PCHAS offers two youth development programs in Farmington | News


In this second of four articles to be published by The Farmington Press on community services offered locally by Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services, we examine youth outreach and therapeutic mentorship. – Editor

Two Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services (PCHAS) youth development programs have taken root in their Farmington service center. One is based at their Pine Street campus. The other works with children and adolescents in schools and throughout the community. Both programs are designed to guide young people who face various challenges. The programs follow PCHAS’ mission to provide Christ-centered care and support to children and families in need, which in turn serve the Farmington community as a whole.

At 3 p.m. on a weekday, Christina McClure ticks off her list: art supplies on the craft table, ingredients for dinner in the kitchen, and a reptile in the terrarium. Soon, a school bus will drop off a dozen youngsters ready for snacks, group activities and even homework.

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“If the weather is nice, the children will play outside,” she says. “Inside we have plenty of space to spread out: there is a quiet room for those who need it, a craft and games room, a tutoring area and, of course, the kitchen where everything everyone takes turns preparing the evening meal. There is a time block for homework and we have a tutor available.

The Youth Outreach Program is designed to help young people deal with everyday challenges in the world and provide a balance of structure and social interaction. Students choose individual goals like getting fewer disciplinary references at school, learning to cook a meal, or increasing their grade in a school subject. Recommendations for the program come from school counselors, children’s division workers, or PCHAS staff in other programs.

This therapeutic element makes it more than just a chance for kids to socialize. All PCHAS programs use a method called Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI), which teaches people to recognize and adapt their own behaviors. With children, teaching is done through play and imitation, so it doesn’t feel like work. Children learn to form healthy bonds with friends and family. “They taught me to talk openly about my feelings,” said a local participant.

Youth Outreach operates Monday through Thursday and serves children in grade three through teens. The program provides them with an evening meal and drives them home around 7:30 p.m. Families of all faiths participate. Solid Rock Church invites Youth Outreach to a meal and service every Wednesday, an optional outing.

The “culture evenings” on the program take place every month. A student recognized as “Student of the Month” will go to the wall map and choose a spot to highlight for the following month. Young people learn about the culture of that region or country, enjoy arts and crafts projects that focus on the culture, and plan a meal that represents that culture. “We explored Native American cultures, Japan, Hawaii and other places,” says McClure.

A parent of two participants said, “I think the program is great. My daughters like learning about different cultures, they like going to church, they like the fact that they get help with homework. My kids still want to go.”

As for the reptile, it is a bearded dragon named Elliott, the program’s mascot. It’s soft, about 18 inches long, and easy to care for. Children have made furniture for his terrarium and participate in his care.

The Farmington Service Center offers seven separate programs and uses a “wraparound” approach, meaning it can direct participants between its free social services.

PCHAS is largely funded by donors. Youth Outreach appreciated donations from the Presbyterian Church and the Ministerial Alliance, which help stock the pantry. A civic group or other volunteers would be welcome to organize a meal or activity on a regular basis. The program could use assistance in the form of gift cards for fast food and individual admission to the Civic Center. To register for the program, call (800) 383-8147 or email info@pchas.org.

Another program works with young people in schools and around the community. Children between the ages of five and 19 can meet individually with a therapeutic mentor, usually once a week. Cindy Warden, administrative director of the Farmington Service Center, and Joanne Kinzinger, senior mentor, run the service with four paid staff. They train mentors in the TBRI techniques mentioned above. Young people and parents develop a plan with individualized goals such as academic performance, coping skills or building self-esteem. The plan also includes a routine review of objectives and the involvement of other PCHAS professionals as needed.

The Therapeutic Mentoring Program has served up to 50 clients at a time and is accepting referrals from new participants. Generally, clients are in the program for up to 18 months. PCHAS currently runs therapeutic mentorship in several counties and expects it to expand in this region. “Eventually we will need more mentors as our numbers grow and we hope to start adding volunteers soon,” says Warden.

Referrals are usually received from school counselors, the Children’s Division, BJC, or one of the other PCHAS programs, such as Community Council, Child and Family, Youth Outreach, or Single Parent. Warden says, “Our seven services complement each other and can solve problems individually or as a family. We also work closely with the school district, allowing mentors to help solve problems in the school setting. »

Numerous studies show that mentoring has significant positive effects on children, such as reduced absenteeism and reduced behavior problems. Young people who regularly meet with a mentor are 37% less likely than their peers to skip a class and 52% less likely to skip a day of school. In St. Louis County, before the pandemic triggered remote learning, more than 90% of PCHAS mentees were not involved in law enforcement and 62% had improved academic performance. The verbal aggression of 75% of the participants decreased and 97% had a reduction in school suspensions.

A local mentor received the following message from a youth he was working with:

“When I was 12 in a boys’ home, sad every night because I missed my family, you made it better. Every Thursday you came to visit me, play a game, take me out to eat. restaurant or take me to a football game. You were like a father to me. Thank you for being there for me when I needed it most.

Robert Giegling, vice president of programs at PCHAS, agrees that mentorship is an intervention program with positive and lasting results. “There is a lot of evidence about what works in therapeutic mentoring,” he says. “I can quote all kinds of experts and statistics from across the country. But it all boils down to this: someone shows up every week for that kid. All. Only. Week. And it can make all the difference for a boy or a girl. It can change the meaning of a life.

To recommend a child or teen, or learn more about becoming a mentor, call (800) 383-8147 or email info@pchas.org.


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