Hoyleton CEO Chris Cox Discusses Self Care on Fox 2 News

Our President and CEO, Chris Cox, joined Fox 2 Now's Studio STL to discuss the importance of self care. You can't pour from an empty cup, and you don't have to feel guilty about taking time for yourself. Watch below to learn more:

Self Care is the practice of actively nurturing one's happiness and well being, and it's not as hard as you would think. Self care can  be as big as tackling your bad habits, or as small as making a cup of tea. Taking a small amount of time for yourself can help find balance in other areas of your life, too. Holistic wellness can be put into 8 dimensions that focus on different aspects of everyday life. By taking care of one dimension, we often see the others improve. Read more in depth about SAMHSA's 8 dimensions of wellness.

In Honor of World Mental Health Day 2021

Hoyleton Supports Mental Health Advocacy and Awareness

By Adam Woehlke, Director of Clinical Services

This Sunday, October 10 is World Mental Health Day, and because of the pandemic, a lot of people are struggling with their mental health. In fact, even without the added anxieties of a global pandemic, 20-25% of the U.S. population is impacted by mental health each year. It’s as important as ever that we advocate for mental health because so many people are affected.

At Hoyleton, mental health advocacy is focused on reducing stigma. Building communication among our friends and family and educating people about mental health are two ways we help reduce stigma. The best thing you can do to help protect people who are experiencing mental illness is help build their network, which requires having people in your circle who can look past the stigma and empathize with what they’re experiencing.

The same way a community might rally around a child who has a physical sickness, bringing them food, encouragement and well wishes, we need to care for those affected by serious mental illness. What’s going to help people dealing with mental illness is having other people at the core of their recovery or treatment.

At Hoyleton, we are working to be a part of the networks so that we can better advocate and care for people with mental health struggles. We do this by going out into the community to meet clients where they are,serving both youth and their families to make sure that they have a care system in place to lift them up and provide unconditional support. And we make sure that our clients feel heard, feel cared for and are referred to the resources they need to thrive.

But mental health advocacy isn’t just reserved for organizations such as ours that have the resources to affect change on a wide scale. There are things people can do every day to advocate. It’s as simple as talking to the people around you, or asking your friends and family if they’ve noticed anything out of the ordinary, how they’re doing or if they need help. It can also look like getting involved with a group that is involved in mental health advocacy, whether it’s at Hoyleton or at your local church, school or other community center.

People affected by mental health are in need of supporters, advocates and friends. It’s on all of us to create safe spaces to have vulnerable and honest conversations, spread mental health awareness and make sure everyone feels cared for. We are doing what we can to enable people with mental illnesses to reach their fullest potential, and we hope you will join us in doing so.

Community Mental Health Care that Reaches All

In 2020, we established a specific program to reach out to those in our community that are in need of mental health care. Here at Hoyleton, we explored the need and importance of access to qualified mental health professionals within the Southern Illinois community. It was with the information gathered and understanding, a community resource for mental health care access was essential and the FORWARD Counseling Care by Hoyleton initiative was established.

Services provided by FORWARD are for children, adults, couples, groups, school districts, community outreach, and businesses which would like to offer employees a safe space to seek healthy mental health care.

FORWARD Counseling Care is comprised of several services that fall under different funding sources. Programs are funded by multiple sources including the State of Illinois, private grants, and private funding. Some of Hoyleton’s traditional services now encompassed by FORWARD continue to include:

Outpatient Counseling
School-based Partnership Programs, primarily in the East St. Louis School district
The Wraparound Program sponsored by DCFS
The Victims of Crime Act
Southern Illinois Violence Prevention Program
Mental Health First Aid

Three new evidence-based practices are now being offered; Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Child Parent Psychotherapy, and the Nurturing Parent Program. All programs managed by FORWARD are built on the model of healing oneself from a holistic approach.

Our highly trained therapists want to help you be the best you, that God has intended you to be.

If you, or a loved one are uncertain where to get qualified mental health care, reach out to a FORWARD team member today at 618.688.7040. When you reach out, you will receive a call from a member of the FORWARD staff within 24-48 hours.

Learn more about the FORWARD by Hoyleton program at forwardbyhoyleton.org. To best serve the community, our website is available for both our English and LatinX speaking friends.

FORWARD Counseling Care by Hoyleton

Addressing a growing need for Mental Health services

In times like these, mental health is as important as ever. So many people see therapy and counseling as a matter of weakness, when in fact, it is a sign of strength and understanding. And many don’t know where to start or go to seek help. 

Hoyleton Youth and Family Services launched Forward Counseling Care to expand on its behavioral and mental health services to communities in southern Illinois for every stage of youth and family development.

“In today’s world of the unknown, it’s important for Hoyleton to be there for our communities,” says Tina Kampwerth, Director of Clinical Services. “We understand the growing need for mental health services and want to continue to be there when the going gets tough to support our neighbors.”

 A service built on compassion and understanding

Forward Counseling Care by Hoyleton is a truly immersive and compassionate mental and behavioral health counseling service with a unique approach and whole-health focus that has built trust and positive changes for adults, children and families in need of greater well-being.

“We emphasize being mindful and aware of all of the things that can impact a person’s mental health,” explains Federico Parola, Associate Marriage and Family Therapist. “We are able to take that understanding to match each client with the therapist most appropriate for their unique situation.” 

An individual therapist is assigned to the client based on their needs, but also works with a team when needed to elevate the care and bring other specialists in along the way. Each Forward therapist has a master’s degree in counseling, psychology, social work or a related fields, with most specializing in trauma. Therapists meet with their clients wherever they feel most comfortable - whether that be in-person, online or at Hoyleton’s therapy facility. 

Expanded service to address all unique needs

Forward provides a holistic approach to all aspects of health and wellness. Its breadth of services allows the team to deliver care that meets clients’ needs - from one-on-one to family counseling - all to address a wide range of mental and behavioral health issues, including ADHD, adjustment disorder, anxiety, depression, grief/bereavement, PTSD and other relationship and social issues.

“We have also extended our services to organizations and businesses in the communities where we work and live,” says Brice Bloom-Ellis, Chief Program Officer. “Whether helping students in schools, businesses interested in providing wellness to their employees, or working with government and other nonprofit organizations across southern Illinois, we want to provide support to those who have a need and can benefit from our services and resources.”

“These are tough and unique times, and we can help individuals and families build the future they imagine for themselves,” says Tina. “We want to walk hand-in-hand with them to remove the stigma of mental health support and help strengthen our communities in the process. It’s time we all move forward together.”

To learn more about Forward Counseling Care by Hoyleton, talk to someone, or help young adults in our communities, please visit us at: https://forwardbyhoyleton.org/ or contact us directly at: (618) 688-7040.

Back2School Blog | Phylicia Gay Guest Blogger

With August upon us, we are greeted with a familiarity that we as adults know all too well, the stores full of Back to School Supplies and new school gadgets our child just cannot live without! and within the first week of school, they will have no doubt, lost, forgotten, or broken the much ‘needed’ supply.

I know this because I was that kid too! My love of new school supplies and office gadgets runs deep, when my own children go off to school I will likely have to send them to the store with their father who is far more sensible.

When we prepare the children in our life to go back to school, what do we do as the parent/caregiver to prepare them for this new school year? Does it end at the new backpack and lunchbox?

For me, it was exciting to get the new school supplies, but that was where my excitement ended and the anxiety began. My mother knew two things for certain when she was raising me, one – she raised me in a very routine and structured way and I became dependent on that routine. This now means if you don’t prepare me for a change in that routine, I will struggle. And two – I have an anxious streak. For my mother, school supplies were the least of her concerns. She had to start preparing me for my new routine in advance, that I would end up forgetting!

The summer months offer our kids the freedom of a later bedtime, a little less structure, and the best part of all, NO HOMEWORK! Much like our children in foster care, I knew what it meant to be in a new and unfamiliar environment, my father spent 22 years in the Air Force and I wasn’t always guaranteed to be in the same school, state, or even the same country, from one school year to the next.

As a new school year approaches, our children are not only facing the anxiety that comes with back to school, but they are also facing the added anxiety and uncertainty this year that COVID-19 has brought into our world. COVID-19 has become a new level of uncertainty. I won’t discuss it with them and even as a caseworker, I find it difficult to explain to my young clients what is going on in our world. With or without these unknowns, the reality is our kids are going back to school. Whether learning virtually or in the classroom, we have to assist them through the transition. 

Here are some tips that may ease some anxieties your children may be facing.

Establishing a back to school routine:  

• Implementing a routine for a good night’s sleep is key.

• Start with having a conversation with your child and let them help you decide what they need to do before bed.

• Getting your child involved in what their bedtime routine will look like will help them feel a part of the routine and be excited to actually start to “wind down” at night. 

• Just like having a nighttime routine, a morning routine is just as needed! 

• With virtual learning, parents going off to work, and childcare drop off, morning routines may look different this year. 

If your child is returning to a traditional school setting, the routine may not change very much. They will just need reminders of what the routine is after an extended summer break. 

There was a period in my youth where I was homeschooled for two years and my parents worked with me to establish a routine. What time I woke up for school while learning at home was different. If your children spend the part or all of the day at a daycare or with a babysitter. These changes will determine when schoolwork will be completed and with whom they will learn. All of these factors will assist you in guiding you into routines that will suit your family’s needs.

As a child and now an adult that suffers from anxiety, one of the greatest tools my parents gave me was knowing the power of my voice and my emotions, children often do not fully grasp the depths and meanings of their emotions and as the adult, it is our job to help foster and teach our children to understand and cope with their emotions, even the uncomfortable ones.

• Don’t be afraid to ask your child how they feel;

• Allow them to talk, explain, and help them identify the emotion;

• Affirm for your child that those feelings are okay to have and help them identify healthy coping skills to better manage those emotions!

One example would be when I was anxious in the morning, my mom would do something small that to this day still helps me cope. She gave me mints or minty gum. These small acts also gave me something else to focus on. I focused on chewing the gum or the mint getting smaller in my mouth. I didn’t concentrate on my fear. As fear subsided I became more comfortable with putting myself out there to make friends.

• Never doubt the benefits of having consistency! As much as kids love a day to go a little crazy, kids really want the routines, whatever plan you make, do your best to keep your child in the know. When changes and transitions happen, discussing them will help ease the anxiety that may begin to brew.

• Being active is also a great way to decrease anxiety with our kids! Whether it is a walk around the block or a homemade obstacle course, getting their bodies moving will help burn up that extra energy and keep their mind focused on healthy activities.  

These are general ideas to help children cope with the anxiety of a new school year. The most important point to remember is communication!

It’s okay that as adults, we don’t always have the answers. It’s also okay to feel our emotions. Having that bond and trust to communicate openly as a family will help your children moving forward. 

They say it takes a village and now more than ever, our villages are very important! Here at Hoyleton we have a diverse group of professionals who lend themselves to creating an environment of trust and growth, and we see ourselves as a part of your village, so don’t be afraid to reach out.

-Phylicia Gay
Hoyleton Foster Care Case Manager

Hoyleton | National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

As we continue to struggle with our history as a nation, the focus on minority mental health and the impact of generational trauma is brought to the forefront. While this July has become a focus on making movement to change, July is also National Minority Mental Health Awareness, which sets an appropriate timeline for us to focus on the increasing need for access to culturally-skilled, mental health practitioners and the ongoing obstacles to access to treatment. Hoyleton Youth and Family Services understands that cohesion and personal well-being in the community are essential to the progress and development. Together with Puentes de Esperanza, Hoyleton's therapy department works with local partners to help make mental health services more accessible to minority communities. 

There are varying reasons why access to mental health care adversely affects communities of color. Common barriers to access to care include, but are not limited to, healthcare coverage, lack of services and mental health providers within the community, fear and stigma to mental health, cultural competency, and sensitivity to belief structures are just a few reasons. Hoyleton therapist, Federico Parola, works closely with the immigrant communities within St. Clair and Madison counties and noticed what a lack of funding is doing to limit access to mental health care. “Funding is a concern as we try to serve more individuals. We are receiving support in the form of grants, but the need is often four or five times the provided fund allotment,” states Parola. Individuals seeking mental health care are adults in their 30s to 60s and are actively engaged in their mental well-being. The population Parola works with include single moms working the line in manufacturing jobs and are scared about their health during a time when COVID-19 numbers are rising among communities of color. “Individuals’ anxiety levels have increased. People are making the hard decision between financially caring for their families or their health due to continued possible exposure to COVID-19. Obstacles to mental health services are always about access to resources. This community doesn’t have the natural support like other individuals living in a different area.”

Hoyleton is conscious of the connection between resources and access to mental health care. Our organization strives to build coalitions with local community leaders to bridge the gap in mental health services in minority communities by pooling resources. “Hoyleton staff members are engaging with for-profit businesses to be a part of Hoyleton’s mission. We encourage businesses’ to see their participation as an investment in the communities they serve,” states Parola, “We continue to stay in touch with our community resources, whether we are using the libraries to see clients closer to home, or in the case of a local bank, creating educational workshops that benefit the community.” Hoyleton’s goal is to encourage businesses great and small to be a part of the solution in making diverse communities a place for mutual well-being for all residents. Mr. Parola notes that in his role as a therapist, he is often used as an interpreter. These interactions provide opportunities to engage with school leadership, businesses, and other civic organizations for the continued advocacy of minorities and strengthening community bonds.  

Hoyleton will be here to help make change. We encourage you to reach out to us if you are an individual, civic leader or business owner interested in partnering with Hoyleton for change within your community. For more information on how you can be a part of the solution, you can call Hoyleton at  618.688.4727. Be the difference in your community. CARE today and we will CHANGE tomorrow.

#Hoyleton #BeTheDifference #NationalMinorityMentalHealthAwareness #CounselingCare #HoyletonCares #MentalHealth

Foster Care| Foster Care Beyond COVID-19

Foster Care| Foster Care Beyond COVID-19

As the country slowly begins the phase-in process, our community leaders and social service advocates have been concerned about the well-being of our nation’s children. During the shelter-in-place order, with school and daycare center closings, the number of calls reporting child abuse dropped drastically. With fewer calls being reported to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) hotline, this meant children’s safety is at an increased risk at a time when families are under emotional, physical, and financial stress. As an advocate for our communities’ families, Hoyleton staff members worked tirelessly to provide needed support to our foster and biological families. I had an opportunity to connect with Becky Woolever, Child Welfare Manager, regarding the way forward as Hoyleton moves into the next phase of our new normal.

As Illinois begins the phase-in process, what will these changes mean for Hoyleton’s social workers as they care for families?

Hoyleton is taking a very proactive approach to how we provide care to our families. While DCFS has provided some guidelines, we seek to establish safe methods for our social workers to get back into the field. Our phase-in plan breaks our social workers into teams, with each team coming into the office on different days. We are still encouraging working remotely, but with the proper precautions (PPE, social distancing, and temperature checks before entering the office), our staff can move ahead in processing required documents to place youth into caring homes.

Also, we have transitioned social workers into doing in-home visits. Before meeting, we will call and ask questions pertaining to COVID-19 to verify if individuals within the home are well. Social workers will wear PPE and can bring additional PPE for clients. The Foster Care Department prioritized the families we consider high-risk to minimize the chances of abuse. In mid-June, we started visiting the homes of unlicensed foster homes (relative care), specialized care (behavioral), and aftercare (children in the care of biological parents). Starting in July, we will see every child in the home at least once a month, except for our medically high-risk youth. Medically high-risk youth will be seen weekly via a phone or video conference. This is done to minimize the risk of infection for this group of youth.

There is a real concern abuse has not declined but is underreported. How is Hoyleton prepared to address the increase in child abuse cases when communities begin to reopen?

Hoyleton continues to hire and train new staff to prepare for the influx of potential new cases. We also push for reunification and permanency through adoption/ guardianship. The Foster care Department is actively recruiting individuals to become foster parents. During the shelter-in-place order, we continued to receive referrals via word-of-mouth from other foster parents. Our social workers also work as brand ambassadors for Hoyleton by speaking about our mission and wearing clothing that promotes our organization.

We currently have several prospective foster parents who are utilizing our online training classes. DCFS is providing training on COVID-19, as well as PRIDE training for potential foster parents to receive their license. And once we are cleared, Hoyleton will provide in-class TCI and CARE training for foster parents. 

How will Hoyleton be a part of helping families move forward? And what resources will Hoyleton provide families as we transition into a “new normal”? 

Our Grant Department and the programs within Hoyleton allow us to share needed resources with our clients without going outside the agency. Clients made use of essential programs like Counseling Care and the Wraparound program. The use of COVID-19 specific grants helped biological and foster parents receive needed supplies like food, diapers, cleaning products, and more. 

What takeaway would you like our readers to know?

As the number of reported cases of abuse rise, I want individuals to know that our communities’ children need you. Hoyleton is here with resources to help potential foster parents. We are aware that bringing a youth into your home during a pandemic can be scary, but these children need a safe place to call home. Hoyleton is here to make sure all parties involved are as safe as possible. As we find our new normal, we need to remember we are all in this together. 

For more information on becoming a foster parent, please visit our website at www.Hoyleton.org, or call at 618.688.4727. Together, we make a difference in a child’s life. 

#HoyletonCares, #Hoyleton, #WeAreAllInThisTogether, #FosterCare, #FosterCareParent

Counseling Care Month

April is National Counseling Awareness Month and a time to bring attention to an area of health care that still carries with it a measure of stigma.  Some individuals are under the misconception that seeking therapy or counseling is a matter of human weakness. This belief could not be further from the truth. Therapists and counselors are here to provide mental health care by journeying with individuals through life’s ups and downs. Building a relationship of trust, in a nonjudgmental environment, to help individuals achieve mental health, mindfulness, and personal development is the goal of Hoyleton’s Counseling Care Department. 

As part of the St. Clair and Madison County communities, Hoyleton Youth and Family Services knows the importance of walking alongside people so they can attain wholeness and well-being. HYFS provides a number of counseling and therapy programs:

Family, Couples, and Individual Counseling
Uses various approaches to help individuals work through an issue. The benefit of combined family, couples, or individual counseling creates a cohesive plan whereby co-therapists help clients navigate personal issues, which can affect family dynamics.

Behavioral Health
Reaches out to youth who have suffered trauma and are “acting out” to deal with their overwhelming emotions. Therapist work with the youth to identify behaviors and understand how the youth’s behavior is impacting others. Behavioral Health issues addressed are ADHD, anxiety, depression, grief, PTSD, mood and adjustment disorder. 

Therapy using Play
Usually implemented for children five and under, who find it difficult to communicate how they are feeling. In certain situations, this can be an impactful option for older children as well. A therapist uses puppets, dolls, and toys to help children express their emotions. 

Therapy using Art
Utilizes different art mediums (clay, figurines, crayons, visual boards, and more) for children and adults to express themselves through art. 

Approaches to Mental Health

Cognitive: Helps individuals use a strategic approach to guide them in understanding how thoughts and feelings influence their behavior and life choices. 

Motivational: Utilizes open-ended questions to engage a client and ascertain the individual’s reason for a particular behavior that leads to personal accountability and change. 

Life can be challenging, but that does not mean individuals have to walk the journey alone. Hoyleton is here as a community partner, mental health advocate, and resource. Whether individuals are looking to make a change, deal with past trauma, looking for support, or seeking treatment for mental health, the Counseling Care Department is here ready to assist you. Together, we can help individuals build the future they imagine for themselves. For more information on programs and the referral process, call the Counseling Care Department at 618.688.4744. 

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

Counseling Care | Helping Foster Families Find Balance During Stressful Times

As Illinois families enter their first week of self-isolation, the need for finding balance during periods of uncertainty is crucial for a family’s mental, physical, and emotional well-being. New information and the introduction of policies and procedures at the state and federal level leave individuals bombarded by information overload, but also anxious regarding the full impact of COVID-19 on their families and in their communities.

The well-being of our families is of our utmost concern and the Counseling Care team is here to help. The key to good mental health during this period of isolation is to properly manage stress, both as individuals and as a family unit. It is common for foster children to have suffered trauma. Caregivers need to be mindful and be prepared to ease fears and help the child work through the episode. Parents can help ease fears and limit triggers by using age-appropriate language to discuss COVID-19 and how it is impacting their community. Let the youth know they are safe, and this moment in time will eventually pass.

Caregivers should be mindful that during this time youth can express fear or react to stress in different ways:

During this time the Counseling and Care team is available for consultation both in-person and over the phone. Hoyleton’s therapists and counselors are here to help families find creative solutions to behaviors and promote mental well-being for all. With the proper tools and support, families can thrive during stressful times. For more information on services provided at this time, please visit us online at https://hoyleton.org/programs/counseling-care/or call the Counseling and Care team at 618.688.4744.

Maintaining Your Mental Health and Well-Being During Isolation

Control and Prevention (CDC) (2020 March 14). Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Retrieved from:

World Health Organization (2020 March 12). Mental Health and Psychosocial Considerations During COVID-19 Outbreak. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/mental-health-considerations.pdf?sfvrsn=6d3578af_2