Hagar House: A New Beginning

The Hoyleton Transitional Living Program for Pregnant and Parenting youth has been converted into a Transitional Living Program (TLP) for developmentally delayed females aged 17.5 to 21. The living arrangements for the clients in this program have also changed. Our clients now live in a duplex in a residential neighborhood with 3 young females living on each side. This home provides a much more comfortable living environment which aids in our client’s healing and growth.

The small number of clients in the home allows our staff to build strong relationships with each youth and creates opportunities to be more developmentally focused. While living in the TLP our youth learn how to cook, clean, manage finances, practice personal hygiene, self-care, social skills, and more. When youth leave the TLP they should possess the life skills they need to live in a CILA (Com-munity Integrated Living Arrangement), group home, or in their own place based on their level of independence.

The transition from the previous TLP facility to the new home-like setting hasn’t just been beneficial for the youth, our staff appreciate it too. The Hagar House staff say they now feel more relaxed while at work and find themselves having more fun and engaging in more positive interactions with the youth which leads to stronger connections and better outcomes. Hagar House Program Manager Pandora Harris said, “there have been a few bumps here and there, but everyone is moving towards their goals and we’re looking forward to experiencing that success.”

Pandora has been the program manager at Hagar House since September 2022. She has been very successful at building special relationships with each of the young women in her program. Pandora embraced the CARE model since the day it was introduced at Hoyleton and utilizes the care principles on a daily basis. Pandora’s leadership at Hagar House has also benefited many of her staff who have learned the importance of the CARE principles as well as the ability to stay calm in tense situations from watching Pandora’s actions.

Pandora understands the importance of being trauma informed and approaches client and staff challenges with tender words of understanding and a gentle touch to acknowledge them and let them know she is there to help and support them. She has earned the respect of each of the young women living at Hagar House and they all affectionately refer to her as “Mama.” Pandora works hard every day at instilling confidence and self-worth in the young women in her care at Hagar House and she makes sure she validates their feelings when they share stories about their lives. Pandora spends a lot of her time giving guidance to the youth at Hagar House about finances, the importance of school, friendships and relationships because most of these young women never had a parent or role model around to discuss these topics with them. Hagar House now looks like a family home on the outside and in many ways feels like one on the inside too.

Jared Talks About How Hoyleton Helped Him And His Family

A story of a families’ love and commitment started more than 20 years ago when a young couple brought their adopted child home from Korea at six months old. Sadly, as the story continues there are many chapters of fear, frustration and heartache as their little developmentally delayed Korean boy battled anger and aggression issues. The committed parents tried everything but couldn’t raise their child on their own, they knew they needed help.  After many years and attempts at treatment and therapy they found their way to Hoyleton and in January of 2019 they placed their teenaged boy into our residential treatment program. The journey of love and commitment continued, this time from Hoyleton staff, and on June 9, 2022 Jared walked out of Hoyleton, with his mother and the confidence and life skills needed to live a new much more stable life.

Jared’s parents were so thankful for the love and support the Hoyleton staff provided to their troubled son that they came back to residential campus and threw a party for the staff to say thank you for everything they did for their son. Jared’s mother Ann said the change is Jared is “unbelievable” she believes it would not have been possible without Hoyleton’s programs, therapy and supportive environment.

One of the highlights of the party that day was both staff and clients getting to watch Jared proudly drive his mother’s vehicle around the block!  This accomplishment showed Jared’s focus and dedication to learning new skills coupled with the encouragement and perseverance given to him by his parents, teachers and Hoyleton staff.  It was a proud moment for so many who played a part in helping Jared grow.

Life with Jared was not easy before his time at Hoyleton. His mother explained that from about age 5 Jared was angry, aggressive and over-powering. As the years went by Jared’s anger issues escalated and it was more and more difficult for his parents to contain or discipline him for this type of behavior. They became fearful for their safety and his which prompted them to search out resources for support. Jared was in and out of treatment facilities for most of his life without much improvement. At one point when he was 16-years-old he was put into a mental hospital because that seemed to be the only place for him, but then Jared’s family found Hoyleton.

Jared arrived at Hoyleton at the beginning of 2019 and from the start it seemed like a good fit. Anthony “Amp” Smith was one of the first direct care workers he met. Anthony quickly recognized Jared as a guy who liked to work and was motivated to make money. “He really wanted to have his own XBOX and TV, so I helped him find one online and I told him what he needed to do to make enough money to get it and Jared went right to work,” Anthony said. Jared worked around the grounds on the Hoyleton campus, he worked at the Goodwill store in Nashville and also spent time working at his school’s workshop.  Jared saved up his wages and got his XBOX and TV but he was still motivated to work and make money so Anthony talked to him about saving half of this paycheck and planning what to buy next with the other half. Jared took to this idea and as a result he is leaving Hoyleton with $1800 in the bank plus a good understanding of budgeting his money and goal setting. “I am so proud of him,” said Anthony. “He really listened to what I said and stayed motivated, he was a great worker too. I’m going to miss him,” Anthony added.

When Jared wasn’t working at one of his jobs he was working on himself and his behavior. “I have learned to make choices that help me,” Jared said. One of his counselors said, “he has worked on how to express excitement in a way that does not intimidate his parents.” Jared is very proud of his progress and often asks his mother if there are other things he needs to work on. Jared says he will stay motivated because he is happy to now be living so close to his parents again so he can see them regularly.

Jared is going to miss all his friends and counselors at Hoyleton but he has a lot to look forward to. He is moving into a group home through CILA and will live just 20 minutes from his parents. His Mom is a nurse and has worked it out so she can be his caregiver. “I will listen to what she says as my Mom and my Nurse,” Jared said.

In one of the workshops at the Bridges school, where he attended while at Hoyleton, Jared learned to cook. His specialties are spaghetti and mac & cheese and he can’t wait to make dinner for his Mom and Dad. Jared says he will stay busy this summer mowing his parents’ yard for them too.

As if the send off from Hoyleton was not enough of a celebration Jared and his parents are going to Chicago on July 16 to celebrate the 21st anniversary of Jared arriving in the United States as their son.

Everyone at Hoyleton, and his teacher from the Bridges school, have been amazed at the progress he has made since 2019 and although they will miss having him around they are very excited to hear about Jared’s next chapter in life and wish him the best.



Schippel House Provides Opportunities for Youth with Developmental Delays

Rachelle Dunahee is the Program Manager at Schippel House, a therapeutic residential home in Salem, Il. for youth with special needs, specifically those with developmental delays who are low-functioning and on the autism spectrum. There, she works with youth to help make them as independent as possible and integrate them into the community.

Meet Rachelle

Rachelle’s background in special needs education uniquely situated her to work at Schippel House, especially after having worked with Hoyleton Youth & Family Services’ summer program as a teacher for six years. She decided to make the transition from education to residential care after she realized she could combine her love of teaching youth with special needs with her love of leading teams.

As Program Manager, Rachelle is responsible for overseeing staffing, programming, community engagement, service plans and making sure that everyone is working toward the goals set for youth to address the unique challenges presented by their developmental delays.

Meeting Goals

These goals differ for every youth as their unique disabilities affect their independence in different ways. Some youth have goals as simple as picking up their toys or organizing their room. Other youth have more complex goals related to socialization. It all depends on where their developmental abilities are and what the care team at Schippel House deems appropriate.

One goal for the whole of Schippel House is to keep clients’ families involved. Because of the nature of their needs, youth require 24-hour care and can’t stay at their families’ homes. However, that doesn’t mean families are cut out of the picture. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rachelle and her team hosted “family days” where youth and their families could participate in group activities, meals and even have photos taken.

“A lot of my staff, even if they weren’t working, would bring their families to these days,” says Rachelle. “And the families of clients themselves have made connections with other families and created a support network, which is important.”

School and Community Engagement

That support network doesn’t end with the family units. It extends into their schools where Schippel House staff work with special needs educators and administrators to mutually work toward students’ goals, making sure their goals at home and school align. One of these goals is community integration, which takes place in school but also in the greater Salem community.

“Our youth are out and about every day,” says Rachelle. “They struggle with social cues and social settings, but depending on the severity of their developmental delay, if they’re willing and able, we get them as involved as we can. I will say the community has always been extremely supportive of us. Even our neighbors, they’ll come visit when we’re outside playing, and if they feel like maybe something is wrong, they’ve called and checked in. All of our neighbors have been understanding and welcoming of us.”

When asked how her job has affected her personally, Rachelle explained that she sees her work as a calling.

“I have a God-given ability to work with these types of kids, and I have a really unique understanding for them. When family members let you know that what you’re doing matters and that they trust their child is safe, growing and learning, that is huge.”

To learn more about Schippel house and the amazing work they do to support youth with developmental delays, visit https://hoyleton.org/programs/therapeutic-residential-care/severe-developmental-delays/

Next Steps

Building a Bridge for Youths to their Forever Homes

For 125 years, Hoyleton Youth & Family Services has taken great pride in supporting foster families throughout southern Illinois to ensure the best temporary care is provided and an optimal permanency plan can be achieved. Even with these outstanding services in place, Hoyleton believed that there were more opportunities to expand on the foster care continuum between traditional residential care and a youth’s forever home.

“We work with youths that have complex health and behavioral issues, and the level of support for them has not always been ideal,” says Brice Bloom-Ellis, Chief Program Officer. “There has always been a need for treatment (or therapeutic) foster care, but those that exist have never quite lived up to their promise. We believe our experience allows us to successfully provide residences that help youth transition in a more normalized environment, attend community schools and prepare them a path to their forever homes,”

Hoyleton’s first therapeutic foster care home

Earlier this year, Hoyleton purchased a house in Belleville, IL, with the goal of rehabbing it to become its first therapeutic foster home. Once the property was purchased, Hoyleton partnered with Neighbors for Renewal, a nonprofit organization that purchases houses in severe disrepair to rehabilitate them into houses available at a significantly reduced price for working families with limited income.

“Neighbors for Renewal, led by Drew Kramer, was great to partner with on this project,” says Brice. “They understand the continuing need to help families in southern Illinois with affordable housing,” says Brice. “And their relationship with other community partners allowed us to make our goal a reality.”

A long-time philanthropist steps in and steps up

One of the community partners Neighbors for Renewal brought to the project was Norm Wilke. Norm is a long-time philanthropist and owner of Wilke Window & Door in Shiloh, IL. “I understand what it means to be poor and not know where your next meal is or if you’d be able to keep a roof over your head,” says Wilke. “It’s because of this that I always felt it was important to give back, especially when it comes to kids.”

Wilke has known Drew Kramer at Neighbors For Renewal for almost 30 years and has always believed in its mission. Over those years, Wilke has continually made donations to help rehab homes throughout the region. “When Drew mentioned the project Hoyleton was doing with their therapeutic foster home, I knew it was something that could help youths, and I told him that I wanted to step forward and help,” says Wilke.

Wilkes Windows & Doors donated money and provided materials at cost to help rehab the residence that will be used for Hoyleton’s therapeutic foster home, located on Vandor Court in Belleville, IL. “It’s because of people like Norm that we are able to fulfill our mission and help youths and families in our communities,” says Brice. “His help really made this financially feasible for us, and we can’t thank him enough for his support.”

The Vandor Court home will open in January with three youths moving there as they begin their transition to their forever homes. Hoyleton’s goal is to further expand this service by adding additional residences in the coming years to provide other youths with similar opportunities in their local communities.

If you are interested in helping further Hoyleton’s mission, please visit: https://hoyleton.org/ways-to-donate/








National Prevention Week | May 10-16, 2020

Hoyleton is proud to partner with many Substance Use Prevention champions in Clinton and Washington Counties. As we prepare for National Prevention Week (May 10-16, 2020), Hoyleton sat down with two of our biggest prevention partners to talk about what they have been doing to turn #PreventionHappensHere into a reality for their communities in 2020.

Travel Tips for Families With Special Needs Children

With longer days, warmer weather, and the kids out of school, summers are ideal for families to catch up on some quality time together after a busy school year. Travel is a great way to bond with loved ones, but parents of special needs children may feel that this isn’t an option. On the contrary, taking a trip can be an engaging, educational, or inspirational experience for special needs children, regardless of their behavioral health conditions.
Here are some tips that can help make travel with high needs kids more enjoyable for everyone:

Prepare Whenever Possible
Whether or not parents have children with special needs, traveling with kids can have its hiccups, but a little bit of preparation can minimize these unexpected moments and give parents peace of mind. Though there are some things that are out of parents’ control, being proactive about the factors they can control is the easiest way to keep things running smoothly.

Parents can start by ensuring their special needs children are getting a full night’s sleep in general, but especially leading up to a trip. Make sure nutritious snacks are packed for them, which will provide the energy for a long day of travel or exploration. Taking these simple steps can help reduce crankiness and meltdowns, and give kids the opportunity to feel (and behave) to the best of their ability. If a special needs child is in foster care, don’t forget to check in with their case worker before leaving on a trip! 

Consider the Best Options
Though parents can’t always plan everything around their children’s wants, making a few concessions here and there may be in everyone’s best interests. Being able to anticipate a special needs child’s comfort levels in certain situations can be invaluable in the long run. Parents should consider travel destinations with activities that are conducive to their child’s likes and dislikes. For example, if a special needs child gets antsy around large crowds, don’t plan a trip to a place that is likely to be crowded, like an amusement park. Instead opt for a place with open spaces, like a national park.
If a special needs child doesn’t do well being away from home, it doesn’t mean travel is out of the question. A simple remedy to this is bringing along comfort items that remind them of home, like a blanket, a stuffed animal, or bringing along familiar movies. Choosing to travel by car gives families of special needs children much-needed freedom and control, versus traveling by plane, which can come with extensive delays, long layovers, and impatient passengers. 

Make the Best of Things
One of the most valuable things to remember when traveling with special needs children is to manage expectations, yet remain positive. Although a change in scenery and routine can be rewarding, it’s unrealistic to expect things to be perfect on vacation if there are typically difficult moments with special needs children on a daily basis. But despite any challenging instances that may crop up, it’s important to look at the trip as a whole, rather than focusing in on those passing moments of stress.
Parents should remember to keep a sense of humor and try to be present during these family trips and outings. Making the effort to approach less-than-ideal situations with a relaxed, positive outlook can free up space to focus on the good and make more meaningful connections with their children.

Following these few strategies can help make family travel with special needs children more efficient and less stressful so that everyone can focus on making happy memories with loved ones!
If your child has a hard time adjusting after a summer trip, Hoyleton Youth and Family Services offers counseling services. Contact the Behavioral Health Department for more information (618) 688 – 4727.

American Academy of Pediatrics : https://www.aap.org/en-us/Pages/Default.aspx
Illinois Department of Natural Resources : https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/Pages/default.aspx