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.

LGBTQ Youth Resource Guide

Gain a better understanding of the lgbtq youth in your care with this compiled list of local resources, including support groups, affirming care centers, and guides for supporting youth to the fullest.

Inclusion and Equity for In-Care Youth

In July of 2018, Hoyleton Youth and Family Services obtained a contract through Illinois’ DCFS for the Wraparound programPart of the contracted agreement is to host monthly support groups for in-care LGBTQ youth and provide a safe space to learn, mature, and safely be themselves With the greater part of our mission to empower people to live the life God intended them to live, this is a natural fit for our organization. 

The monthly support group is maintained and facilitated by Williams and Associates, a non-profit organization based in St. Louis, MO. Williams and Assoc., according to their website, is an organization delivering programs and services such as health education, HIV/STI prevention, violence prevention, and sensitivity to the LGBTQ+ community. Williams and Assoc. contracts independent facilitators to conduct and lead the monthly support group hosted through Hoyleton. 

Haili Loftin, a Service Coordinator for FORWARD Counseling Care, here at Hoyleton, facilitates communication between in-care youth, their caseworkers, and Antwan Chambers, the current group facilitator. While the group is sponsored by Williams and Associates, it is Antwan who connects with youth on a more personal level.  

Antwan, a school-based social worker, and a former middle school and high school history teacher, has a passion for helping teens discover who they are and supporting them in their journey. Antwan finds he is fulfilling his personal passion by sharing and empowering these teens others to find themselves. When asked why he changed directions in his career, he states he started to realize education is not the sole contributor to the success of a youth or young person. He realized change starts at home and within the environment of the youth and education is only a component of success. As a social worker, he gets to be larger part of a solution for today’s youth and the struggles they face, especially in the LGBTQ+ community. 

The LGBTQ+ Support group participants fluctuate between 10 to 19 individuals at each meeting. There are only two other organizations that currently participate. It is Antwan’s hope this number grows and awareness starts to spread as restrictions due to COVID start to relax. Currently, this program, hosted by Hoyleton, is the only program of its kind for in-care youth within the state of Illinois. 

The monthly group is more than a safe space for youth to engage with one another. Each meeting has a purpose and is designed to provide tools and skills to transition from adolescence to adulthood. Topics are frequently geared around life skills such as managing finances, leadership skills, self-care, responsible sexual health, and others. Participants are always encouraged to ask questions and given the opportunity to guide topics to subjects relevant to current life situations. While the meetings are designed to provide LGBTQ youth-in-care a safe space, it is also open to allies of these young people as well. It is not uncommon for a youth’s caseworker to attend for moral support.  

It is important to notefacilitators and caseworkers do not guide youth as to how they should feel or identify. Facilitators encourage youth to speak to a trusted adult or mentor, who is not a family member, concerning guidance in questioning their sexuality or gender identity.  

Meetings are reserved for in-care youth referred through the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. It is a hope that eventually opportunity will evolve into a broader audience and also spark additional, yet separate, groups to include adults.  

As an organization that promotes, diversity, inclusion, equity, and education, Hoyleton is excited for the opportunities to host these meetings and provide safe spaces for tomorrow’s emerging adults. If you would like to partner with us in providing a safe, secure, and welcoming environment to hold future gatherings for our group, please reach out to Haili Loftin at haili.loftin@illinois.gov or contact us directly at 618.688.4727. 

Vander Court to Open Soon

Vander Court is Coming Soon!

Hoyleton Youth and Family Services will have a new therapeutic foster care program at Vander Court in Belleville, Illinois. This site will serve as a step-down placement program as part of our service continuum. Vander Court house will serve 3 youth at a time for an average length of stay of 6 – 9 months. We estimate that six or more youth will call Vander Court home. As we put the finishing touches on our house rehab, we’re beginning to recruit staff, and most importantly, foster parents. We’d very much appreciate your help and ask that you share the message below with the great people in your networks to help us find the right people to foster our young people.

Foster Parents Needed

Are you and your partner ready for the next chapter in your life? If you’re up for an adventure and are interested in working with Hoyleton Youth and Family Services, consider this: We’re looking for foster parents for our new therapeutic foster home. If you love teens, can care for three at a time and give your full-time attention toward their development and success, and are able to put Hoyleton’s CARE philosophy into practice, in return you’ll receive:

· Competitive, full-time compensation for both partners.

· Rent-free living in a beautiful, spacious 5 bedroom, rehabbed home with new furnishings.

· Additional board payments that cover the costs of our youths’ care.

· Membership in a team of supportive professionals.

If you think you might be interested and want to learn more, or know folks you’d like to recommend, call Hoyleton’s Director of Child Welfare, Sharon Schultz at (618) 688-4761. Thank you!

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/








Hoyleton | Engaging Youth in a Time of Crisis


The world has spent most of this year learning to live in a new normal. Mollie Dale, Program Manager at Hoyleton’s Koelling Cottage, is experiencing exactly that. Every day Mollie works with children on the autism spectrum and must find ways to deliver educational changes that do not hinder their growth and ability to develop life skills.

Koelling cottage is home to 10 boys between the ages of 13 and 21, all who have moderate developmental delays. “These kids thrive on schedules, so any kind of change in their schedule can be difficult,” she says. “When COVID hit, we really had to make the best of it and be as consistent as we could be as we found a new normal routine for them.”

Schools in for the summer

Koelling is one of five cottages located on the main Hoyleton Campus. Like the other cottages, it is set up to provide the children with life skills training, access to ongoing education and the opportunity to develop social skills with their peers. 

A typical day for the children included getting up, attending to personal hygiene, cleaning up their rooms, heading off to school and interacting during social time back on campus. The schooling part of the day now takes place entirely at the cottage. “The schools will send packets to us, and we’ll help instruct the classroom assignments each day,” explains Mollie. “Then they end the afternoon with free time to do activities either inside or outside.”

One of the biggest challenges has been the limited socializing among the boys. Typically the children across the five cottages could interact with each other during campus-wide games and activities. “They have lost some of those close connections,” says Mollie. “But we also know that we need to take this seriously and keep taking precautions for the health of the residents and staff.”

New ways to stay engaged and active

In the past, the staff at Koelling would also take the kids out to go shopping or see a movie. Each received a small allowance and enjoyed getting away from campus. Now they have to stay safe and find ways to entertain themselves in or around the cottage grounds. Thus far, keeping the boys close to home has kept everyone safe with no COVID cases being reported. 

“Our staff has been outstanding with coming up with creative activities to keep the boys engaged,” says Mollie. “Whether it’s making tie-dye shirts or spin art, we do our best to keep things fun and active around here.”

Like most young boys, the staff works to burn off as much of their energy as they can. “One night we decided to turn on some YouTube videos of different dances to see if we could do them,” says Mollie. “The boys had so much fun that it became a weekly dance party!”


As the staff comes up with new ideas for activities, sometimes there is a delay before they can do them. “WIth the need to maintain the staff to youth ratio onsite, we can’t just run out to the store at a moment’s notice notice,” explains Mollie. :But again, the staff is great and will volunteer to get things to bring in the next day for us.”

A surprise donation to lift up spirits

Mollie was surprised one day when an anonymous donor reached out and wanted to lift up the spirits of the boys. They wanted to provide a picnic and some fun for everyone, so Mollie was told to get on Amazon and order what she needed. 

“Since we can’t go to a waterpark or pool, I asked if I could get a giant tarp,” she says. “We created our own slip and slide, which was the big hit of the summer.” Along with the supplies came a gift card for a fried chicken dinner and matching shirts for the boys and staff. “We are really big into matching shirts,” says Mollie. “They seem to bring everyone closer together.”

Moving forward in the new normal

As COVID precautions continue, Mollie and team continue to keep things in perspective. “We really have learned not to take everything so seriously,” she says. The team takes things one day at a time and are thankful for a group of kids that are resilient and understanding. “If you stopped by and didn’t know any differently, you wouldn’t think anything was going on,” says Mollie. “That’s a testament to the kids and this great staff.”

How you can help

When asked how people can help, Mollie was quick to respond. They are always looking for activities to keep everyone entertained and busy, whether it’s games, DVDs, crayons, party favors or any other types of indoor activities, especially as winter approaches. 

“We truly appreciate our partners and donors for all they have done to help these children, especially this year,” Mollie says. “It’s that type of support that allows us to see the boys thrive and continue to grow with their life skills here at the cottage. Hoyleton supporters are giving them futures they deserve.”

To learn more about Residential Care and how you can help, please visit: https://hoyleton.org/programs/therapeutic-residential-care/

Hoyleton | Setting the Stage for a Successful Life Story

Setting the Standard for an Outstanding Adulthood

Imagine a young man or woman approaching adulthood. This transition is a time that should be filled with excitement and opportunity as they look toward their future and independence. However, those who have spent part of their teenage years in foster care also struggle with relationship building, family planning, and finding future stability.

When Youth Villages made the realization back in 1999, they then launched LifeSet. This groundbreaking and innovative program helps change young men and women's lives in exiting foster care.


Expanding on support programs

In 2019, Hoyleton Youth and Family Services explored new ways and innovative approaches to delivering care to older foster care youth. We had a strong program, called Emerging Adults. This program included opportunities for both community and independent living. At the same time, the youth acquired essential life skills, "says Brice Bloom-Ellis, Chief Program Officer." "LifeSet was an opportunity for us to improve our program, continue to assist youth in  development and growth, while we support and prepare them for adulthood."

Hoyleton launched LifeSet in southern Illinois as a pilot program through a grant awarded from Youth Villages and DCFS and was a natural extension of the Emerging Adults Care program.


Building a foundation for success

Youth are referred to the program by DCFS. Hoyleton's LifeSet team completes an assessment to verify that the youth is a good fit for the program, making it possible for a youth to have the best outcome. Then they enter the program, getting paired with a case specialist trained in navigating early adulthood complexities.

Youth and case specialists meet weekly at the youth's choice; face-to-face meetings are encouraged when possible. However, throughout COVID, video conferencing is utilized. Through experiential learning, the case specialist helps them set achievable goals around housing, transportation, education, employment, health, and relationships.


A unique approach to accomplish goals

The unique part that distinguishes LifeSet from similar programs is that the youth maps their path and decides for themselves the primary focus areas. The specialist provides guidelines and recommendations that the youth must meet. Still, there is more freedom for the youth to determine what is most important to them. A shorter, one-month, focused objective approach is used by LifeSet to set a plan. Young people say shorter aim times make them feel like their goal is achievable.

For each youth, the focused area is different. Some may be working towards a GED or preparing for college. Some want to find jobs, while others want to learn how to get quality housing, communicate with landlords, or take care of their new home.


Supporting Southern Illinois communities

"Hoyleton is proud to be the only organization to introduce the LifeSet program in southern Illinois," says Brice. "We are continually evolving and looking at new approaches to providing care. And we believe that we are in the best position to bridge this difficult period for young adults between group living treatment and independent living. Hoyleton and LifeSet are preparing young people for adulthood by walking alongside them and ensuring that they have the skills needed to thrive and experience success once they are out of care."

To learn more about LifeSet at Hoyleton and how you can help young adults in our communities, please visit us at https://hoyleton.org

Hoyleton| Introducing LifeSet

Hoyleton is stepping forward and looking to improve the way youth are being prepared to enter adulthood. As part of a pilot program in Southern Illinois, Hoyleton’s implementation of the LifeSet program will benefit the youth we serve. As an organization, we are constantly evolving and seeking new approaches to providing care.  I had an opportunity to see a vision for LifeSet and how it will help our youth by speaking with the individuals that will oversee the program.

What is the difference between LifeSet and the Independent Living Option (ILO) program?

LifeSet uses an intensive hands-on, youth-driven approach to meet the needs of individuals in our care. A LifeSet Specialist meets with a youth weekly to build a rapport, set monthly goals, assess a youth’s progress, and quickly make any changes to the youth’s plan, which are reviewed monthly. This approach is different from ILO, where an ILO Specialist meets with their youth twice a month, and plans are done in six-month increments.

What is involved in a service plan? 

Originally in ILO, the service plan was set by the DCFS, the case manager, and the youth. In LifeSet, the order is reversed. It is the youth who charts their course and defines the area of primary focus for themselves. There is still input and recommendations from DCFS that the youth must meet, but there is greater latitude for the youth to define what is important to them. A LifeSet plan also removes the feeling of being overwhelmed by requirements. LifeSet utilizes a shorter one-month, targeted goal approach; versus ILO’s multiple goals at one time.

What happened to youth who were part of the ILO program?

While ILO is still a supported program, most Hoyleton youth who were part of the ILO program migrated to LifeSet as of November 1, 2019. There are a total of 25 youth in the LifeSet program, with a maximum of 30 for the 2020 fiscal year. Since LifeSet requires weekly interactions between the youth and their assigned LifeSet specialist, a specialist carries a maximum of six cases.

How is a youth assigned to the program?

Youth are referred to the program by DCFS. Hoyleton’s LifeSet team does an assessment to verify the youth is a good fit for the program, which makes it possible for a youth to have the best outcome.

What are some of the goals the program’s youth have set for themselves?

It varies, but our youth are concerned with education, whether working toward a GED or preparing for college. Finding employment and learning a valuable skill to take care of themselves in the future along with housing is also a significant concern. Our emergent adults learn how to work with landlords, fill out an application, and take care of their new home with our team’s help.

What is the end goal of the program?

Ultimately, the LifeSet program aims to provide our youth with the best possible foundation as they move into adulthood. Too often, individuals take for granted the adults that help youth find success in adulthood. LifeSet prepares a youth for adulthood by walking beside them and making sure they have the necessary tools to achieve success once they are out of care. LifeSet specialists’ hands-on approach means a youth has a fighting chance at reaching their full potential.

Hoyleton is proud to be a part of making sure the youth in our communities have caring adults in their corner. Are you interested in working with youth and emerging adults to positively impact their futures? Hoyleton’s Human Resources Department would like to meet you. Contact the Human Resources Department at 618.688.4727. Care today. Change Tomorrow.

#HoyletonCareTodayChangeTomorrow #Hoyleton #LifeSet #CareTodayChangeTomorrow #HoyletonEmergingAdults



Hoyleton | Voices from the Frontlines

Voices from the Frontlines—Wren Fallon 

 Twenty-twenty has brought with it some unexpected moments, but also a time for reflection and a chance for me to support my community in new ways. I came to Hoyleton in February as a Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist. However, by mid-March, COVID-19 had changed the landscape as churches, schools, and community centers began to close to lessen the spread of the virus. I needed a new pathway for supporting my community. My director, Kristen Shinn, had heard individuals were needed to help work at Hoyleton’s TLP (Transitional Living Program). I readily jumped at the opportunity to get out of the house and to help others. 

 I am a people person by nature, but this was a new experience for me. The TLP is the residence of high functioning young men with behavioral challenges who have experienced trauma. To write there was a steep learning curve is an understatement. The residents at the TLP have trust issues, and rightly so. I was a new person in their space during a time when individuals were scared and uncertain of what to expect. But little-by-little, they engaged with me, and we began to lay the foundation for trust in our relationship. This was important because the clients had started acting out due to being in extended confinement. I needed the residents to trust me to help them navigate their emotions and find positive ways to channel their feelings. Coping skills are essential in the middle of a crisis, but a learned response. I spent time engaging with the residents and letting them know their feelings were valid, and they were not alone. Individuals within the community were feeling the same sense of uncertainty and vulnerability. It was eye-opening for the young men to learn they were not alone in feeling overwhelmed by their circumstances.  

COVID-19 pushed each of us to think outside the box when it came to our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. I reminded the residents of the power over the situation; they just had to think outside the box. Individuals acquire confidence from their appearance, and the same could be said for these young men. With barbershops closed, they were frustrated and beginning to feel unkempt. I let them know I had some experience in cutting hair and was willing to offer my services. Quite a few young men took me up on my offer. Just that simple act raised their confidence level and provided a brighter outlook on the situation. We began to apply the same logic to other areas of their lives. With physical fitness being limited, the residents made better dietary choices to limit unwanted weight gain. Or when each of them needed a change in scenery, we headed outdoors for a walk while practicing social distancing and wearing the appropriate PPE. And when those measures failed, it was time for introspection and a chance for them to understand why they were acting out. I would ask them three questions: Why are you angry? How can we fix this? And what can you do better next time? Each of these questions is grounded in understanding yourself, your surroundings, and what is in your control. I wanted each young man to know they are not powerless. 

I enjoyed stepping outside my normal work duties. However, I am more cognizant of the emotional toll working this closely with clients can have on an individual. In our field, we speak openly and frequently about taking time for one’s emotional health. Working at the TLP taught me it is essential to carve out a space to process what I see and experience. Individuals in social services learn about compassion fatigue because we are a vessel for others’ emotional stress and trauma. I would not change this experience or my time with the residents at Hoyleton’s TLP. This is who I am, a person willing to walk beside another amid trauma so they can find a path to well-being.  

 We thank Wren Fallon for sharing his story. For more stories from Hoyleton’s frontlines, visit our blog at www.Hoyleton.org, or check out our Frontline Fridays on Facebook. Interested in being an agent of hope and renewal in your community? Call Meghan Murphy, Volunteer Coordinator, at 618.688.7092. Together, we can positively impact our communities. 

#HoyletonResidentialCare #Hoyleton #HoyletonCares #WeAreAllInThisTogether #BuildingCommunity #HoyletonTLP 

LGBTQI+ | Hoyleton CAREs

LGBTQI+ | Support Group

The LGBTQ support group for the Southern Illinois Region originated in late 2017. The group provides services to foster care youth between the ages of 13-21. Groups are currently provided by William's and Associate and are held with support from Hoyleton Youth and Family Services Fairview Heights location once per month. The support group for  LGBTQ youth was developed and introduced to help children and families with open cases within the DCFS program. Although this group began as a closed group, it has successfully evolved to include community support, mentors, and members of the family to recognize personal protection. 

Up until the COVID-19 pandemic, the group met monthly in person. The group has continued to meet via Zoom meetings during shelter-in-place. Because of this group, the teens have built a shared bond, been encouraged, and the interaction between the teens allows them to share experiences and to receive mutual support. 

The facilitator educates and encourages emotional support, personal protection, preservation, and achievement of permanency. The facilitator leads the youth in open dialogue, offers guidance on health and well-being, and offers a supportive space for the youth to learn and encourage each other. 

A different topic of discussion is determined each month to promote dialogue between the youth about various paths available in their lives. From Being Out and Coming Out to Sexual Protection, Pride Training, Relationships, and Whether They're Ready?

The group seeks to expand support to the youth that identifies as LGBTQ by providing a safe space for social interactions, education, increased peer contact with those in similar circumstances, and offering mentoring services from those within the LGBTQ community. 

For questions or more information, contact Haili Loftin at hloftin@wordpress.compu-type.net to learn more about the LGBTQ Support Group, or to link a caregiver with the community.