I Am: A Care Moment Between a Residential Youth and Staff
At the ground-breaking event, Diana recited a poem that earned a standing ovation from the crowd titled 'I Am'. We are so proud of her for getting in front of the crowd and showing how amazing, genuine, and bright she is. Residential Therapist Rebecca Rudolph and Program Manager Deanna Howard each worked with Diana, our youth in care who was selected to speak at our groundbreaking ceremony.
Diana is a 14-year-old foster youth who has experienced trauma and is also intellectually and developmentally delayed. Since arriving in January, she has made significant progress. “I've learned to control my anger and use my words to communicate better,” Diana said. She likes the staff and admits they've helped her a lot. She helps her peers too. “They know they can come to me for help,” Diana added.
Diana selected Deanna to sit with her at the ceremony. Deanna indicated that she has a strong rapport with Diana as a result of their many talks in the evening (relationship based). Deanna said she knew Diana was getting nervous on the morning of the event so she continued to encourage her by telling her how great she was going to do (competence centered). Deanna shared that Diana thanked her for allowing her to be part of the ceremony to which Deanna replied, “you got this. You are important and loved. If you get scared up there just look at me,” (Developmentally focused).
Rebecca reinforced these same care principles saying that she practiced the poem with Diana and said she was comfortable working with her because of their good relationship. Rebecca said she read the poem to her a couple times first so Diana could hear the tone and pauses in the poem and then she listened while Diana practiced reading it. Rebecca says she can tell Diana is starting to see that she is loved and cared for by her peers and staff at Hoyleton and knows that is great progress. Both Deanna and Rebecca are so proud of what Diana has accomplished.
The volunteer commitment looks different for everyone. Some people give their time, some people give monetary or planned gifts. Some people have been volunteering for years across different programs and others come for specific programs. Whether it’s been passed down through family generations or becoming a new tradition, the hope and sense of community our volunteers provide youth is irreplaceable.
“Just knowing that this is directly helping my community, seeing the results in my community, make volunteering worth it. Helping people I hadn’t known were struggling and making the neighborhood better,” expressed one frequent volunteer.
Hoyleton takes a holistic approach to meeting the physical, mental, and emotional needs of youth and families, which provides numerous opportunities for volunteers to lend a helping hand. Below is a selection of ways to get started.
Staying organized is a priority for keeping an office running smoothly. Volunteers assisting with filing, phone calls, bilingual assistance, and general office duties help our staff work efficiently and effectively.
Hike & Bike and Trivia Nights
Churches and community organizations across Madison, St. Clair, Clinton, and Washington counties hold events throughout the year and give the proceeds to Hoyleton. The annual Hike & Bike is a 5K, 10K, and half marathon that donates earnings to fund specialized programs for our youth. Trivia Nights are an option that let groups have fun while volunteering and meeting new new people. Various events are shared on social media and our events page.
Back to School
Each year, kids pick up their new backpacks stuffed with pencils, notebooks, markers, and more just in time for the new school year. Our volunteers help us ensure that every child has the supplies they need to be successful in school by donating supplies, stuffing backpacks, and helping with the picnic for kids and parents.
Hope for the Holidays
For most, the holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year, but for some of the youth and families we serve, the season can be difficult. HYFS makes it our goal that every child in our care has a gift to open during the holidays. Our annual Hope for the Holidays drive urges our donors and volunteers to get involved by donating, shopping from the wish list, and wrapping presents. Join us in helping those we serve.
It Takes a Village
Over 127 years, our team members, programs, and locations have changed, but our mission has stayed the same: to help children and families build brighter futures so our communities can improve and become stronger for everyone. We cannot achieve this mission without the compassionate efforts of all our volunteers and donors. If you are searching for a way to get involved, check out our volunteer page or contact
The Importance of Cultural Identity for Foster Youth
Cultural identity plays a key role in children’s lives; it is a significant part of who they are. Oftentimes cultural identity is marginalized or disregarded for children in foster care, which can lead to higher levels of loneliness and depression, lower self-esteem and difficult psychological adjustments that in turn affect coping skills and learning. Therefore, the role cultural identity plays in the overall well-being of a child cannot be ignored.
Currently there are only four states in the US that legally and explicitly provide the right to cultural heritage activities for youth in foster care via their foster youth bill of rights. In Illinois, the law states it is the foster parent’s responsibility to support activities for foster youth that continue a relationship with their cultural heritage. In Missouri, the law states foster parents shall provide care respectful of a youth’s cultural identity. However, in both states, there is little legal accountability to make sure foster parents are actually engaging in such practices. In many instances, even the most intentioned foster parents find it difficult to find the proper cultural resources for the child.
There are many ways foster parents, as well as other individuals working with youth, can promote cultural identity. It begins by asking the youth questions about the cultural practices, norms or traditions that are important to them. Cultural identity forms during primary socialization, a stage in life when a child learns how to view the world through their immediate family and close friends. If this core group can expose the foster child to their heritage in this stage, the child can develop a higher level of social well-being. Key cultural distinctions are food, holidays, age milestones, music, dancing, clothing and language. Connecting foster youth to these aspects of their culture by pursuing activities that expose them to ethnic food, music, rituals and events is key to helping them strengthen their identity. By recognizing and teaching a foster child about their cultural background, the child acquires the group’s core values and adopts their sociocultural practices and rituals, which helps the child position him or herself in society.
In 2016, with more than 437,000 children in foster care in the United States, 44% identified as white, 23% black, 21% Hispanic, 9% multiracial and 2% unknown ethnicities. All of these children should have the right to learn and embrace their heritage. If you are currently caring for a foster child or will be with family this holiday season with a child from another ethnic group, please recognize and celebrate their culture with them. We can all learn from each other.
Hoyleton Parents Provide Security and Care for Adopted Grandchildren
Sheryl and James are the grandparents of eight children. They were introduced to Hoyleton when their grandchildren’s mother abandoned them, and they were put into DCFS custody.
Sheryl and James immediately acted and worked closely with Becky Depping, the Hoyleton Foster Care Case Worker, and Becky Rhoden, the Child Welfare Manager, to keep the kids together and provide them with a safe and loving environment to call home.
Seven of the eight children have been adopted by, or have legal guardianship by, members of their family. One child has been adopted by a Hoyleton non-relative foster home, but they remain close with the family.
Sheryl and James have adopted two of their grandkids, 13-year-old Jayce and three-year-old Nevaeh. They also have guardianship of their 15-year-old grandson Cole.
After the adoption proceedings, Sheryl’s son Jayce said, “Finally, I feel secure now!” She is so happy knowing she provided him with that security. Jayce felt so secure in his new home environment that he decided to change his middle name so he could share a name with his grandfather James.
Seven-year-old Draven was adopted a few years ago by Sheryl’s niece, who was struggling with fertility. He was a very welcome addition to their family.
The whole family works hard to keep all the kids connected through family gatherings, phone calls, photos and texts.
Becky, the Child Welfare Manager, said, “This is a very loving family that is always willing to step up when asked to care for their grandkids.”
They are a typical busy family. Navaeh, who is deaf, just started school at the Illinois Institute for the Deaf in Jacksonville, IL. Jayce and Cole are avid bowlers, and they both recently medaled in the Special Olympics bowling competition. They are now looking forward to the state bowling tournament coming up in December. They will get to travel to Peoria to compete. There will be a quarter auction in their hometown to raise money for their travel expenses.
When they aren’t bowling, the boys like to play video games and basketball. Becky, who continues to work closely with the family, said, “Sheryl somehow keeps all the medical appointments straight and is a great advocate for their needs.”
“Things can be difficult at times, but you just have to be patient and listen to the children and allow them to respond to you when they feel comfortable,” said Sheryl. She recently taught one of the boys to sew and make things, which gave him the feeling of being needed.
“I could not ask for more committed and caring relative foster parents,” Becky said.
For more information on our adoption services, visit https://hoyleton.org/programs/foster-care-placement/permanency-services/
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 program. Part 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 a 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 note, facilitators 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 email@example.com or contact us directly at 618.688.4727.
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
Share Our Work with Your Community
We invite you to get involved with Hoyleton Youth and Family Services and support our work to transform lives through our programs and the power of faith.
Hoyleton delivers the services that matter to you, in your community. Here’s why your support matters:
“I am grateful for all the things Hoyleton was able to provide for Logan because when he came home, I got my son back. Not the one who I had to send there in the beginning. I got the son I always knew I had…” -Logan’s Mom
Logan was a memorable client at the Hoyleton campus. Before coming to Hoyleton, Logan was hospitalized 38 times for extreme behaviors and was unable to read. After 8 months of therapy, Logan’s IQ jumped 22 points and was reading at an elementary school level. Recently we received an incredible thank you letter from Logan’s mom. She talked about how difficult, scary and uncertain she felt when Logan was placed at Hoyleton. She praised Hoyleton’s staff for always being available to listen when she voiced her concerns and offered suggestions and advice that eased her mind.
- Tutor a child in their foster home
- Be approved to provide childcare and give our foster parents a much-needed break or date night.
- Prepare a meal for a foster care family
- Volunteer at Hoyleton events
- Help older youth prepare a resume or job application
- Offer your expertise to teach life skills
- Purchase Christmas gifts for our youth
- Give new clothing for children new to foster care
- Buy back-to-school supplies
- Provide sponsorships for DuBois camp, or sports camps
- Provide household items for youth transitioning out of care
- Sponsor a child in an enrichment program such as dance or music lessons
- Start a foster care support ministry through your church or organization
- Invite Hoyleton staff to lead an informational meeting at your church or organization
- Use your social media accounts to blog/tweet/post our needs
Learn more about volunteering with us here, or give us a call to get involved: 618-688-4727