In this second of four articles published by The Farmington Press on community services provided locally by Presbyterian children’s homes and ministries, we take a look at youth ministry and therapeutic mentoring. – Notepad
Two Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services (PCHAS) youth development programs have taken root at their Farmington Service Center. One is based on their Pine Street campus. The other works with children and youth in schools and throughout the community. Both programs are designed to guide young people in overcoming various challenges. The programs follow PCHAS’ mission to provide Christ-centered care and support to children and families in need, which in turn serves the Farmington community at large.
At 3 p.m. on a weekday, Christina McClure checks 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 teens ready for snacks, group activities, and even homework.
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“When the weather is nice, the children play outside,” she says. “Inside we have enough space to spread out – there is a quiet room for those who need it, a craft and play room, a tutoring area and of course the kitchen where everyone takes turns preparing dinner. There is a time block for homework and we have a tutor available.”
The Youth Outreach Program aims to help young people with their everyday challenges in the world and to create a balance between structure and social interaction. Students choose individual goals, such as getting fewer subject recommendations at school, learning to cook a meal, or improving their grade in a school subject. Recommendations for the program come from school counselors, children’s department staff, or PCHAS staff in other programs.
This therapeutic element makes it much more than just an opportunity for children to socialize. All PCHAS programs use a method called Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI), which teaches people to recognize and adjust their own behavior. Children are taught through play and role modeling, so it doesn’t feel like work. Children learn to connect with friends and family in healthy ways. “They taught me to be open about my feelings,” says a local participant.
Youth Outreach operates Monday through Thursday, serving children from third grade through teens. The program provides her with dinner and takes her home around 7:30 am. Families of all faiths participate. Solid Rock Church invites Youth Outreach to a meal and service every Wednesday, an optional excursion.
“Cultural Nights” of the program take place monthly. A student honored as Student of the Month will go to the wall map and select a location that they would like to highlight for the next month. Youngsters learn about the culture of that region or country, enjoy craft 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 girls love learning about different cultures, they love going to church, they love the fact that they get help with their homework. My kids always want to go.”
The reptile is a bearded dragon named Elliott, the program’s mascot. He’s gentle, about 18 inches long, and easy to care for. The children have made furniture for his terrarium and are helping to look after it.
The Farmington Service Center offers seven different programs and uses a wrap-around approach, which means it can direct participants between its free social services.
PCHAS is largely funded by donors. Youth Outreach welcomes donations from the Presbyterian Church and Ministerial Alliance to help stock the pantry. A civic group or other volunteers are welcome to organize a meal or activity on a regular basis. The program could use support with gift cards for fast food and individual admissions to the Civic Center. To enroll in the program, call (800) 383-8147 or email email@example.com.
Another program works with youth in schools and in the local area. Children ages five to 19 can meet individually with a therapeutic mentor, usually once a week. Farmington Service Center Administrative Director Cindy Warden and Senior Mentor Joanne Kinzinger run this service of four paid staff. They train mentors in the TBRI techniques mentioned above. Young people and parents develop a plan with individual goals such as school performance, coping skills or building self-esteem. The plan also includes a routine review of goals and the involvement of other PCHAS experts as needed.
The therapeutic mentoring program has mentored up to 50 clients at a time and is accepting referrals for new participants. As a rule, customers are in the program for up to 18 months. PCHAS currently administers therapeutic mentoring in several counties and expects it to grow in this region. “Eventually we will need more mentors as our numbers grow and we hope to start accepting volunteers soon,” says Warden.
Referrals are typically obtained from school counselors, the Children’s Department, BJC, or one of the other PCHAS programs such as Community Counseling, Child and Family, Youth Outreach, or Single Parent Family. Warden says, “Our seven ministries complement each other and can address issues individually or as a family. We also have a close working relationship with the school district, which allows the mentors to help with issues in the school environment.”
Numerous studies show that mentoring has significant positive effects on children, such as: B. reducing absenteeism and reducing behavioral problems. Teens who meet regularly with a mentor are 37% less likely than their peers to skip a grade and 52% less likely to skip a day of school. In St. Louis County, before the pandemic ushered in remote learning, more than 90% of PCHAS mentees were not involved in law enforcement and 62% had improved academic performance. Verbal aggression from 75% of participants decreased and 97% had a reduction in school suspensions.
A local mentor received the following message from a youth he worked with:
“When I was 12 and in a boys’ home upset every night because I missed my family, you made it better. Every Thursday you would visit me, play a game, take me out to dinner, or take me to a soccer 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 mentoring is an intervention program with long-lasting, positive results. “There’s a lot of evidence of what works in therapeutic mentoring,” he says. “I can cite all sorts of experts and statistics from around the country. But it all boils down to this: someone shows up for this kid every week. Every. Singles. Week. And that can make a big difference for a boy or a girl. That can change the direction of a life.”
To refer a child or teen or to learn more about becoming a mentor, call (800) 383-8147 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.