• Back to School: Part 3

    The school’s cafeteria is buzzing with noise and excitement as students are chatting with friends and swapping stories of summertime glories. Your eye catches the kid at the long cafeteria table contemplating the lunch box in front of them with a pitiful look on their face implying, “What will lunch be today?”

    As caregivers, we have each been there…the lunch box dilemma. Preparing lunches can quickly become a dreaded task.  We have to balance nutritional lunch options with picky eaters, food allergy considerations, or just the everyday monotony of a quick PB&J. However, lunch preparation does not have to be this way.

    First, let’s get back to the basics of what lunch is meant to be, a nutritional, balanced way to keep minds and bodies fueled and ready to do the tasks at hand. The formula for a great lunch is ½ fruits and vegetables + ¼ whole grains + ¼ lean protein + 1 serving of low-fat dairy this equals one balanced lunch box. This simple design provides a foundation for us as caregivers to take the dietary needs (caloric intake), allergy restrictions, and portion sizes and give a successful roadmap to make our jobs easier.  However, all of these factors are dependent upon each child’s age, weight, and activity level.

    Now, that we have the basics in hand, let’s play around with food options to create a lunch for even the most discerning palate.

    Picking an option from each section sets you up for lunch box success. For example, veggie wrap with hummus, apple slices, and string cheese, along with water for hydration makes for the perfect lunch. It is that simple! Armed with healthy and exciting food options will make lunchtime meal planning something that both you and your child can enjoy. Happy eating!

    If you or someone you know needs help or additional resources, please contact us at 618.688.4727.

    Source: www.chooseMYPlate.gov

  • Back to School: Part 1

    Starting back to school can be demanding as you prepare your child both physically and mentally. August is back to school month, and we want to remind you of the importance of early preparation as you ensure that your child is up-to-date on all their medical requirements. Below is an updated list of requirements for each child based on their grade level.


    Again, it is crucial to ensure that your child is ready to start school both physically and mentally. As your physician examines your child, view it as an opportunity to address any developmental, emotional, or social concerns you may have.

    In addition to preparing your child for back to school, this is also a great time for you to prepare yourself as well. In order to be the best parent you can be, you must also take care of your own physical and mental health. If you are struggling, meet with your physician as you schedule your annual check-up for you and your child.

    With the expertise from our Behavioral Health team, we can offer you and your family the assistance you may need. For more information, give us a call today at 618-688-4727.


    State of Illinois Health Requirements for the 2019-2020 School Year


  • Human Trafficking Series Part 3: HALO Program

    We hope that from our Human Trafficking series, you have learned the basics of understanding the signs and types of trafficking individuals face. Human trafficking is at an all-time high, and there are people impacted by it every day; however, there are very limited resources for individuals to get help. Because of that, Hoyleton Youth and Family Services has taken a stand and partnered with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to create our Healing and Loving Oneself (HALO) mentoring program.

    This program is designed for youth, ages 12–20 years old, in DCFS care who are survivors of human trafficking or who may be at risk. Our HALO staff meet with clients once a week for one hour and establish recovery plans with the individual as they focus on coping skills, life skills, how to build healthy relationships, and set long and short term goals. One of the first concepts we teach our clients is how to define love. Because of their trauma, they often have a misconception of what love is and how it is shown. We teach them love is not shown through violence or exploitation.  Instead, we build them up and allow them to see their greatness and the choices they can make to better themselves and their future.

    Another key element we teach is the skill of self-regulating emotions. We help victims identify emotions they feel and how they can regulate those overwhelming feelings to create new healthy outcomes. As we teach each young person the skill of coping with their trauma, our overall larger goal is for them to be able to complete our program and utilize the skills on their own in daily situations. In addition to this, we also take a holistic approach and work with the child’s guardian as they work through the process of parenting a child with trauma and a specific set of needs. Our HALO program partners with our behavioral health team to support the family and provide counseling services to them individually or together as a family. As we work with the youth, it is also important to work with their foster parents so that everyone is on the same page. Then, parents can encourage goals that were set and acknowledge their child’s achievements and what still needs work.

    Overall, it is important to keep in mind that every victim of human trafficking has experienced different trauma, which is why we do not have one definite approach we use. As we assess our clients and their needs, we are then able to create a treatment plan that is unique to them and their needs. This is something we take pride in as an organization, seeing that we are one of the only agencies in our district that has a program solely dedicated to human trafficking. We serve six counties: Madison, St. Clair, Bond, Clinton, Randolph, Monroe, and Washington. If you know someone who could benefit from our HALO program and is in DCFS custody, please contact us today: (618)688-4727.

  • Kinship Care: A Guide for Grandparents

    There are a wide range of circumstances that can leave older adults in charge of their grandchildren’s care. Whether the situation was sudden or gradual, older adults who are thrust into the position of the sole provider/caregiver for young relatives may feel lost or overwhelmed. Fortunately, there are many different resources to help the 100,000-plus grandparents who find themselves taking care of children, long after expected. 

    Here are some helpful tips and information to guide grandparents through kinship care: 


    Prepare for shifting roles

    There are many logistical preparations grandparents should make before assuming the role of a primary guardian, but perhaps the greatest thing to be prepared for is a shift in the relationship. The traditional grandparent-grandchild relationship often consists of weekend visits, holiday events, and interactions may largely be centered around play, however, the requirements of daily care can cause the relationship dynamic between grandparents and grandchildren to change. 

    Regardless of how this relationship shifts, grandparents and their grandchildren can enjoy a beautifully close relationship with one another. If either the older adult or child (or both parties) seem to be having a difficult time with the change in parental roles or living situations, Hoyleton Youth and Family Services offer supportive counseling services that can help with any adjustment anxiety. 


    Gather support where you can

    Even the most fiscally responsible older adults, sometimes struggle to afford the daily necessities of life. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, which takes additional factors such as geographical location and homeownership status into account, as many as 7.2 million U.S. seniors lived in poverty in 2017. Coupled with the issue of food insecurity, which is most prevalent across senior populations, the added responsibility of a younger relative can be financially burdensome. In fact, the SNAP program (commonly referred to as “food stamps”) reports that almost one in five seniors living with grandchildren is food insecure, yet three in five seniors who qualify for the SNAP program don’t participate. 

    Whether needing assistance with paying for food, rent, medical insurance or other daily needs, older adults can seek out the various benefits they may be eligible for with this helpful, Benefits Check Up tool and with the Illinois Department of Family Services’ list of useful resources, specific to older adults caring for a child. 


    Support the child through difficult times 

    Just because an older adult is the legal guardian of a grandchild doesn’t mean the child’s parent is out of the picture. If possible and in the best interest of the child, share information about the child’s life with parents, including their school activities, hobbies, and life milestones or events. Establish a routine for visits and schedule in advance, to ensure that everyone is comfortable and on the same page about the visit, especially the child.

    Regardless of the potentially frustrating circumstances that led to a child living with a grandparent or other older relative, it’s critical that grandparents do their best not to speak negatively about the parent in front of the child and to not make them feel guilty for wanting to spend time with their parent, as it can be confusing and upsetting to them. Instead, older adults should try to get a sense of how the child feels about their parent(s), and ease any uncertainties, anxieties or disappointments surrounding visits. 


    There’s no foolproof plan for raising children, especially for older adults who likely thought their child-rearing days were far behind them, however, this information can help support older adults as they navigate this unique journey. 

  • Three Ways We Help Youth Transition to Independent Adulthood

    Though there’s a specific age that legally marks adulthood, young adults don’t suddenly possess all the necessary wisdom and knowledge they need in life at that point. It’s only with the proper guidance and access to resources that young adults are able to thrive and lead healthy lifestyles. Youth who are experiencing behavioral or mental challenges, are especially in need of support to help them navigate this critical time in their lives. 

    Here are three different ways our programs help youth transition into independent adulthood: 


    Identifying and working through challenges

    Learning how to cope with personal traumas, challenges or issues in healthy ways provides a level of stability that allows young people to thrive on their own. One way we do this is at our therapeutic residential campus, which allows its residents, ranging from nine to 21 years old, to work on their mental, emotional and/or behavioral issues or disabilities. These issues are confronted through therapy, with the ultimate goal of improving behavior, meeting academic goals, and contributing to society in healthy, productive ways.


    Setting goals and gaining skills to achieve them… 

    Individuals with developmental disabilities have the capacity to live full healthy lives with the assistance of supportive programs that address their needs. Our Transitional Living Program offers group-based care to eight young men with developmental disabilities, aged 17 to 20, that provides specific skills that help promote independent living. Some of these skills include general topics like budgeting, hygiene, social skills, cooking, cleaning, and vocational skills. Specific attention is dedicated to each youth’s individual needs so that they are taught to live as independently as possible within their zone of proximal development. Participants get to learn lifelong skills in a safe environment that can help them transition from foster or residential care into the adult world. 


    Teaching skills that can be passed onto future generations….

    Unless taught, there are things that will simply remain unknown, especially among young adults with limited life experience. One of the biggest challenges young mother face is having safe appropriate housing. Hoyleton is able to immediately provide them with a safe, nurturing ‘Place to Call Home,’ as well as some basic supplies for everyday living, such as bedding, clothing, food and hygiene products. 

    Our Pregnant and Parenting Teen Transitional Living Program, also known as Hagar House, is dedicated to offering housing and skills to young mothers or expectant mothers (aged 17 to 20) under the guardianship of the Department of Children and Family Services, to help them with their own development, as well as the development of their child. During this time at Hagar House, young women receive financial assistance in the form of a monthly stipend, and additional assistance completing their education, job skills, money management, positive interpersonal relationship skills, nurturing parenting technique and more. All of this support is offered by 24-hour staff who offer mentoring and guidance in all aspects of life, including parenting, education, employment, transportation or personal growth. 


  • 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 

    Illinois Department of Natural Resources 

  • 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 backpage.com, 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. 


  • Human Trafficking Series, Part 1: Labor Trafficking

    Human trafficking is one of the most underreported crimes in the United States and Illinois ranks among the top 10 states for it. That means there are cases everyday where individuals are being exploited and taken advantage of without notice. On a global scale, the International Labor Organization estimates that 20.1 million people are victims of labor trafficking. Since 2007, the National Human Trafficking Hotline has received more than 7,800 reports of labor trafficking in the United States alone. Here are some tips regarding awareness toward individuals who may be victims of labor trafficking.

    Common Places Labor Trafficking Can Happen:

    Labor trafficking can happen anywhere no matter if it occurs in a large city or a small town. Often times, people rule out small towns because of the size of the community and the knowledge of its citizens; however, labor trafficking happens there too. Being located near St. Louis Lambert International and multiple heavily traveled interstates it is easier for victims to be transported between communities. Some of the most common places to do so are in: restaurants, barges, landscaping services, domestic work, beauty services, carnivals, farming, massage parlors, and family owned businesses.

    Language & Warning Signs of Labor Trafficking Victims:

    If you suspect someone may be a victim to labor trafficking, watching that person’s body language and paying attention to what they say can be key. If they use phrases like “I’m not allowed to” or seem shameful, have unusual tattoos or brandings and don’t want to talk about them, are hypervigilant in conversation, or have long and unusual hours with little to no time off – these could all be warning signs that an individual is a victim of labor trafficking.

    Populations Where Labor Trafficking Occurs:

    Labor trafficking can often happen to individuals who are in the United States on a Work Visa. Once they are hired, a supervisor may take their Work Visa, which is the person’s identification and proof of their status. This tactic is used as leverage to keep trafficked individuals working under harsh conditions. These traffickers take advantage of victims vulnerabilities to exploit them in a damaging way.


    Hoyleton Youth and Family Services offers support for victims of human trafficking through our Healing and Loving Oneself (HALO) program. Stay tuned next week for Part II of our Human Trafficking Awareness Serious.

    If you suspect someone who may be a victim of labor trafficking, please contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.




  • 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

    • Nightmares 
    • Weight loss and refusal to eat
    • Regression (in development) 
    • Excessive crying & clinginess (especially when separated from a parent/guardian)

    Elementary School

    • Poor concentration  
    • Difficulty sleeping
    • Strong anxiety or fear
    • Fighting at school 
    • Academic decline 

    Middle School & High School 

    • Depression 
    • Academic decline
    • Antisocial behavior 
    • Self harm 
    • Substance abuse 
    • Risky sexual behavior
    • Eating disorders 

    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