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.

 

 

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.

Career Assistance Scholarship

Hoyleton strives to build stronger communities by providing support and service to youth and families in the southern Illinois region. In an effort to help individuals reach their full potential, Hoyleton Youth & Family Services is proud to offer the Career Assistance Scholarship, an  opportunity for any recipient of Hoyleton Youth and Family Services and Puentes de Esperanza to benefit. We will start accepting applications beginning April 1, 2024.

To qualify, the applicant must be a recipient of services provided by Hoyleton, currently or in the past. This includes the Residential program, Counseling, Foster Care, Therapeutic services, Puentes de Esperanza, Prevention, and community programs.

Closing date for scholarship applications is August 1, 2024.

The Career Assistance Scholarship supports career goals and may be used for:

  1. Tuition assistance and fees required for the enrollment for attendance of the student at a qualifying institution (General Education Diploma, training school, trade, career based school, vocational school or another institution of the same type).
  2. Fees, books, supplies and equipment required for courses of instruction
  3. Room, Board and transportation.

Applicants must provide the following:

  1. Completed application form
  2. A statement of less than 100 words of how the career assistance scholarship will help you to achieve your career goal.
  3. One letter of recommendation from a professional educator, counselor, or clergy
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Scholarship Career Assistance Application

Name

Address

Education History

Career Assistance Desired

Certification and Signature

We acknowledge that we have read the eligibility requirements in the attached brochure. All of the information furnished in support of this application is true and complete. If requested, we will submit proof of the same. Failure to do so shall invalidate this application and shall result in termination of scholarship. By signing this application, you have given Hoyleton Youth and Family Services the right to release the scholarship recipient's name in a press release and social media.

Reminder to Applicant: This application becomes valid only when all items have been submitted to the Career Assistance Committee at Hoyleton Youth & Family Services. Mailed applications should be addressed as: Hoyleton Youth & Family Services Career Assistance Committee| 8 Executive Dr, Suite 200 | Fairview Heights, IL 62208

From LifeSet to Police Officer: Fryday Catch-up

Fryday holding a 2019 Impact Report where he was featured on the cover.

If you were part of Hoyleton in 2020 you may have met or heard a story or two about former client Fryday Nelson. This young man, and his son Zai'den, stole the hearts of many when they were special guests at our Hoyleton Honors banquet back in February of 2020.

After completing the ILO program, Fryday got a job in the trucking business. The trucking job helped him make money to secure housing and pay his bills but Fryday did not like the long days on the road and he knew he had a calling to do something else, so in late 2021 Fryday took a leap of faith and applied to the St. Louis Police Academy.

Fryday shared his story of being removed from his home and placed in foster care right before he started kindergarten. He spent his childhood moving in and out of different family members' homes as well as a few foster homes. Fryday shared that even when times were difficult he had the ability to rely on himself and his faith in the Lord to keep him going. When Fryday reached adulthood he became a client of Hoyleton's in our ILO program. It was there, with the support and guidance of his caseworker, Nikki Klienik, that he gained the knowledge and skills he needed to support himself and his young son Zai'den. Fryday and Nikki worked together to establish a plan with priorities and attainable goals. "My caseworker Nikki made me feel like the sky was the limit for me! She was so supportive and always did what she said she was going to do which helped me stay on the right path," Fryday said.

Nikki remembers meeting Fryday for the first time because she said there was an instant connection. “My first visit with Fryday happened because I was covering for another caseworker who was on vacation, but after that first meeting I knew I wanted to have Fryday on my caseload,” Nikki said.  “We were able to talk so easily about everything he was going through at the time and I could see the potential in him and knew I could help,” Nikki added.

Officer Fryday with Nikki

Officer Fryday with Nikki

"The physical training was grueling and the written exam was the longest test I had ever taken but I passed them both," Fryday said with a big smile! In September of 2022, with his case worker Nikki in the crowd, Fryday graduated from the St Louis Police Academy and is now a night patrolman in the city of St. Louis. He loves his job but already has a new goal of becoming an Illinois State Police officer! When he encounters a troubled youth out on the street he makes sure they know they have choices and he lets them know there are places to go where people will help them get their life straightened out. He says he shares with everyone what Hoyleton did for him.

 

Fryday says he is thankful and feels very blessed to be where his in in life. He is appreciative of the support he received at Hoyleton, especially from his caseworker Nikki, and believes that support helped him get to where he is today.

Fryday's son Zai'den is a smart, happy eight year old boy and Fryday is engaged to a lady who just graduated from nursing school so the future is look very bright. "My faith in God, belief in myself and Hoyleton's support really made a difference in my life!"

It Takes A Village

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.

Clerical/Office Assistance

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.

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 Christy Schult at cschult@hoyleton.org

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.

Hoyleton CEO Chris Cox Discusses Self Care on Fox 2 News

Our President and CEO, Chris Cox, joined Fox 2 Now's Studio STL to discuss the importance of self care. You can't pour from an empty cup, and you don't have to feel guilty about taking time for yourself. Watch below to learn more:

Self Care is the practice of actively nurturing one's happiness and well being, and it's not as hard as you would think. Self care can  be as big as tackling your bad habits, or as small as making a cup of tea. Taking a small amount of time for yourself can help find balance in other areas of your life, too. Holistic wellness can be put into 8 dimensions that focus on different aspects of everyday life. By taking care of one dimension, we often see the others improve. Read more in depth about SAMHSA's 8 dimensions of wellness.

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 | Why Diversity is So Important

Why Diversity is So Important for Our Team and Clients

The definition of Diversity is the range of human differences, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, one’s religious or ethical values, national origin, and political beliefs.

Sit and think about that for a minute.

Let me begin by stating that this blog is not a blog to start a debate on any of the topics listed above. However, this is a blog to educate you how Hoyleton has the capability to serve ALL people, no matter the range of human differences because of our own unique differences because of the people we employ. 

As this new week began at Hoyleton, we were lucky to have a new staff orientation. On weeks like these, we get to meet our new family members that will join our specific areas of service within our family and community. Each of them are unique and have different backgrounds, experiences, education, and social understandings. Some of them are starting their first job. Some are beginning a second career in life. And some are just glad that in the age of COVID we are hiring and they can support their families. Our new family may also be single parents with master degrees in social work or a young adult that is starting their first job as a youth counselor at the Hoyleton campus. Some are joining us to see how we operate the CARE model compared to their previous organization. No matter why they have chosen Hoyleton, we are glad they are here. 

Each and every one of them brings a new and unique perspective to the departments that they will serve. They bring a history of personal experiences, cultures, beliefs, and values, which has molded them to be who they are today and how they will serve our clients. 

The uniqueness of each of us at Hoyleton is what makes this serving the community we live in, support, and serve even better. 

Here is what we asked our employees during our annual employee survey and why we know they love and seek to work at Hoyleton.

“What do you like most about working here?” 

The number one answer was the mission and the people we serve.

81% Responded with the Mission and the People we Serve

The mission is what we do and the people are who we are and who we serve. And to have 81 percent of the organization stand behind the mission tells the real story at Hoyleton. This response is very clear because at no time does one area or one department get singled out to carry what the agency does as a whole but the WHOLE agency does it all.

The second highest response to the question was working with their co-workers. This response promotes the family feeling you get when you join the Hoyleton family. While salary, benefits, and even flexibility were choices for the survey, the top two responses support the purpose and the history of CARE, which was created and taught by Cornell University, that we give and that the employees support that as well.

If you are ready to join Hoyleton and start a new career you can join our diverse staff by clicking hoyleton.org/careers. We know that you will be a great addition to our family and we look forward to you joining us.

Back2School Blog | Phylicia Gay Guest Blogger

With August upon us, we are greeted with a familiarity that we as adults know all too well, the stores full of Back to School Supplies and new school gadgets our child just cannot live without! and within the first week of school, they will have no doubt, lost, forgotten, or broken the much ‘needed’ supply.

I know this because I was that kid too! My love of new school supplies and office gadgets runs deep, when my own children go off to school I will likely have to send them to the store with their father who is far more sensible.

When we prepare the children in our life to go back to school, what do we do as the parent/caregiver to prepare them for this new school year? Does it end at the new backpack and lunchbox?

For me, it was exciting to get the new school supplies, but that was where my excitement ended and the anxiety began. My mother knew two things for certain when she was raising me, one – she raised me in a very routine and structured way and I became dependent on that routine. This now means if you don’t prepare me for a change in that routine, I will struggle. And two – I have an anxious streak. For my mother, school supplies were the least of her concerns. She had to start preparing me for my new routine in advance, that I would end up forgetting!

The summer months offer our kids the freedom of a later bedtime, a little less structure, and the best part of all, NO HOMEWORK! Much like our children in foster care, I knew what it meant to be in a new and unfamiliar environment, my father spent 22 years in the Air Force and I wasn’t always guaranteed to be in the same school, state, or even the same country, from one school year to the next.

As a new school year approaches, our children are not only facing the anxiety that comes with back to school, but they are also facing the added anxiety and uncertainty this year that COVID-19 has brought into our world. COVID-19 has become a new level of uncertainty. I won’t discuss it with them and even as a caseworker, I find it difficult to explain to my young clients what is going on in our world. With or without these unknowns, the reality is our kids are going back to school. Whether learning virtually or in the classroom, we have to assist them through the transition. 

Here are some tips that may ease some anxieties your children may be facing.

Establishing a back to school routine:  

• Implementing a routine for a good night’s sleep is key.

• Start with having a conversation with your child and let them help you decide what they need to do before bed.

• Getting your child involved in what their bedtime routine will look like will help them feel a part of the routine and be excited to actually start to “wind down” at night. 

• Just like having a nighttime routine, a morning routine is just as needed! 

• With virtual learning, parents going off to work, and childcare drop off, morning routines may look different this year. 

If your child is returning to a traditional school setting, the routine may not change very much. They will just need reminders of what the routine is after an extended summer break. 

There was a period in my youth where I was homeschooled for two years and my parents worked with me to establish a routine. What time I woke up for school while learning at home was different. If your children spend the part or all of the day at a daycare or with a babysitter. These changes will determine when schoolwork will be completed and with whom they will learn. All of these factors will assist you in guiding you into routines that will suit your family’s needs.

As a child and now an adult that suffers from anxiety, one of the greatest tools my parents gave me was knowing the power of my voice and my emotions, children often do not fully grasp the depths and meanings of their emotions and as the adult, it is our job to help foster and teach our children to understand and cope with their emotions, even the uncomfortable ones.

• Don’t be afraid to ask your child how they feel;

• Allow them to talk, explain, and help them identify the emotion;

• Affirm for your child that those feelings are okay to have and help them identify healthy coping skills to better manage those emotions!

One example would be when I was anxious in the morning, my mom would do something small that to this day still helps me cope. She gave me mints or minty gum. These small acts also gave me something else to focus on. I focused on chewing the gum or the mint getting smaller in my mouth. I didn’t concentrate on my fear. As fear subsided I became more comfortable with putting myself out there to make friends.

• Never doubt the benefits of having consistency! As much as kids love a day to go a little crazy, kids really want the routines, whatever plan you make, do your best to keep your child in the know. When changes and transitions happen, discussing them will help ease the anxiety that may begin to brew.

• Being active is also a great way to decrease anxiety with our kids! Whether it is a walk around the block or a homemade obstacle course, getting their bodies moving will help burn up that extra energy and keep their mind focused on healthy activities.  

These are general ideas to help children cope with the anxiety of a new school year. The most important point to remember is communication!

It’s okay that as adults, we don’t always have the answers. It’s also okay to feel our emotions. Having that bond and trust to communicate openly as a family will help your children moving forward. 

They say it takes a village and now more than ever, our villages are very important! Here at Hoyleton we have a diverse group of professionals who lend themselves to creating an environment of trust and growth, and we see ourselves as a part of your village, so don’t be afraid to reach out.

-Phylicia Gay
Hoyleton Foster Care Case Manager