Counseling Care | Children and Trauma During COVID-19

COVID-19 is redefining individuals’ realities daily. Classrooms once filled with the sights and sounds of children learning and playing are now silent. Afterschool venues stand empty. The family kitchen table now functions as both a remote classroom and a home office. To an adult who has learned coping skills, these sudden changes can feel emotionally and physically jarring. Through the eyes of a child, living with uncertainty can be frightening.

As our children’s sense of normal has shifted, it is our job as their caregivers to help them feel safe. Children imitate the behavioral cues of their caregivers. If you are worried and anxious, it follows that your child will likely exhibit those same feelings. However, there are ways to help your child adjust to their new reality and restore a sense of normalcy in your home and help your child thrive.

Knowledge Is Power

One way to reduce the stress your child may be experiencing is to help them understand what COVID-19 is. Information from a trusted source, and discussed at an age-appropriate level, can lessen fears (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Academy of Pediatrics, or Illinois Department of Public Health). Empowering a child with the facts helps reduce the fear of the unknown. Hoyleton Youth and Family Services’ website offers a downloadable COVID-19 and Me Children’s Activity Book, in both English and Spanish. 

Building A Home Routine

The therapists and counselors in Hoyleton’s Counseling Care Department encourage parents to establish a routine that mirrors life before the shelter-in-place order. School-age children should follow their typical Monday through Friday school day. Start each day as you usually would have: wake-up, dress for the day, eat breakfast, and prepare to learn in a designated quiet space in your home. Make sure to set aside time for lunch. Encourage your child to help you prepare the meal. Do not forget to incorporate physical activity into your child’s day. Use this time to think outside the box and create fun ways for your child to get moving. Consider a living room obstacle course. Or, take advantage of your backyard to have a fun game of Nerf wars. With a little imagination, familiar spaces can become adventure destinations. 

Staying Connected and Focused on the Positive

Social distancing is making it challenging to engage in-person with friends and loved ones. However, technology can help us bridge the gap and provide a much needed social outlet for kids. Some schools have already put into place a way for school children to use Zoom or Google Hangouts to chat with classmates and teachers. 

Children and teens might find it difficult to communicate how they are feeling. Hoyleton’s counselors encourage dialogue that helps youth to verbalize their feelings in a non-direct approach, “I see you are sad. Do you know what I do when I am sad?” This smooth transition into a conversation removes the burden for children to immediately share their feelings and instead lets children know their feelings are valid and experienced by adults, too. 

Children are resilient, and as their caregivers, we can help them feel safe and supported. However, if you notice that your child is struggling, please reach out to the counselors and therapists in the Counseling Care Department at 618.688.4744. Hoyleton Youth and Family Services is here for you and your family. Together, we will get through this moment and emerge stronger than before.

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 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:

Suicide Prevention Starts With You

by Keia Shipp-Smith | Graphics by Stephanie Tesreau

Suicide is a national epidemic that does not discriminate based on age, race, gender or socioeconomic status and can affect any person at any time. September is National Suicide Prevention Month, a time when mental health professionals, community advocates, survivors and allies work together to promote and raise awareness regarding suicide prevention. 

The stigma and shame surrounding suicide, and the false myth that discussing suicidal ideation will lead to more deaths, leaves those in need feeling bereft and without the tools to adequately handle the ups and downs of life. However, with proper care and advocacy, experts believe that suicide is preventable. Awareness and prevention begins with knowing the warning signs and taking the appropriate course of action. *Be mindful when individuals discuss harming themselves, have feelings of hopelessness, act reckless or engage in risky behavior, withdraw emotionally and physically from family and friends, experience dramatic mood changes, see no reason for living and/or feelings of anxiousness. These are some of the warning signs, but not all. Awareness of what is out of the norm for the individual necessitates an appropriate call to action. 

Each of us has the capacity to help save a life in our community by knowing the **5 Action Steps

Ask: Open a dialogue and do not shy away from asking direct, honest questions to access the mental health of a hurting individual. Actively listening, and not projecting your desired responses, provides a safe space to speak freely.

Keep Them Safe: If the individual is contemplating suicide, seek to ascertain their timeline and means. If the means for self-harm are readily available, removing the individual from their environment and seeking proper treatment is essential. 

Be There: Connection is paramount in combating feelings of isolation and in establishing a support system. Whether you are a friend or family, choosing to support an individual in the midst of crisis means being present. Know what you are capable of giving. Follow-through is key to the health and wellness of a hurting individual.  

Help Individuals Connect: Local medical professionals and prevention specialists provide a safety net for dealing with the crisis and the methods to combat suicidal ideation. Hoyleton Youth and Family Services has both a prevention and counseling care team to work with individuals to help them get the support they need when they need it.

Follow Up: Checking in on the individual lets them know they are not alone in this. This feeling of connection provides a pathway toward healing not alone, but together with their tribe and community. 

Each of us can be a force for change during National Suicide Prevention Month. Be the one to save a life by knowing what to look for and the steps to obtain help. Suicide is preventable when each of us takes the time to stay engaged with our loved ones and those within our community. Connecting and investing in the mental well-being of those around us makes a lasting, positive impact in the lives of everyone. Choosing to show up and be there is how suicide prevention starts with you. For more information, please call HYFS Prevention team at 618.688.4739, and the HYFS Counseling Care team at 618.688.7082. 



National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255

MY3-Support Network: Mobile phone application to help individuals stay connected to their network in times of crisis. (Available for Apple and Android)

*Illinois Department of Public Health-Suicide,

**National Suicide Prevention Lifeline,

Living Your Best Life in a Hectic World

by Keia Shipp-Smith | Graphics by Karlee Brimberry

September is National Self-Improvement Month, but what does self-improvement mean and look like when applied to everyday life? Often, self-improvement is defined as the betterment of one’s knowledge, status, or character by an individual’s own efforts. In an effort to go it alone to make changes in one’s life, libraries’ and bookstores’ shelves are filled with How To Books, on topics ranging from cultivating meaningful relationships to finding the confidence to speak your truth, and every topic in between. But do individuals need to go it alone to reach their individual goals?

The simple answer is no. Life is meant to be shared. As human beings we were created to be in community with one another. And that sharing means walking alongside others on their journey of self-discovery. At Hoyleton Youth and Family Services, our Clinical Services Department is partnering with local schools, churches and community organizations to meet the mental and emotional needs of individuals right where they are. Self-improvement looks different for each person and is dependent upon their own unique experiences, cultural perspective, beliefs and mental/medical history. The clinical staff (*LPC, *LCPC, *LSW, *LCSW) at Hoyleton is sensitive to the varying needs of those within our community and seeks to foster a safe environment that blends education, support and caring into a cohesive, specialized course of action. Self-improvement starts with defining goals. What area in one’s life deserves attention and needs to be nurtured. Some personal goals will be short-term in nature. Other goals take time and require partnership with individuals who will hold us accountable for incorporating changes and providing constructive feedback. 

Self-improvement requires individuals to look within themselves and recognize opportunities for growth. Personal growth is vital not only for the individual, but also for those who are dependent upon the individual seeking change. Tina Kampwerth, Director of Clinical Services, likens the need to investing in oneself to being on an airplane. Passengers are instructed in cases of emergency to put their oxygen masks on first before helping others. The simple reason, you cannot help others if you yourself are starved for oxygen and dying. The same with paying attention to one’s personal growth, an individual cannot meet the needs of themselves or others if they are running on empty mentally and physically. 

Life is hectic, but taking the time to assess where you are and where you want to be is vital in living your best life. Hoyleton is here to make sure individuals reach their desired personal goals. For more information on how we partner with individuals or organizations, call us at 618.688.4727. At Hoyleton we believe strong individuals are the foundation of strong, healthy communities. 

LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor), LSW (Licensed Social Worker), LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker), LCPC (Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor)

Back to School: Part 4

By Karlee Brimberry

Going back to school can be an overwhelming feeling at first. Whether a student is starting a new school, has a difficult time making friends, or doesn’t know their teacher, these can all be factors to take into consideration when a child is feeling anxious. Some children may also have social anxiety, which can play a role in a child’s reluctance to go back to school.

A typical behavior that children with social anxiety may display is defiant behavior. If your child is misbehaving, and you have noticed the same pattern occurring during social situations, that could be due to social anxiety. They may have a fear of judgment and often worry about the opinions of their peers. On the other hand, a child with social anxiety may also be very quiet and feel as if they are invisible. They may continuously watch the clock or looking at a schedule as if they are on a countdown for the social experience to be over. We call these two behaviors, “the seen versus the unseen” where the child who is misbehaving wants to be seen, and the child who wants to be invisible is the unseen. Students may also make themselves physically sick over attending a school or other social events. This can be evident if a child feels nauseous beforehand, attempts to stay home from school often, or refuses to leave the house.

Here at Hoyleton Youth and Family Services, we have an entire team of therapists who work in multiple schools within the community, to help students that are facing social anxiety. As they work with students, our therapists use elements from cognitive behavioral therapy to help students become more aware of their thought process and how those negative thoughts can drive their behavior. “We start by helping students learn to recognize their thoughts,” said Tina Kampwerth, Director of Clinical Services. Students may experience one negative event, and that may be all that they can focus on, instead of thinking about all the other positive events that happened to them.

For example, if five students come up and say “I like your shoes” but one student says “I don’t like your shoes” the student with social anxiety may only focus on the one negative comment made and then let that experience impact how they interact with their peers. There is a term called “fortune telling” where the student will use negative social situations they’ve experienced as a way of hindering them for social situations in the future based off the fear that their past experience will repeat itself. So overall, we help students to focus on their thought processes and how to be more intentional with positive thinking.

It is also crucial for parents to educate themselves about social anxiety and realize that there are many steps to be taken to help the child adequately. It may seem like an easy and quick fix to sign your child up for extracurricular activities so that they can socialize; however, that may not be the appropriate step at first. By partnering with your child’s school counselor or therapist, you and your child will be able to determine the proper steps to take.

Nurturing a child with social anxiety takes a team, so communicating with your child’s teachers, coaches, and counselors are all essential to ensure your child is receiving the support they need. If you feel your child may suffer from social anxiety, please do not hesitate to reach out to us for help at 618-688-4727.

Human Trafficking Series, Part 2: Sex Trafficking

Along with labor trafficking, sex trafficking is one of the most underreported crimes in the United States and is on the rise. From 2007 to 2017 the National Human Trafficking Hotline received 34,700 reports of sex trafficking. According to the F.B.I., sex trafficking is the second fastest growing criminal industry, right behind drug trafficking.

Donate Opportunity: Support our Human Trafficking Support Program Now

According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, sex trafficking can be defined as “recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of an individual through the means of force, fraud, or coercion for those of commercial sex.” Although if the individual is under the age of 18 then force, fraud, or coercion does not have to take place. The average age of sex trafficking victims is 13 years old.

In order to spread awareness, we have compiled a list of different ways individuals can become trafficked.

Internet-based – We live in a time where technology use is at an all-time high, which makes Internet-based sex trafficking very popular and easy to access. Internet-based trafficking can take many forms through various apps and social media that are easily accessible for children and adults. There have been recent reports of individuals being exploited through resale apps, such as, which has recently been shut down. Many traffickers also use social media, like TikTok, as a way to recruit. Since many cases come through social media and dating sites, it is important to be aware of what your children are doing on the Internet.

Street-based – Street based trafficking is the form of sex trafficking that typically first comes to mind when discussing the topic. It is when a trafficker sells a child or adult to gain profit or in exchange for something of value. Pimps/Traffickers will use violence, drugs, or blackmail as a form of coercion. These victims will typically be walking up and down the streets, waving down vehicles, dress very nice and look older than what they actually are. Traffickers will persuade young males or females by complimenting their looks, using manipulative techniques to convince them they are joining a group of people that care about them or ask them if they want to make easy money.

Gang-based – Gang based trafficking is similar to street-based trafficking except it is affiliated through gangs. Members will lure in young boys and girls through bribery with flattering statements about the young person’s appearance or ask them if they would like to make a lot of money. Gang members may buy their victims expensive clothing, purses, or accessories to lure them in. Once they have recruited the male or female, members of the gang typically use drugs and violence as their method to keep the individuals as the gang’s property and then use the victims for profit.

Private Parties This occurs within the transient male population, although females can also be predators. Private parties can be held anywhere and anytime, however, they are most popular during large events, such as the Super Bowl. Predators are very strategic during this time, as they know police officers will be preoccupied with other crimes like drunk driving, shifting the focus from trafficking to other events.

Pornography – This is when pornography involves exploiting victims by recording sexual acts the victim performs. The trafficker can use the footage as leverage to get what they want or to use as training for other victims. An example of this may be a 5-year-old boy whose grandfather takes photos of him while he’s in the bathtub and the grandfather bribes him with $5 not to tell. Then after the grandfather takes the photos, he sells them online.

Sex trafficking can be a very difficult topic to learn about, however, there is high importance on educating yourself, so that you can educate your child or someone you know. There are so many sex trafficking victims in our community that need help, but we cannot help them if we do not raise the funds to do so. If you feel moved by this topic, please donate to our organization to help victims get a better-quality life. Complete the form to donate. 

Three Ways Counseling Can Help Someone with PTSD

Like most mental health conditions, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is complex in nature and, therefore, does not have one specific cure. Despite the multitude of events, triggers, and symptoms associated with PTSD, there are some ways counseling can be an effective treatment method. Everyone processes trauma differently, but there are some common ways counseling can help those with PTSD cope with their trauma and go on to live full, healthy lives. Here are three widely-used methods: 

Cognitive Restructuring

After a traumatic experience, the brain may make negative thought associations that affect the way a person is able to view the situation and exacerbate symptoms of PTSD. Often times, these associations are inaccurate and disjointed, leading to a skewed memory of the traumatic event. Identifying and unraveling these negative thought patterns with a counselor is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy, which can help individuals view their situation more clearly, i.e. cognitive restructuring, and respond to it more effectively.

Exposure Therapy

As part of self-preservation, a person with PTSD may avoid situations that remind them of their trauma or scenarios that they feel could cause that trauma to happen again. Although this type of behavior is a natural response to PTSD, depending on how extreme the avoidance is, it can be quite an unhealthy coping mechanism. Exposure therapy can help a person overcome their PTSD by confronting trauma triggers in a safe, controlled environment with the support of a counselor. This gradual form of treatment can help desensitize a person to their trauma triggers over time. 

Managing Specific Symptoms 

Each person has their own individual way of processing traumatic stress, but there are a number of common symptoms among those dealing with PTSD. A benefit of counseling is the ability to receive a personalized treatment plan that can address those symptoms and help individuals develop new cognitive behaviors and strategies that help them  cope in healthier ways that reduce the effects of their trauma.

Though trauma can have a profound impact on a person, supportive services and guidance from licensed therapists can help them along their healing process and ultimately improve their quality of life.  

For more information about supportive counseling services at Hoyleton Youth and Family Services, call (618) 688 – 4727. 


Anxiety and Depression Association of America :

The Critical Role of Counselors in PTSD Treatment :

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Los Angeles :

Recognizing and Reducing Signs of Trauma in Foster Youth

Protecting children from harm is often a shared goal among schools, communities, and entire nations; however, this isn’t always possible. Traumatic events vary, yet they all have the potential to deeply affect kids who have directly experienced them, or even witnessed them happening to others. Regardless of the specific situation, trauma can have a profound impact on a person’s mental, physical, emotional and behavioral health. 

Though all foster youth don’t experience traumatic events, and frightening or dangerous events don’t always end up traumatizing them, being aware of both, the situations that cause trauma and the symptoms that suggest it, is a great start to effectively helping children cope. 

Recognizing Symptoms of Trauma 

Even after a traumatic experience passes, the trauma still lingers. Moreover, there may be resulting life changes that serve as constant reminders of that trauma, i.e. school transfers, court cases, or new living situations. Understanding the shift in circumstances that may remind youth of their trauma can help guardians know when to tune in and pay attention to trauma symptoms that may manifest as a result. Here are some common reactions, varying by age: 

Preschool Children

Elementary School

Middle School & High School 

If a child experiences any or most of these symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily indicate that they have been traumatized, but it may point to some sort of emotional upheaval they’re dealing with. For an official diagnosis, visit a psychiatrist, psychologist, mental health therapist, licensed clinical social worker, or licensed clinical professional counselor. 

How to Help 

The most effective ways to help a child through their trauma depends on their individual experience, however, there are some steps to take that can help reduce their trauma, in conjunction with the professional counsel of doctors, counselors and social workers. 

Keep it consistent 

Foster youth often experience a lot of disruption in their lives, due to frequent displacement in the system or as a result of their trauma. Though change is inevitable, this constant disruption can cause anxiety and trigger past trauma. One way foster families can ease some of this anxiety is through establishing patterns that provide a sense of security, like creating a daily schedule and follow it as closely as possible, explaining any changes of plans to kids in advance. 

Look for Patterns

As part of their healing process, youth may develop particular coping habits to deal with their trauma or event reenact traumatic situations through school projects, playtime or other behaviors. Look for habits that have surfaced that may be connected to their trauma and take note of those behaviors, and when they tend to occur. Share this information with their counselor, social worker, physician or therapist. 

Watch Your Response

Though there are common behavioral responses to trauma, there is no one ones size fits all way to respond. Some children may seek out attention and comfort through acting out or, conversely, through clinginess. The best thing for foster parents to do is to offer comfort, encouragement, and spend quality time with kids. They should remember to be patient as kids figure out how to cope, and provide them with professional resources to help them through that often lifelong process. 

Foster families seeking support can call our Hoyleton Youth and Family Services’ Behavioral Health Department for more information (618) 688 – 4727.


Parenting a Child Who Has Experienced Trauma : 

Trauma and Children: An Introduction for Foster Parents :

Understanding Child Trauma :

A Parent’s Guide for Talking to Teens About Drugs and Alcohol

Talking to teens about drugs can seem intimidating, but having these conversations can be greatly impactful. Now that they’re older and have a bit more freedom, they’ll likely encounter situations or environments where drug and alcohol use are prevalent. However, parents have more influence over their kids’ choices than they know.

Here are a few steps from our substance abuse prevention specialists that can help parents work with their teens in order to help them make smart decisions regarding drugs and alcohol.


Step 1: Stay Engaged

Regularly asking your teen questions opens up a dialogue about the things going on in their lives, which may include experiences with drugs and alcohol. Even if the subject of substance use doesn’t immediately come up, asking open ended questions creates those opportunities for be responsiveness. Additionally, knowing who their friends are and checking in on those friendships establishes a familiarity of those relationships.


Step 2: Creating a safe word

If your teen is at a party or outing where they are encouraged to use drugs or alcohol, creating a safe word (via a text or phone call) that signals they want to leave, can give them a way out of a situation that makes them uncomfortable. Because they are older and may have more responsibilities attributed to them, using an excuse like, “My parents need me to pick up my sibling” or “I need to leave early to help my grandma’ can serve as a plausible reason to exit an uncomfortable situation.


Step 3: Setting Expectations

Beyond discussing drugs and alcohol use with teens, setting expectations in the household about drug and alcohol use can be highly influential in their decision to not experiment with substances. Whether it’s the understanding that alcohol will not be consumed in the home until 21, or that cigarettes are not to be used regardless of the legal age, setting expectations promotes an understanding of acceptable standards that teens can be encouraged to uphold.


Step 4: Practicing Healthy Coping Skills

Adolescence can be a fraught time, and teens may end up turning to substances to cope with the stress or social pressures they may be dealing with, or to gain social capital with their peers. Make a plan with your kids about new ways to cope through yoga, journaling, music, exercise, drawing, or other healthy outlets. Also, parents should be mindful of their own usage so that their teens can follow a good example. Parents prefacing a glass a wine or a can of beer with a comment about how stressful a day it was, sends a signal their kids that drinking is an appropriate way to cope with stress.


Step 5: Be Informed

It’s valuable to check the news and research what drug and alcohol use trends are currently popular across the teenage demographic. Despite the misconception that teens don’t want to talk to their parents, their desire to be heard will often prompt them to share. Ask teens what they know about a certain drug, what it is, and if they know anyone who’s tried it. If a child knows that their parents are aware of a certain drug, they’re less likely to try it.


In the end, parents cannot control their kids’ actions, but through communication and preparation, they can assist them in having the right tools to make smart, informed decisions.

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.