). Deanna said she knew Diana was getting nervous on the morning of the event so she continued to encourage her by telling her how great she was going to do (competence centered). Deanna shared that Diana thanked her for allowing her to be part of the ceremony to which Deanna replied, “you got this. You are important and loved. If you get scared up there just look at me,” (Developmentally focused).

Rebecca reinforced these same care principles saying that she practiced the poem with Diana and said she was comfortable working with her because of their good relationship. Rebecca said she read the poem to her a couple times first so Diana could hear the tone and pauses in the poem and then she listened while Diana practiced reading it. Rebecca says she can tell Diana is starting to see that she is loved and cared for by her peers and staff at Hoyleton and knows that is great progress. Both Deanna and Rebecca are so proud of what Diana has accomplished.

Poem recited by youth in care

From LifeSet to Police Officer: Fryday Catch-up

Fryday holding a 2019 Impact Report where he was featured on the cover.

If you were part of Hoyleton in 2020 you may have met or heard a story or two about former client Fryday Nelson. This young man, and his son Zai'den, stole the hearts of many when they were special guests at our Hoyleton Honors banquet back in February of 2020.

After completing the ILO program, Fryday got a job in the trucking business. The trucking job helped him make money to secure housing and pay his bills but Fryday did not like the long days on the road and he knew he had a calling to do something else, so in late 2021 Fryday took a leap of faith and applied to the St. Louis Police Academy.

Fryday shared his story of being removed from his home and placed in foster care right before he started kindergarten. He spent his childhood moving in and out of different family members' homes as well as a few foster homes. Fryday shared that even when times were difficult he had the ability to rely on himself and his faith in the Lord to keep him going. When Fryday reached adulthood he became a client of Hoyleton's in our ILO program. It was there, with the support and guidance of his caseworker, Nikki Klienik, that he gained the knowledge and skills he needed to support himself and his young son Zai'den. Fryday and Nikki worked together to establish a plan with priorities and attainable goals. "My caseworker Nikki made me feel like the sky was the limit for me! She was so supportive and always did what she said she was going to do which helped me stay on the right path," Fryday said.

Nikki remembers meeting Fryday for the first time because she said there was an instant connection. “My first visit with Fryday happened because I was covering for another caseworker who was on vacation, but after that first meeting I knew I wanted to have Fryday on my caseload,” Nikki said.  “We were able to talk so easily about everything he was going through at the time and I could see the potential in him and knew I could help,” Nikki added.

"The physical training was grueling and the written exam was the longest test I had ever taken but I passed them both," Fryday said with a big smile! In September of 2022, with his case worker Nikki in the crowd, Fryday graduated from the St Louis Police Academy and is now a night patrolman in the city of St. Louis. He loves his job but already has a new goal of becoming an Illinois State Police officer! When he encounters a troubled youth out on the street he makes sure they know they have choices and he lets them know there are places to go where people will help them get their life straightened out. He says he shares with everyone what Hoyleton did for him.


Fryday says he is thankful and feels very blessed to be where his in in life. He is appreciative of the support he received at Hoyleton, especially from his caseworker Nikki, and believes that support helped him get to where he is today.

Fryday's son Zai'den is a smart, happy eight year old boy and Fryday is engaged to a lady who just graduated from nursing school so the future is look very bright. "My faith in God, belief in myself and Hoyleton's support really made a difference in my life!"

Hoyleton Parents Provide Security and Care for Adopted Grandchildren

Sheryl and James are the grandparents of eight children. They were introduced to Hoyleton when their grandchildren’s mother abandoned them, and they were put into DCFS custody.

Sheryl and James immediately acted and worked closely with Becky Depping, the Hoyleton Foster Care Case Worker, and Becky Rhoden, the Child Welfare Manager, to keep the kids together and provide them with a safe and loving environment to call home.

Seven of the eight children have been adopted by, or have legal guardianship by, members of their family. One child has been adopted by a Hoyleton non-relative foster home, but they remain close with the family.

Sheryl and James have adopted two of their grandkids, 13-year-old Jayce and three-year-old Nevaeh. They also have guardianship of their 15-year-old grandson Cole.

After the adoption proceedings, Sheryl’s son Jayce said, “Finally, I feel secure now!” She is so happy knowing she provided him with that security. Jayce felt so secure in his new home environment that he decided to change his middle name so he could share a name with his grandfather James.

Seven-year-old Draven was adopted a few years ago by Sheryl’s niece, who was struggling with fertility. He was a very welcome addition to their family.

The whole family works hard to keep all the kids connected through family gatherings, phone calls, photos and texts.

Becky, the Child Welfare Manager, said, “This is a very loving family that is always willing to step up when asked to care for their grandkids.”

They are a typical busy family. Navaeh, who is deaf, just started school at the Illinois Institute for the Deaf in Jacksonville, IL. Jayce and Cole are avid bowlers, and they both recently medaled in the Special Olympics bowling competition. They are now looking forward to the state bowling tournament coming up in December. They will get to travel to Peoria to compete. There will be a quarter auction in their hometown to raise money for their travel expenses.

When they aren’t bowling, the boys like to play video games and basketball. Becky, who continues to work closely with the family, said, “Sheryl somehow keeps all the medical appointments straight and is a great advocate for their needs.”

“Things can be difficult at times, but you just have to be patient and listen to the children and allow them to respond to you when they feel comfortable,” said Sheryl. She recently taught one of the boys to sew and make things, which gave him the feeling of being needed.

“I could not ask for more committed and caring relative foster parents,” Becky said.

For more information on our adoption services, visit https://hoyleton.org/programs/foster-care-placement/permanency-services/

How One Foster Family Is Making a Difference in the Life of a Youth With Disabilities

Hoyleton Youth and Family Services provides specialized resources and support during extenuating circumstances. Nicole and Nick Nolte quickly became aware of these opportunities when they were contacted by DCFS regarding a friend’s daughter, Ariana, who at the age of 11 was placed in protective custody and admitted to Cardinal Glennon Hospital suffering from signs of severe neglect.

The Noltes were referred to Hoyleton Youth and Family Services and formed a plan to bring Ariana home. Getting home would be a long transition and require planning as Ariana suffers from cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, epilepsy and neuromuscular scoliosis. She requires constant care and assistance as she is non-weight bearing, has a G-tube for feeding and cannot use words to communicate.

The foster care staff at Hoyleton were specialized case workers who utilized relationships with other agencies to ensure Ariana had all the necessary medical equipment to be home with her foster parents in a safe environment. She received specialized bedding and a wheelchair, and case workers guided Nicole and Nick through financial services and other necessary paperwork.

Cortney Walker, the Hoyleton Staff Nurse, provided feedback and talked through several scenarios with Nicole during difficult situations. Cortney’s knowledge of specialized services and her caring attitude were a comfort to Nicole. She became a medical advocate for the family and provided resources to make certain Nicole and Nick had the techniques, medication and equipment they needed to manage Ariana’s health. According to Nicole, “Cortney became my sounding board for feedback and helped through some trying times.”

With the support of Hoyleton Youth and Family Services, Nicole and Nick gave Ariana a fuller life. After three days of being home with them, Ariana showed emotion for the first time in their care. Whether a smile, frown or tear, they knew in their hearts there was a purpose to making a difference in Ariana’s life. She was formally adopted on January 9, 2020, and became a part of their blended family. The Noltes didn't stop there; they recently adopted Ariana’s three siblings and became a family of eight. Three of the six children have a passion to help others and aspire to pursue careers in social work.

Hoyleton is truly blessed to have families like the Noltes who have a passion to help others. To learn more about our foster care program, visit https://hoyleton.org/programs/foster-care-placement/

Hoyleton | Home for the Holidays

One Man's Winning Battle for His Family

Tim woke up one morning, sleeping on his wife’s grave. Still heartbroken from her passing of an overdose, Tim faced his own struggles with drugs that he was determined to overcome. He knew he had to face his demons seeing how he had six children to look after. But that morning, things got worse quickly, and his kids were taken away from him.

His story is a tough one to tell. He pauses frequently as he recalls and tells us of challenging moments in his life. “I was born in the Cincinnati area,” he says. “My mother had passed away and my dad was in trouble, having been in prison for robbery.”

In 2000, Tim relocated to southern Illinois to meet his father for the first time. They still have a difficult relationship, but with family in the area, it was a place to start over. Tim got a job doing flooring, a job he has been doing on and off ever since.

Losing a family while finding his way

After losing his wife, Tim discovered he was lost as well. He was staying at his wife’s grandmother’s house, who helped take care of his children. She and Tim had a strained relationship, at best. “After my wife passed, I decided to pull everything out of the closet that belonged to her,” Tim says. “I just couldn’t keep looking at it. That’s when her grandmother came in and an argument started.” Tim was encouraged by his DCFS caseworker, if there was ever conflict, he should leave, so he did.

“I didn’t know where to go, so I went to my wife’s grave and fell asleep,” he says. “I woke the next morning to find out I had been charged with abandonment, and I lost my kids.”

This was three years ago. Tim lost everything and everyone. All he had were the clothes on his back. He ended up living out of various family members’ homes with no real plan to get his life back on track. Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) started Tim with a service plan to ensure he was and would remain clean from drug usage. This would be his first intentional step to getting his children and life back. In the meantime, the children would be under traditional foster care with their grandmother.

“A case worker from DCFS told me that I should begin a drug treatment plan to help with my addiction,” Tim explains. “But it didn’t seem right to take drugs to get off drugs, so I asked if I could first try to do it on my own.” It took time to accomplish, but determined to rebuild his life and family, he was able to do just that and has not used an illicit drug since.

Like any human being, Tim struggled a few times with alcohol, but he had his mind set on reunification with his children. DCFS asked that he take a drug assessment and mental assessment. He was hesitant, feeling he made some strong strides on his own. He knew where he could go if he had any concerns or relapses, or so he thought. He was referred to Hoyleton Youth & Family Services as another option to help him get his life fully back on track.

An ear to listen and programs to help

Providing services to youth and families served by DCFS, Hoyleton’s Wraparound Program works to keep youth out of foster care by finding them permanent homes. Through traditional and non-traditional support, its services include mentoring, budgeting, organizational skills, finding local resources and any other services that help maintain a family’s mental well-being when involved in DCFS care.

“I was introduced to Tracy, a caseworker at Hoyleton. I went in with the same expectations I had with any other caseworker, that they really wouldn’t understand my issues and be able to help me,” Tim says. “But Tracy was different. She read my file thoroughly and called me out on my excuses. I was upset at first, but stuck with her. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.”

Tracy worked with Tim, getting him therapy sessions and working through his case to gain custody of his children again. “Tracy was a light in the dark,” explains Tim. “I learned to trust her, and she was someone I could talk to whenever I needed to vent or ask questions.”

Tim had gone years with no one to fully take the time to understand him or be there when he needed them. Our programs gave him hope and an outlet. We began to teach him how to take the right steps to redemption.

“Hoyleton was always there when I needed them and still are today,” says Tim. “Tracy left, but I connected with Tammy, with Hoyleton’s Forward Counseling Care, who has been equally awesome.” Our team assisted Tim in finding a permanent home and with the needed furniture so every child would have their own bed. “Hoyleton even helped with getting me a dining room table to ensure we could eat together as a family,” says Tim.

A family reunited for the holidays

The road has been tough for Tim, but he is very hopeful and looking toward his and his family’s future. He now has custody of his six children and continues voluntary counseling sessions with Hoyleton so he stays on the right path.

“I know the importance of those sessions and how much it helps center me,” he says. “My addiction is a life-long challenge. If I didn't have counseling, I know things would be much worse for me.”

Tim and his children are especially grateful this season to be able to spend the holidays together under one roof. “There are no words to what this means to us,” he says. “As difficult as the past few years have been, I could not be happier with where I am now.”

Tim knows that when he faces challenges, Tammy and Hoyleton will be there for him moving forward. “They are like family to me as well,” Tim says.

Part of our mission is to provide the tools which allow people to realize the wholeness of life God intends. To learn more about Hoyleton and its counseling services, please visit hoyleton.org/programs/counseling-care/ or forwardbyhoyleton.org

Hope for the Holidays | Making Seasons Brighter

We had an opportunity to speak with one of our donors recently and talk with her about why she is so passionate about being involved with our annual “Hope for the Holidays” program.

Sitting in her home in Mascoutah, Samantha relaxes on her couch as what sounds like a thunderous herd goes by. “Those are my three babies,” she says. She’s talking about her three dogs, each weighing over 100 pounds. “It’s non-stop action around here.”

Samantha was born in Maryland but has lived in numerous locations throughout her childhood, including southern Illinois. “I’m the daughter of a military dad. Moving is part of the deal,” she explains. She and her sister moved back to the southern Illinois area in adulthood and made it their home to be close to each other and other family members.

Samantha’s dad was adopted, so she learned a lot about the challenges and ordeals of foster children through his experiences. It’s that understanding that led her to give back to organizations like ours.

“I worked in nonprofit myself at one point,” she says. Now a wedding planner, she still likes to give back when possible, especially for causes focused on children. “I learned about Hoyleton when my sister, Alex, started working for you at the Lehre Haus,” she says. Lehre Haus is one of our residential homes located in Belleville, IL, for intellectually disabled young men transitioning from foster care.

“Alex loves working for Hoyleton and being a part of its mission to enable all people,” says Samantha. “Seeing her passion and understanding the programs they have for youth, both young and old, made me want to get involved in a different way.”

“It can’t be easy when you can’t fully help yourself,” she goes on. “I felt for them and wanted to get involved to bring a little joy into their lives, especially around the holidays, which can be even tougher on them.”

This is why Samantha decided to get involved in our “Hope for the Holidays” gift program.

“Hope for the Holidays” allows people to choose a youth and/or family to purchase gifts for them to have on Christmas. Whether it’s using a wish list that was created for them or simply providing gift cards, “Hope for the Holidays” is a way for people to make someone else’s season bright.

“I ask Hoyleton to simply choose a few youths for me, regardless of age,” Samantha explains. “I can then pick out some gifts and know their Christmas will be a little merrier. We sometimes take for granted that all children are afforded the same joys. This brings some perspective and helps those who need it most.”

Samantha plans on making “Hope for the Holidays” a tradition in her family, and she looks forward to finding other ways to support our mission in the future.

To learn more about ‘Hope for the Holidays’ and donate to help those we serve and make the holidays special for them, please visit: https://hoyleton.org/events/hope-for-the-holidays-2020/

Forever Family Through Adoption

Hoyleton helps a loving family provide a forever home through adoption

Over 122,000 children and youths are in the U.S. foster care system, looking to find a forever home. Those thousands waiting to be adopted are at risk of aging out of foster care without permanent family connections, which increases their risk of homelessness and human trafficking.

Hoyleton Youth & Family Services strives to find permanent solutions for children in foster care. Reunification with the biological parents is always the goal. However, if that can't be accomplished, Hoyleton helps facilitate the adoption of foster children via a case worker, who is partnered with the adoptive parents.

The following is one story of adoptive parents who were able to provide a loving permanent home to two girls with the help of Hoyleton.

A surprise moment to begin a life goal

Kim always knew that at some point in her life she wanted to adopt children. She’d think about all the youths who had a tough childhood without the support and love they needed to thrive. She knew she could make a difference in young lives when she had the opportunity.

After 12 years of marriage and having three children of her own, she started thinking about it again, whether it was starting out as a foster parent locally or adopting overseas. Without any notice, she received a call one night from the police station. She was told that her three “god-children” had come into care at the station and they needed a home. The problem was that she didn’t have any god-children.

“My husband was a pastor and they were the children of someone who attended a service months earlier,” says Kim. “What started as a shock turned into a blessing and journey to adoption.”

Two of the children were quickly reunited with their biological father, while Kim fostered the third for over a year. His father had just been released from jail, and Kim worked to help him get his son back. “Everyone deserves a second chance,” says Kim. “And this father had worked hard to redeem himself and hold a steady job.”

Following her first adventure into foster care, Kim got a call to take a 5-year-old girl named Addy. The girl had very little, and it was clear she had suffered neglect. Two weeks later, Kim received a call to also take Addy’s 2-year old sister, Pasleigh. Pasleigh had a broken arm and sores, and she didn’t talk much. But when she walked into Kim’s house and saw a picture of her big sister on the wall, she said, “Addy.”

“It was that moment I knew that siblings really needed to be together,” says Kim.

Pasleigh struggled in school, but Kim and the first grade teacher worked out a plan to help her progress throughout the school year. In that year, everyone was amazed at how quickly her reading level and social skills grew. “What a lot of people don’t understand is that kids who come into care are five or more years emotionally and socially behind their actual age,” explains Kim.

Support throughout the long journey

The following year, the birth mom of Addy and Pasleigh signed over her rights to Kim and her husband for both girls. “The process of adoption dragged out for three years after that to get it official,” says Kim. “It was frustrating at times, but we had some beautiful moments through it all to make it worthwhile.” Whether it was the first Christmas when they got a princess dress or the first time they went apple picking, the bond and love between the girls and family continued to grow.

During those three years, Brittany, a case manager at Hoyleton, came into the picture to assist Kim with the adoption process. Typically, case managers facilitate the adoption of foster children alongside State of Illinois child welfare agencies. Adoptions are organized throughout the year, and a case worker helps foster parents, biological parents and adoptive parents understand their role through the process.

“We were blessed to have Brittany for all three years,” says Kim. “A lot of foster children have multiple case workers since the turnover can be high. Having that consistency meant a lot to the girls as they got to know ‘Brit-Brit,’ the nickname they gave her.”

Brittany spent countless hours joining Kim in court meetings and providing consultation to her throughout the process.

A special day for a special family

In September 2020, the attorney handling the case told them they were cleared for adoption. They worked to have it official on Pasleigh’s birthday, five years after they first entered Kim’s family’s lives. Brittany made them all matching adoption shirts to commemorate the big day.

Today, the growing family thrives with Kim’s older children now graduated and out of the house. And Kim’s next goal is to adopt Addy and Pasleigh’s older biological brother. “We hope to bring him into the family fold this year as we work through that process as well,” says Kim.

Kim has advice to those who are considering being a foster or adoptive parent. “The first goal of any foster parent should be to help support the children so they can return to their biological parents,” says Kim. “Some people are scared of getting too attached to foster children in fear of losing them, but the kids need that love, stability and support during those tough times in their lives. In the end, there’s nothing more rewarding.”

How you can help

Hoyleton works with foster children every day to find their forever home, and supports both foster and adoptive parents. In this past year alone, Hoyleton assisted in 54 adoption cases.

To learn more about becoming a foster/adoptive parent or to help this important cause, please visit: https://hoyleton.org/programs/foster-care-placement/

Foster Care | Daniel Waters

As May draws to a close, we want to thank the individuals who open their hearts and homes to our communities’ youth. Choosing to foster a child is an important decision, and taking the next step can seem overwhelming. However, foster parents are a welcomed shelter from the storm and provide a safe place for a child who needs stability and love, while family issues are being resolved. 

In honor of National Foster Care Month, I had a chance to speak with Mr. Daniel Waters about the importance of foster care and its impact on the lives of children and their biological families.

How many years have you been a foster parent, and how many children have you fostered/adopted?

I have been a foster parent for four years. Throughout that time, I have fostered four children. My first foster care placement led to the subsequent adoption of my daughter, age 14. I have fostered my daughter’s brother and two other children from different families. 

What experience or who encouraged you to become a foster parent?

There was not a time I can remember that I didn’t want to foster. Being a dad is one of the best things I have ever done or experienced, and that was my motivation to be a foster parent. I was not scared of parenting and fostering children. I was already a single dad with two kids. My daughter was 11 or 12 at the time, and my son was 14 years old. The nervousness came in regards to adding another child to the family and changing the family dynamics. Fostering became a reality when I was in a financial position and had the room to take that next step. Once we purchased the home we currently live in, we had space and it felt was the right time. 

Did you realize how much fostering a child would change the family dynamics, especially when dealing with a child that has experienced trauma? 

Honestly, it was rough at first. My adoptive daughter experienced trauma and had a difficult time processing the hurt and anger. However, the longer she was with us, the longer the periods between outbursts until those moments became distant memories. 

I would say adjusting was hardest for my son. He was a teenager at the time and looking to assert his independence. My biological daughter and adoptive daughter are one year apart. They interact with one another as you would expect any siblings to act, best friends one minute, and disagree the next. The girls have been with each other for four years now, so they are familiar with each other personalities and now when to walk away and let it go. 

You have a busy home. How do you juggle it all without family support? 

I have close friends who lend a hand when needed. It also helps that my work is flexible. I can make and meet the necessary appointments for my children without any problems. Also, I have teenagers in the home, and everyone is willing to pitch in and help out.  Hoyleton has also provided resources like the Counseling Care department when needed.

What is the reality of fostering?

First, there has to be a willingness to take in someone, love them unconditionally, and then say good-bye when the time comes, which is difficult. Next comes the training. And this is where I don’t feel people take fostering seriously. The negative realities of fostering shown in the training videos regarding the trauma these youth endure, coupled with the end goal of reunification, is glossed over by some potential foster parents. Fostering is not about building your family, but supporting a family when they are in need. I think some individuals miss that point. Fostering is not a Hollywood movie. When a family does take in a child with trauma, and things become hard reality hits. 

How do you handle loving a child through the trauma they have suffered and protecting yourself, especially when it is time for a child to be reunified with their family?  

My defense against that feeling is to work closely with my foster children’s families. I have been lucky that the biological families I work with have been open to having this type of relationship. I have not dealt with fostering a child and then not seeing them again once they are reunified with their family. In fact, my former foster son has been living with us since the shelter-in-place order. My now adoptive daughter regularly communicates with her mother and even visits with her biological siblings. As for the baby of our family, I am in contact with his uncle and send pictures. 

For me, I don’t want to take any part of my foster children’s identity or leave them without the ability to reach back when they are older and connect with their biological families. I try to remember that whatever brought my foster children in care now, might not be the same when they are older. A person can never have enough people in their life who care about you. I try my best to make sure both the parent and child know I am available when the child does go back home. I am here if the family needs help. 

What is one of your favorite memories regarding your foster children? 

My favorite memory is when my daughter first arrived. She was around ten years old at the time and, for some reason, could not remember my name, which is Dan. So for one and a half weeks, she called me Mr. Nice Guy. For the older ones, I let them know they can call me Dan or you can call me whatever makes you comfortable. My daughter quickly started calling me, dad. My foster son calls me Dan. Good memories either way. 

What practical advice would you give individuals who want to become foster parents?

It is going to be hard but stick with it. Once a child is in your home, you have to see them as family, and I don’t give up on family. However rough it becomes, let the child know you are in their corner. They need to hear and know that from you. 

I want to thank Mr. Waters for sharing his foster care story. With over 400,000 children in care in the United States, the need for foster parents is more important than ever. However, interested individuals will not be making this journey alone. Committing to raise a child and partner with a family in need is how we build a brighter future for our communities’ children and grow together. Hoyleton is here to help individuals on their path to foster care with understanding eligibility requirements, training, licensing process, counseling, and other services. For more information on Foster Care and taking the next step, call the Foster Care Department at 618.688.4727.

#NationalFosterCareMonth  #HoyletonCares #FosterKidsNeedAHero  #FosterCare #FosterParents

Hoyleton HALO Project | National Sexual Abuse Awareness Month

As a nation, our attention is turned to dealing with COVID-19 and helping our communities adjust to the realities of shelter-in-place. While self-isolation slows down the transmission of COVID-19, the flip-side is that self-isolation leaves many individuals vulnerable to abuse. April is National Sexual Abuse Awareness Month. It is not often that individuals catch a glimpse into the lives of commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC). Human trafficking is both in plain sight and hidden. At Hoyleton, we have a unique program, Healing And Loving Oneself (HALO), which offers hope and a means of recovery and healing for youth that have been sexually exploited. Below, a Hoyleton HALO Advocate and a client share their reflections on the journey to the other side.  

To whoever is entering HALO,

It will be tough at first and you will be tested a lot but in the end, it will all be worth it! What is HALO to me? HALO helps people like me stay out of the streets. How? I used to think of running the streets every day. Now, I am almost seventeen, and all I want is to be successful in life. I want to go to college and have a good job and a nice place to stay. Alexis has never given up on me even at the times I wanted to give up on myself. She has stayed consistent and became a very important person in my life. I’ve learned that running away from your problems only makes things worse because eventually, your problems are going to deal with you. 

-Female Youth

I know from my experience of working with victims and survivors of trafficking they often feel loss, trauma, a sense of hopelessness, and other challenging emotions. Individuals describe to me not feeling “normal” compared to others. As an advocate, I want to inspire hope for the individuals in HALO. Every client is unique, as is every session I do with them.  When I start working with them, I try to build a relationship by keeping our session topics light. We try to get to know each other and understand each other’s expectations. It is as important for me to understand their expectations as it is for them to understand mine.

As we begin to progress into the program, we will identify emotions and reactions to situations; this is important for them to learn as it sets the foundation for their coping skills. I do my best to help the client fill the need they are lacking (love, trust, knowledge, comfort, support, skills, etc.). During our weekly sessions, I start by checking in with them. How their week has been? What their struggles have been? Any good news to share? Sometimes the good news is the hardest part for them to identify.

Sessions have a loose structure as I let my client decide where to take the day’s session. Many of the clients struggle with love, trust, and acceptance, so I model to them what a healthy relationship should look like in their life. I do this by being there for them when they call, text, or message me. I listen to them when they are upset or confused. When they are unhappy with me, we talk through that and how they feel about the situation. I also talk with them about their experiences and help them understand their emotions. The clients get to practice the tools we worked on during our sessions when they communicate with me. These new skills help them feel empowered, and it helps them cope with what’s happening in their life. Transparency plays a key role in the client’s recovery. An individual needs to be open with me about where they are struggling in the process, so I know what our next steps should be. Best case scenario, I work with the client on life skills to move towards independence or stability. Worst case scenario, I am the one person in the client’s life that they know will not give up on them, judge them, and will always be there to pick them up when they fall.

While individuals cannot volunteer to work with survivors, they can partner with the Prevention Department. Donations in the form of gift cards are appreciated as youth are transitioning and moving into a place of security. Advocacy is another aspect of influencing the conversation surrounding sexual abuse and exploitation. The Prevention Department is available to educate individuals and groups on the topic to bring awareness to our communities. If you are interested, please contact the Prevention Department at 618.688.4739. Together, we can protect our children’s future.


#Hoyleton #HALO #NationalSexualAbuseAwarenessMonth

Fryday Nelson - Finding My Stride

Illinois is one of approximately 28 states that has extended foster care to age 21. By continuing care, emergent adults are provided the time and necessary tools to help them become successful adults. I had an opportunity to interview Fryday Nelson, a Hoyleton success story, and learn his thoughts on being successful while in care and beyond.  

After your experience in foster care, and not having achieved traditional permanency, what hope or thoughts would you like to share with youth who find themselves in a similar situation?

First, I hope they have some support system, like Hoyleton, and a good caseworker. If they are losing hope, they have to use their voice and ask for help. Do not be afraid to reach out because there are individuals who want to help. I know speaking up makes a person feel vulnerable, but you have to be real when asking for help. I am aware that youth in foster care have been through a lot. They often feel people have let them down all their lives, and that no one cares about them. When this happens, you have to have faith in yourself and the belief that good people are willing to help. Even when a person has been hurt in past relationships, you cannot be shy about giving the next person a chance to build a relationship with you. Also, prayer is so important. A person needs to have faith that they will receive help from someone. Just hold on, help is coming. 

You spoke about trusting oneself, why is this so important?

If you cannot trust yourself and the decisions you make, you will never trust anyone else. Trust is what builds relationships. I understand about being let down in a relationship. However, not all relationships will be the same. A person has to learn from each relationship and every situation, both the good and the bad. 

What advice would you share with potential foster parents or current foster parents on how to care for older youth versus younger children?

Listen to the youth in your care. Take the time to understand their issues. Please realize you can work with them. Foster parents need to listen to what is spoken and unspoken. You have to gain their trust, and that takes time and patience. Don’t give up on them. The rejection will be a scar they carry with them as they become older. The belief that no one cared about them will be there in their minds. Foster parents can change a youth’s attitude, but you have to be willing to love them. 

As you move into adulthood, are there any skills you wish you had acquired while in foster care, which you feel would be beneficial to other youth or emergent adults?

I wish I would have worked on my work ethic. If you start early learning the value of a good work ethic, you will see the results later as you grow within your job and as a person. Always work on trying to be a better person. Have a vision for who you want to be and move toward becoming that person. And good communication skills are important.

What are your dreams/goals for one year, five years, and ten years? What steps are you taking to make your goals a reality?

For my one-year goals, I would like to continue saving with the intent to build a home for young men. I have a vision for this, and I know it will take resources to make it a reality. I am also in the process of obtaining my Commercial Driver License (CDL). I will complete the course later this year and then start working for a trucking company.

My five-year goal is to continue raising my son and to purchase a home. I will continue to move toward making a boys’ home a reality. This means learning about the challenges youth face and solutions to those issues. I want young men to know that if I made it out of the system, they can too.

My 10-year goal is to keep things moving. As my son gets older, I am going to be on him. I know the mistakes I made. I know what to do so that my mistakes are not part of his story. I want him to focus on the future that is ahead of him. 

Fryday’s future is bright and Hoyleton looks forward to seeing him become the man he envisions. However, the opportunities provided to Fryday, while in care, would not have been possible without dedicated individuals choosing to walk beside him on his journey into adulthood. For more information on how you can partner with Hoyleton Youth and Family Services in their mission to build stronger families one child at a time, contact us at 618.688.4727.

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