• Suicide Prevention Starts With You

    by Keia Shipp-Smith | Graphics by Stephanie Tesreau | Layout by Kyle Schnurbusch

    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, http://www.dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/prevention-wellness/suicide-prevention

    **National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, https://www.bethe1to.com/bethe1to-steps-evidence/


  • Living Your Best Life in a Hectic World

    by Keia Shipp-Smith | Graphics by Karlee Brimberry | Layout by Kyle Schnurbusch

    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.

  • 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 2

    With August being back to school month, that means it is also an excellent time for you to go over safety tips with your youth. With the business of back to school shopping, planning after school care/transportation, and creating meal plans – sometimes it can be easy to overlook the things that seem natural; like safety tips. It is always a good idea to go over a safety plan with the children you care for as they start back at school.

    Walking or Biking – If your student is walking or biking to school, be sure to go over the best navigation to get there. Go on the walk or bike ride with them before their first day, so that you are familiar with the path they will take as well. Find places that have minimal traffic and always find sidewalks for your student to take. Teach your child what a crosswalk area is and where it is not a safe place to cross.

    Driving – If you are the caregiver of a teen who can now drive, go over safe driving tips with them. There can be lots of traffic in the mornings as people travel to school and work, so teaching your teen the importance of school zone speeds and how to drive in traffic is essential. There are also numerous apps, like Driving by Life360, that may be beneficial to have so that you can ensure your teen is safe.

    Fire escape plans – One of the first things that are established at the beginning of the school year is a fire safety plan, but are you doing the same within your home? Create a fire safety plan with your kids and discuss the best escape route and what to do in case of an emergency.

    Stranger Danger (In-person or Online) – It may seem obvious, but you can never stress enough the importance of educating your child on the dangers of talking to strangers. If you plan on having your child picked up from school by a friend or family member, be sure to communicate that with them. Go over a safe code word with your child so that they know if that person was sent by you to pick them up. Various online apps create many dangers for children. With your kids starting back to school, their peers may introduce them to new apps to download, which is why you must be aware of apps like: Tagged, TikTok, Snapchat, and many more.

    Although it may seem small, by reiterating these safety tips with your children, it could prevent a crisis from happening. We always encourage parents to create an open line of communication within their family so that the youth know boundaries and can keep themselves safe.

    If you or someone you know needs help or additional resources, please contact us at 618-688-4727.

  • 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