National Homeless and Hunger Awareness Month

For many families, November is a month filled with Thanksgiving dinners, family gatherings and the kick-off of holiday shopping. Yet, for millions of other young people, their reality couldn’t be further from these festivities. The National Runaway Switchboard estimates that on any given night there are approximately 1.3 million homeless youth living unsupervised on the streets, in abandoned buildings, or with friends or strangers. National Homeless and Hunger Awareness Month, recognized in November, is an annual awareness event where people across the country draw attention to the problems of hunger and homelessness through educational, service, fundraising and advocacy events.

Homelessness and Hunger Go Hand in Hand

Unfortunately, homelessness and hunger go hand-in-hand for America’s youth. Every state in the country faces a flood of young people with no place to call home. Florida’s warmer climates prove to be an even bigger draw for young people on the move to find a safe haven. In 1974, former Jacksonville Councilwoman Gwen Yates founded the Transient Youth Center to provide a safe shelter space for runaway youth. She initially battled the stigma that runaway or homeless teenagers are troubled, damaged or dangerous. She and others prevailed to create a safe space that would become the model for the entire state. In 1982, the center was re-named the Youth Crisis Center. Over the next few decades, it shifted focus from solely serving “at-risk” youth to including their families that are also impacted by traumatic life events like drug use, domestic abuse, bullying, divorce or the loss of a parent or sibling.

Expanding SAFE PLACES

Fast forward 43 years and YCC remains a steadfast leader in operating SAFE PLACE in Northeast Florida, the only national outreach program for at-risk kids in danger on our streets. There is currently an intense effort to expand the SAFE PLACE program because of the urgency regarding the rapid increase in child sex trafficking and additional risk for homeless LBGTQ youth. “The frightening speed at which sex trafficking is growing in our community has us connecting with current SAFE PLACE locations to make sure they are up-to-date on what it means to be a SAFE PLACE,” said Kim Sirdevan, YCC president and CEO. “We are also expanding our training to ensure we are aware of the signs of youth sex trafficking, as well as how to properly intervene when a youth is being trafficked.” Runaway, homeless, and young people trying to escape sex traffickers, can find immediate help by entering any location displaying a SAFE PLACE sign. The child at risk will be immediately connected to YCC and transported home or to the shelter.

House of Hope

The House of Hope is the next step for YCC to create a safe space for young adults 18-24 years old, who identify as LGBTQ, and are being stigmatized, discriminated against or are the targets of violence. “The YCC House of Hope will be a beacon to young people who have had the crushing experience of alienation from family support,” explained donor Delores Barr Weaver. “We need to embrace them so that they may gain the footing they need to be productive, good citizens in our community.” YCC is supported by a $100,000 fund-matching grant from the Delores Barr Weaver Fund to help launch the new, nine-bed House of Hope emergency homeless shelter.

Transformational Partnerships

Another challenge facing families and displaced children is hunger. In America, 1 in 6 children may not know where they will get their next meal. YCC partnered with Feeding Northeast Florida in 2018 to provide meals for children, families and young adults participating in several programs on its campus.  In 2017, YCC provided more than 22,302 meals just for the children in its Residential Crisis Care program.

By connecting millions of pounds of rescued food to a network of over 160 social service agencies and programs like YCC, City Rescue Mission, Sulzbacher Center and Salvation Army, these hunger-relief partners are able to provide not only food to those in need, but also services that can help these families and individuals end the cycle of poverty. Services might include programs like job training or placement, low-cost childcare, SNAP benefits, medical care, affordable housing and counseling. “As the region’s largest hunger-relief network, we are proud to forge this relationship with the Youth Crisis Center,” said Feeding Northeast Florida president and CEO Frank D. Castillo. “Through strategic partnerships like this one, we are collaboratively helping to transform our community.”

Are you concerned about relationship issues with your child or between family members? The Youth Crisis Center’s Outpatient Behavioral Health program provides comprehensive mental health and psychiatric care to children as young as 3, as well as their families. Parents may receive individual and family counseling services regardless if their child is a YCC client. Click to learn more about 5 Ways to Improve Your Interpersonal Relationships.

Licensed Outpatient Therapist

Job Title:               
Licensed Outpatient Therapist

Reports to: VP – Outpatient Services

Department: Outpatient Behavioral Health Program

Exempt: Yes

Position Overview

The licensed therapist delivers outpatient therapeutic counseling to children, adolescents, young adults and their families to assist in helping clients relieve mental and emotional suffering and assist clients in finding ways to change behaviors. The therapist works with clients on a number of issues such as, anxiety, trauma, mood disturbances, family dynamics, abuse, poor self esteem and many others areas of life that are creating emotional, mental, spiritual and behavioral concerns for them.

The most important knowledge, job responsibilities and qualifications are listed for Licensed Outpatient Therapist.

Knowledge:

Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological or social work research methods; and the assessment and counseling modalities of behavioral and affective disorders.

  • Knowledge of principles, theories, models, methods, and procedures for counseling of physical/mental/emotional/behavioral dysfunctions in the capacity of individual, family, and group therapy.
  • Knowledge of principles and methods for psycho-educational instruction for group counseling and the measurement of training effects.
  • Knowledge of group behavior and dynamics, societal trends and influences, human migrations, ethnicity, cultures and their history and origins
  • Knowledge of counseling or social work ethics.
  • Have a working knowledge of how trauma impacts people of various developmental stages in the different domains of their lives.

Skills:

  • Strong assessment and interviewing skills
  • Strong documentation skills
  • Minimal supervision required regarding use of time, able to prioritize work assignments
  • Effective organizational skills.

Abilities:

  • Ability to communicate effectively with professionals and clients/families
  • Ability to make sound decisions in emergency situations
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • Active listening skills
  • A “team player”

Essential Duties and Responsibilities include the following for the Licensed Outpatient Therapist:

  • Complete services and documentation within designated time frame as determined by supervisor/agency policy, funding sources, accreditation organizations and best practices.
  • Complete services and documentation completely, accurately, according to requirements determined by supervisor/agency policy, funding sources, accreditation organizations and best practices.
  • Demonstrate a knowledge of diagnostic criteria evidenced by documentation of symptoms presented supporting mental health diagnosis and prescribed treatment.
  • Demonstrated effectiveness in the development of treatment plans based on clients presenting symptoms and identified underlying causes with measurable goals and objectives showing the progression towards discharge.
  • Maintains documentation and client files in accordance with program standards as determined by supervisor/agency policy, funding sources, accreditation organizations and best practices.
  • Close cases and files, completing all discharge data entry and documentation requirements completely and in a timely manner set forth by supervisor/agency policy.
  • Maintains an average of 25 billable sessions weekly.
  • Demonstrated organizational and time management skills through timely responses to emails, deadlines and requests, attention to detail in meeting task requirements.
  • Demonstrates critical thinking skills through display of flexibility, creativeness and ingenuity in meeting expectations and facing client and task oriented challenges.
  • Completion of training objectives within established timeframes.
  • Other job duties as required.

Minimum Education and Experience:

Licensed practitioner of the healing arts who is licensed in accordance with the Florida State Laws according to their respective discipline, with a Master’s degree from an accredited college/university recognized by the Florida Department of Education in a major in the field of mental health counseling, social work, marriage and family counseling, or psychology with a minimum of two years of professional experience in providing services to persons with behavioral illness.

  • Must be licensed in the State of Florida.
  • A minimum of two years experience working with children, adolescents, young adults and families.
  • Experience working in a mental health setting.
  • Experience with Medicaid and third party insurance service delivery preferred.
  • Experience providing outpatient mental health services preferred.

Mathematical Skills and Reasoning Ability

Basic and/or advanced computational skills may be necessary.

Physical Demands

This is a sedentary position, and the incumbent will be required to sit approximately 70 per cent of the time.  Little to moderate lifting of less than 25 lbs. may be required.

Work Environment

While performing the duties of this job, the employee is in a work environment. The noise level in the work environment is usually moderate.

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Crisis Intervention Specialist

Job Title: Crisis Intervention Specialist

Reports to: Director of Residential Services

Department: Residential Shelter

Exempt: No

Position Overview

Provides crisis intervention services to families and youth who are either seeking admission or have been admitted to the shelter program and are exhibiting symptoms of distress. Completes admission documentation, including data entry as it pertains to admissions. Assesses for risk utilizing the risk screening tool.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

The most important knowledge, skills, and abilities are listed for Crisis Intervention Specialist:

Knowledge:

  • Knowledge of CINS/FINS program.
  • Proficient knowledge of MS Office, MS Excel, MS Word.
  • Proficient in data entry databases and data reporting requirements.

Skills:

  • Strong administrative, organizational, and communication skills.
  • Excellent attention to details.
  • Excellent time management skills and the ability to meet deadlines.
  • Excellent oral and written skills to communicate with a diverse group of individuals.
  • Ability to use de-escalation skills during times of crisis including debriefing as needed.

Abilities:

  • Ability to multi-task.
  • Ability to enter data accurately and completely.
  • Ability to maintain confidential information relevant to clients.

Position Duties and Responsibilities

Occupation specific tasks and the most important generalized work activities are listed for

Crisis Intervention Specialist:

  • Provide crisis intervention services to youth and families who are in distress.
  • Complete screening and intake of new clients, including completion of appropriate intake paperwork and entry into various databases, i.e. NetMIS, JJIS, etc.
  • Responsible for accurate and timely data entry, and remain current on ever-changing data requirements. Extrapolate data as requested and complete the monthly invoicing process for the FL Network
  • Complete discharge paperwork on clients and enter data into various databases.
  • Handle incoming crisis calls or requests for information from families or other resources.
  • Assist Residential Shelter in monitoring and supervising youth, as needed.
  • Complete incident reports and contact abuse registry, as required.
  • Complete all required training based upon direct care staff training requirements.
  • Assisting with Touchstone Village on an as needed basis. Duties include conducting weekly inspections of the residents’ apartments, completing corresponding documentation, providing transport to appointments, and assisting with the teaching and demonstrations of life skills to the residents.
  • Assist with transporting youth (10-17 years of age), as needed.
  • Secure client medication at intake and ensure that client medication is appropriately administered per medication instructions.
  • Maintain acceptable attendance and punctuality of no more than three (3) unscheduled occurrences within a 90 day period.
  • Attend 10 out of 12 Residential Staff meetings during the review year.

Education and Experience

Bachelor’s degree in human services field and at least one (1) year experience working with at-risk youth in a residential setting; or five (5) years working with at-risk youth. Training in an evidenced-based crisis intervention preferred (i.e. CPI). A valid Florida Driver’s license and safe driving record is required.

Mathematical Skills and Reasoning Ability

Basic and/or advanced computational skills may be necessary.

Physical Demands

This is a 50% sedentary and 50% walking, interacting, monitoring and supervising youth.  Little to moderate lifting of less than 25 lbs. may be required.

Work Environment

While performing the duties of this job, the employee is occasionally exposed to outside weather conditions. The noise level in the work environment is usually moderate.

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National Runaway Prevention Month

A Teenager Acting Out

Senora Reynolds has a loud, bustling and energetic home with seven children. They range in age from toddlers to teenagers. The older kids help out, the smaller ones have their chores, and everyone has a role to get work done in this big, busy family. However, as Senora’s daughter, Senora Lee, turned 13, she started developing what Senora calls the “middle child syndrome”, which made for a challenging combination. “Over the summer of 2018, when my daughter turned into a teenager, she started acting out,” said Senora. “She was a borderline runaway; she was becoming defiant and didn’t want to come home.”

The Real Dangers for Runaways

Senora was terrified at the thought of her daughter running away and the dangers Senora Lee would face if she ended up on the streets or homeless. In a 2013 study, The Institute of Medicine stated that homelessness is the largest risk factor for the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) and sex trafficking of minors. Additionally, 48 percent of runaway and homeless youth who engaged in a commercial sex activity said they did it because they didn’t have a safe place to stay. During the course of one year, between 1.6-2.8 million youth run away from home.

YCC Provided a Time Out to Cool Off

Fearful that her daughter’s defiance would end up putting her in danger, Senora knew she had to put a stop to Senora Lee’s behavior. One night, when Senora Lee had come home late, they had a heated argument that ended in Senora calling the police. “They took her to the Youth Crisis Center, which was a good thing,” said Senora. “It gave us both time to cool off and make some decisions about how to handle the situation.” During her stay, Senora Lee received residential therapy, followed by outpatient therapy after she returned home. Her time at YCC let her know that no matter how bad she felt her situation was at home, she had a safe place to go for support. Senora says that helped her daughter put her situation in perspective and realize that an over-protective mom was better than a mom who wasn’t involved in her life at all.

Civil Citation Program

Senora says she is also grateful that the police took her daughter to YCC instead of a lock-down juvenile detention facility. YCC participates in the state’s Civil Citation program, which allows juveniles to stay at YCC and receive therapy services, instead of a having a criminal record.

Keeping the Lines of Communication Open

As a result of the services her daughter received, Senora has decided to utilize the outpatient therapy services YCC offers for families. She credits the therapists for making her feel comfortable about taking the entire family for therapy because they kept the lines of communication open even after Senora Lee returned home. Senora admitted a seven-child family can be stressful at times, so developing problem-solving skills and coping tools would be to the benefit of everyone. Senora Lee is about to turn 14, and her mom says things are a lot better because the family knows they have YCC to turn to if things get too tough to handle on their own.

Are you concerned about relationship issues with your child or between family members? The Youth Crisis Center’s Outpatient Behavioral Health program provides comprehensive mental health and psychiatric care to children as young as 3, as well as their families. Parents may receive individual and family counseling services regardless if their child is a YCC client. Click to learn more about 5 Ways to Improve Your Interpersonal Relationships.

Navigating Relationships After a Cancer Diagnosis

Cancer is a very scary word, and when one person in the family has been diagnosed, it can feel like the entire family is facing the disease. When Robert* was first diagnosed in February 2009 with bone marrow cancer, his whole life came to a standstill. “I went from working 40+ hours each week and participating in extracurricular activities in my free time to not working at all and being bed-bound due to the horrific side effects from my treatments,” recalls Robert. “I had planned out my whole life, down to my retirement, but never thought to include a diagnosis and plan for cancer.”

Following any diagnosis, the next few months can be a whirlwind of medical treatments, hospitalizations, tests and side effects, which are often followed by feelings of depression, anger, anxiety and fear. “Those emotional responses to life-altering medical diagnoses are normal,” explains Youth Crisis Center’s Director of Program Services, Cecelia Stalnaker-Cauwenberghs, LMHC. “It’s important to develop a support system, not just for the patient, but for the entire family.”

For those facing a life-threatening illness, The American Cancer Society finds some of the most common emotional and physiological issues for their family members are:

  • Family and social isolation and/or conflict
  • Concern about the quality of life
  • Problems adjusting to illness or changes in care
  • Making decisions for future medical care (advance directives)
  • Grief

Robert says it was hard for him to reach out to family and friends because he was exhausted from his illness and the treatments. He didn’t have the energy and didn’t want them to see him looking physically ill. That can be very challenging for family and friends who want to help, but don’t know what to do when the person who is ill is pushing them away. “It’s beneficial for family members to be in therapy so they can also express their emotions/feelings and can work through them to find the best adjustments in the new situation,” advises Stalnaker-Cauwenberghs, LMHC. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach when you are going through something so personal. Everyone will react differently, but at the end of the day, we need to get everyone through this difficult time in as healthy a way as possible.”

A therapist can offer families the opportunity to share their feelings of loss, grief, sadness or fear in a safe and supportive environment. They can also provide referrals to resources in the community that assist with finances, transportation and caregiver respite. YCC identifies three top tips for emotional and mental stability when facing illness as a family:

  • Have the family participate in family counseling to help process the diagnosis. Work with a professional to develop an individualized plan for family needs.
  • Build a schedule and rotate caregiving shifts to help prevent burnout and minimize stress.
  • Don’t isolate yourself – this goes for the patient and the family members.

Robert says turning to friends and family for support did help him through this tough time. He also re-focused his fears to more productive avenues, like learning how to eat healthier and educating himself on what he could do to be an active participant in his healing and recovery process. He says he found a new respect for life’s preciousness and suggests considering the financial implications of these types of unexpected life experiences when making long term plans for yourself and your family.

*Name has been changed to protect privacy.

Are you concerned about relationship issues with your child or between family members? The Youth Crisis Center’s Outpatient Behavioral Health program provides comprehensive mental health and psychiatric care to children as young as 3, as well as their families. Parents may receive individual and family counseling services regardless if their child is a YCC client. Click to learn more about 5 Ways to Improve Your Interpersonal Relationships.

Jax Journal Spotlights YCC

On October 27th Danielle Leigh from Jax Journal sat down with President and CEO Kim Sirdevan from the Youth Crisis Center. Take a listen as they discuss everything from crisis services offered by YCC to upcoming projects and how you can get involved. 

Founded in 1974 as Florida’s first runaway program, Youth Crisis Center has grown to one of the largest and best-known providers of services for youth and families. YCC’s emphasis on care is for those  who have been exposed to traumatic situations such as divorce, homelessness, relocation, loss of life, and abuse. YCC provides a variety of services for children, adolescents, young adults, and families.