April 8-12 is National Youth Violence Prevention Week

This year, the second week of April is dedicated to the National Youth Violence Prevention Campaign. Around 200,000 homicides occur annually worldwide among youth between the ages of 10-29. According to the World Health Organization, that makes up 43% of the total number of global homicides each year. For those who are lucky enough to survive a violent attack, most will require hospitalization and be affected by lifelong psychological damage.

The goal of the weeklong National Youth Violence Prevention initiative is to raise awareness to educate students, school staff, parents and the general public on effective ways to prevent or reduce youth violence in communities across the country.

Deferment Programs vs. Arrest Records

Jacksonville, Florida, is working to reduce youth violence by intervening at the earliest sign a youth may be in trouble. The deferment program, called the Civil Citation Program, is offered through the Fourth Judicial Circuit for qualified juvenile offenders.

The Civil Citation Program allows law enforcement and juvenile justice stakeholders to issue a citation to qualified juvenile offenders to join the program rather than being arrested and entering the criminal justice system. The purpose of this program is to increase public safety by assessing and referring at-risk, qualified juvenile offenders to intervention programs while also reducing recidivism.

Signs an Individual May Be At Risk for Youth Violence

  • attention deficit, hyperactivity, conduct disorder or other behavioral disorders
  • involvement in crime
  • early involvement with alcohol, drugs and tobacco
  • low commitment to school and school failure
  • unemployment
  • exposure to violence in the family

Teen Court Holds Teens Accountable  

After a teen is issued a civil citation, it’s forwarded to the Court Administration Teen Court Director and reviewed to determine which curriculum, under the Civil Citation Program, is most appropriate for that youth. From there, the case will be handled by the Teen Court or one of Jacksonville’s Neighborhood Accountability Boards. Youths are then held accountable for their crimes and are required to complete community service hours and other sanctions that could include individual and family counseling, early intervention, letters of apology or academic monitoring.

This program promotes accountability, immediate intervention and prompt consequences for the qualified juvenile offenders. “This expanded program provides swifter accountability and intervention through smart justice –  a benefit to juveniles and taxpayers alike,” said Melissa Nelson, State Attorney for the Fourth Circuit.

Youth Crisis Center Provides Diversion Opportunity

The diversion programs offered by YCC can be completed either through its Outpatient Behavioral Health program or Residential Crisis Care program. Throughout six different programs, YCC provides short-term crisis care, mental health counseling, family therapy, and transitional living services for young adults. “The Youth Crisis Center has been a readily accessible resource for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) for many years,” said JSO Assistant Chief Adam Pendley. “The services that YCC offers enhance law enforcement efforts by getting to the root cause of what influences youth violence, and transforms their lives by providing them with the help and intervention at an early age.”

Taxpayer Savings

The Civil Citation Program saves taxpayer dollars by producing cost-effective outcomes. Rather than arresting troubled youth, the Civil Citation Program works to identify and address the causes of their misbehavior and enacts disciplinary actions that will discourage them from completing future offenses. Upon successful completion of the requirements of the Civil Citation Program, there will be no arrest on their record.

The Civil Citation Program is important because it prevents life-long consequences associated with juvenile arrests, adjudication, or convictions. “Arrest and prosecution are a first thought for many who consider ways to fight violent crime, but it’s important to remember that arrest for some may do more harm than good,” insists Pendley. “These types of diversion programs, like the Civil Citation Program, still hold the offenders accountable, but in a more proactive way that helps them long term.”

Click to learn more about the Youth Crisis Center’s involvement with the Civil Citation Program.

Are you dealing with a crisis or unmanageable youth? The Youth Crisis Center’s Residential Crisis Care program provides short-term residential services and therapy for youth ages 10-17. Our residential therapists work with youth and their families to address the immediate crisis and help provide long-term solutions to handle future concerns once the youth return home. Click to fill out the Residential Crisis Care form on our website and a therapist will contact you, or call our crisis hotline at (904) 725-6662 to speak with someone immediately. Click more to learn about 8 ways to help your child cope with stress and anxiety.

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8 Ways to Help Your Child Cope With Stress and Anxiety

Youth Crisis Center Advocates for Funding from Florida Legislature

Children in Need of Help

Playful, spirited, fun and happy – these are the things that come to mind when you think of children. However, many children struggle to find a carefree youth; instead, they experience anger or behavioral issues that plague their everyday lives. “If left untreated – whether it’s due to lack of funding, resources or time – children could continue to display these aggressive traits throughout their life, which could be a disruption to their academic performance, relationships, and/or employment,” said Kim Sirdevan, Youth Crisis Center president and CEO. From her years of working in the mental health field and with children, Sirdevan knows how critical it is for young people to have a voice and to be heard regarding the mental health services they and their families need. 

YCC Requests Funding for SNAP® (Stop Now and Plan)

In February, Sirdevan traveled with Leila Sundstrom, chair of YCC’s board of directors, to Tallahassee for the bi-annual Executive Advisory Roundtable meeting. The Florida Network’s “Hill Day” gives Florida youth advocacy leaders the opportunity to meet with local legislators from their district to share and advocate for the needs of children as it pertains to Florida Statue 984.04 Children and Families in Need of Services. YCC is Northeast Florida’s sole service provider for these statutory services. Sirdevan and Sundstrom met with Sens. Aaron Bean, Rob Bradley and Audrey Gibson, along with Reps. Travis Cummings, Cord Byrd, Bobby Payne, Paul Renner and Clay Yarborough, to discuss funding for the Youth Crisis Center’s SNAP® program. SNAP stands for Stop Now and Plan, and aims at improving emotion-regulation, self-control and problem solving for youth and their parents.

Legislative Priorities

YCC was one of the first four sites that implemented SNAP® in Florida four years ago. These four sites receive recurring funding to continue successfully serving families and transforming lives. In 2018, The Florida Network was granted non-recurring funding from Florida legislature to expand SNAP® to an additional 17 sites across the state. However, since the funds are non-recurring for these new 17 sites, the programs are at risk if the funds are not continued or changed to recurring.

Sirdevan advocated for three requests from the Florida Network to Florida legislators at the Florida Network’s “Hill Day”:

  1. Provide Recurring Funding to Continue the SNAP® Program at the Department of Juvenile Justice for the last 17 sites implemented: The recurring funding will allow SNAP® to continue to serve families across the state of Florida. SNAP® has been proven to prevent antisocial behavior and reduce the chance of future conflict with authorities through providing timely and effective early intervention to the children and families in need.
  1. Expand the SNAP® Program to the Child Welfare Population/Department of Children and Families: SNAP® will be offered in five different areas of the state, including Youth Crisis Center, as a pilot program for children in foster care, if the funds are received. The hope is to stabilize placements, improve youth behavior, and prevent serious behavior problems by providing skills to both children in foster care and their caregivers.
  1. Provide Funding to Increase Pay to Staff Working Directly with Youth in the Juvenile Justice System: The Florida Juvenile Justice Association requested an increase in pay for staff working directly with youth. Finding and keeping quality staff has become increasingly difficult over time because of the lack of funding. The hope is that an increase in pay will assist in recruitment and retention efforts to stabilize this workforce.

“So many youth experience emotional struggles that can lead to isolation from their peers, frustration from their parents, or a label as the ‘bad kid’ in school,” worries Sundstrom. “As a mother of two children, I know how important it is to remember that before calling a child ‘bad’, all efforts need to be made to determine the root cause. That can’t be done without funding and access to qualified mental health professionals and programs.”

Additionally, Sirdevan requested funds for an expansion project for Touchstone Village Transitional Living program. YCC is proposing to open this transitional living program in Clay County through a partnership with Moosehaven. This program will provide housing, life skills training, career development training at Moosehaven, and mental health counseling services to homeless 18 year olds in Clay County.

SNAP® (Stop Now and Plan)

SNAP®, which stands for Stop Now and Plan, improves emotion-regulation, self-control and problem solving. It teaches children, ages 6-11, with behavioral problems, and their parents, how to make better choices “in the moment.” This is an internationally recognized, trauma-informed, cognitive-behavioral model with the primary goal of helping children stop and think before they act. Using evidence-based, and gender-sensitive information, SNAP® helps keep children in school and out of trouble. If you would like to learn more about this program, click here.

Are you dealing with a crisis or unmanageable youth? The Youth Crisis Center’s Residential Crisis Care program provides short-term residential services and therapy for youth ages 10-17. Our residential therapists work with youth and their families to address the immediate crisis and help provide long-term solutions to handle future concerns once the youth return home. Click to fill out the Residential Crisis Care form on our website and a therapist will contact you, or call our crisis hotline at (904) 725-6662 to speak with someone immediately. Click more to learn about 8 ways to help your child cope with stress and anxiety.

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8 Ways to Help Your Child Cope With Stress and Anxiety

YCC On-Campus School Helps Students Get Back on Track

Too Far Gone

Craig* is 16 years old. He is looking toward his future and has decided he wants to get training to become a roofer. It’s a great job with a salary as high as $80,000 a year. The problem is, while students Craig’s age are getting ready to start their junior year or even graduate, he is still trying to complete the 6th grade. In his earlier years, Craig got off track. He started skipping school and getting in trouble. He’s out of trouble now, but those missed school days led to struggles with his grades. After falling behind in school, Craig was ashamed and embarrassed, and stopped trying. Craig, like many other young people, fell behind in the school system, gave up and dropped out.

Academic Monitoring and Support Leads to Success

Craig was court-ordered to the Residential Crisis Care program at Youth Crisis Center to address his truancy, as well as the issues that got him in trouble initially. During his stay at YCC he was enrolled at the on-campus school ran by the Duval County Public School system where youth, ages 10-17, are taught together with an age-appropriate curriculum. “For me – on my first day – I didn’t want to be there,” said Craig. “But when I actually started paying attention, it got better, because I was actually learning. The more you pay attention here, the more they’re going to want to teach you.”

The program’s teachers are all employees of the Duval County Public School system, but have an extra understanding of the challenges young people at YCC face. They recognize how the students’ struggles impact their ability to learn. “The teachers here go above and beyond for their students,” said Bertha Barrett, YCC Residential Intern Therapist. “Because of the one-on-one attention and controlled atmosphere, the students are able to focus and achieve academic goals. There is a boost in their self-esteem because they learn that they are capable of succeeding in school. Once they leave here, they have the confidence to continue in their regular school because they know they can do the work.”

 

A Typical YCC Student

The different issues plaguing the students’ lives, whether at home, school, or in the community, contribute to their truancy. They may not have the support system or encouragement to pursue an education. YCC understands these factors can contribute to a young person’s sense of shame and failure, so counselors and teachers work closely to ensure that students receive the one-on-one attention they wouldn’t normally get at their regular school, as well as build the skills needed to succeed.

Educators at YCC cater to each student’s individual learning styles and abilities, and they encourage students to do their best work. YCC’s teachers work hard to reach their students and make sure they fully understand the subject they’re learning before moving on. They address each problem the student may be having and work together to create solutions, so the student will be able to carry the skills they learn into the next steps of their schooling.

After his time at YCC, Craig now plans to complete his GED certificate and go to a trade school for roofing. “I always wanted to drop out of school, but now that I learned from smart teachers that care, it makes me want to do better,” said Craig. “They take their time to talk to me and make sure I understand. It makes me feel more focused and encouraged.” YCC helps many youth, just like Craig, realize their full potential and give them the confidence needed to succeed.

*Name changed to protect privacy

Are you dealing with a crisis or unmanageable youth? The Youth Crisis Center’s Residential Crisis Care program provides short-term residential services and therapy for youth ages 10-17. Our residential therapists work with youth and their families to address the immediate crisis and help provide long-term solutions to handle future concerns once the youth return home. Click to fill out the Residential Crisis Care form on our website and a therapist will contact you, or call our crisis hotline at (904) 725-6662 to speak with someone immediately. Click more to learn about 8 ways to help your child cope with stress and anxiety.

 

Download our FREE ebook!

8 Ways to Help Your Child Cope With Stress and Anxiety

Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention

February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, which is a nationwide effort to raise awareness about abuse in teenage relationships and promote programs that educate young people on the importance of having a healthy relationship.

Hubbard House Teaches Teens the Importance of Healthy Relationships

Jacksonville’s Youth Crisis Center and Hubbard House first began their partnership in March 2018 to educate youth residing in YCC’s Residential Crisis Care program about the importance of healthy relationships. Hubbard House, serving Duval and Baker counties, is a full-service, certified, domestic violence center, responding to more than 91,000 hotline calls and providing shelter to more than 36,800 victims and their children in its 42-year history. 

Every other month, a Hubbard House Violence Prevention Facilitator for Youth spends two consecutive days at YCC facilitating the Couplets program, which was created by the One Love Foundation. The facilitator provides a safe, non-judgmental place for youth to open up about their relationships and any issues they may be experiencing. Youth are encouraged to first identify times when they could have been the abuser in relationships, exhibiting manipulative or disrespectful behaviors to their partner, so they can recognize how their actions affect others. The Hubbard House Violence Prevention Facilitator then educates them on how to recognize the warning signs of abuse in relationships and provides information on resources available for help.  

Prevention Eliminates Intervention

One in three teens will be in an abusive or unhealthy relationship at some point in their life, whether it is from physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse. In the case of an unhealthy relationship, Hubbard House stresses the importance of prevention, which will stop the violence before it even has the chance to occur. If prevention is unsuccessful, an intervention will be called to involve counseling, medical care or the police. Teens can prevent unhealthy bonds from forming by discussing their relationships, learning conflict resolution skills, becoming educated on the warning signs of abuse, and taking advantage of available resources, if needed.

5 Warning Signs That a Relationship Could Be Unhealthy

Potential abusers may be:

  • Using manipulation to get what they want, convincing you to do something you may not want to do, or influencing your decisions.
  • Forcing isolation by making you choose between them and your family and friends.
  • Throwing in a guilt trip to make you feel like everything is your fault, or that you are solely responsible for their happiness.
  • Lashing out because of jealousy, or sabotaging your work, school or other relationships because they want to be the most important part of your life.
  • Making you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around them because of unpredictable overreactions, which could come in the form of violent behavior, belittlement or extreme mood swings.

Teaching Youth Early Is Key

Many of the youth at YCC present risk factors that could lead to a potentially abusive relationship: violence at home, aggressive or angry behavior, and poor problem-solving skills. The important thing to remember is that even if a teen presents risk factors that can lead to an unhealthy relationship, it doesn’t mean they are doomed to be abused or become an abuser. With the right tools and support, teens can develop healthy, happy relationships. “How kids handle friendships and early relationships is going to set the tone for how they handle more serious relationships down the road,” said Laura Gilligan, Health Educator at National Health Corps Florida Program, who serves at Hubbard House. “If they can learn non-violent approaches to conflict resolution in middle school or high school, they’ll carry that with them for the rest of their life.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, the Hubbard House has highly trained advocates available 24/7 to talk with anyone experiencing domestic violence, seeking resources or information, or questioning unhealthy aspects of their relationship. Call (904) 354-3114 or go to their website to speak confidentially with an advocate today.

Are you dealing with a crisis or unmanageable youth? The Youth Crisis Center’s Residential Crisis Care program provides short-term residential services and therapy for youth ages 10-17. Our residential therapists work with youth and their families to address the immediate crisis and help provide long-term solutions to handle future concerns once the youth return home. Click to fill out the Residential Crisis Care form on our website and a therapist will contact you, or call our crisis hotline at (904) 725-6662 to speak with someone immediately. Click more to learn about 8 ways to help your child cope with stress and anxiety.

Download our FREE ebook!

8 Ways to Help Your Child Cope With Stress and Anxiety

National Human Trafficking Awareness Month

It sounds like the plot from a terrifying Hollywood thriller; a young girl runs away in an act of defiance and then disappears for years. Only it’s not the next blockbuster, it’s the real story of a young girl we will call A.G. Like many teenagers, A.G. had a rocky home life. She struggled with authority and didn’t feel wanted or loved. A.G. began talking to men online, and it didn’t take long to find one who said he would take of her. So, at just 14 years old, she left for what she hoped would be a better life in a place – where she was appreciated. A.G. thought she’d met her prince. He was sweeter than anyone she’d ever met, and bought her anything she wanted. She was falling for him. But then it all changed. He told her she needed to earn her keep by taking a job in a strip club. He kept her money and kept her locked in the basement.

The Escape

A.G. made a run for it one night while working at the club, but the person she thought was going to help her ended up forcing her and another woman to live in a motel and work as prostitutes. Customers would “set up appointments” with her rescuer, who was now her pimp. One “customer” agreed to help her escape and take her to his house to be safe. But this was no safe haven. This man, who was twice her age, would not let her leave. He forced her to have sex with him and kicked her out when she became pregnant. A.G. was under 18 years old and had been missing for three years. She found a way to call her family and they brought her home. Her grandparents, who were her legal guardians, could not care for her and a baby. Fearing she would leave again, they reached out to YCC’s Residential Crisis Care program. A.G. stayed at YCC for two months while she received schooling, therapy services, extracurricular activities, a safe place to sleep and nutritious meals. After moving from YCC into a maternity group home, A.G. gave birth to a healthy baby and found the support and stability she needed to make it through her life changing events.

The Rescue

“In A.G.’s case, I think the best place for her is a facility with the appropriate resources to provide her support,” said Ashton Crawford, Residential Clinical Supervisor for the Youth Crisis Center in Duval County, Florida. “I believe if she had gone back to her guardians, she would have run away again, possibly even with her baby.” Crawford provides therapy to young people like A.G. who have experienced 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, and is one of the largest and best-known providers of services for youth and families.

Crawford says a major issue therapists see in teens at risk for trafficking is significant feelings of abandonment, or feeling unloved or unwanted. Many times, this stems from parents who are substance abusers, or abuse and neglect their children. The risk is also higher in children who were abandoned by their biological parents and are being raised by another family member (not necessarily being adopted out). “It is important for parents or guardians to be significantly and positively involved in their children’s lives, monitor their social media usage, and teach them about the dangers of human trafficking in an age-appropriate way,” adds Crawford.

Human Trafficking In Northeast Florida

In 2017, Duval County ranked fifth in Florida for the number of cases involving commercially, sexually exploited children. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office reported that 66 human trafficking victims were “identified and/or rescued” in 2017, marking a 50 percent increase over the previous year. Human trafficking is the world’s second-largest criminal enterprise after narcotics, generating $150 billion dollars each year.  

Crawford taught A.G. how to think positively and helped her work through the feelings that made her run away in the first place. A.G. now has a strong support system in place and Crawford feels she will find a path to a better life for herself and her child.

Are you dealing with a crisis or unmanageable youth? The Youth Crisis Center’s Residential Crisis Care program provides short-term residential services and therapy for youth ages 10-17. Our residential therapists work with youth and their families to address the immediate crisis and help provide long-term solutions to handle future concerns once the youth return home. Click to fill out the Residential Crisis Care form on our website and a therapist will contact you, or call our crisis hotline at (904) 725-6662 to speak with someone immediately. Click more to learn about 8 ways to help your child cope with stress and anxiety.

Download our FREE ebook!

8 Ways to Help Your Child Cope With Stress and Anxiety

YCC and the use of Civil Citations

Do Civil Citations work? Is the program seeing success? First Coast Connect guest host, Charlene Shirk and Juvenile Director of the 4th Judicial District State Attorney’s Office, Laura Lambert discuss these issues with YCC’s President and CEO, Kim Sirdevan. Click below to listen to the latest discussion regarding the use of Civil Citations instead of arresting youth in Jacksonville.