Youth and Family Link
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Stories
Youth and Family Link is a nonprofit organization that provides engagement and linking to children who have failed at school and/or have been hospitalized due to mental health issues. Link’s mission is to promote positive change in kids and families’ lives by connecting them to resources that promote success in school, improved family functioning, and positive peer relationships and use of free time. Link achieves this mission by assisting youth to participate in positive activities and to develop a positive peer network, by helping families access community resources, and help families move toward independence from the social service system. Link works with the child and family in the community, rather than in an office, providing flexible and creative alternatives to traditional interventions by linking the child and family to resources.
 
Below are the stories of some of the families we have helped:
 

Emily

Emily and her four siblings were removed from their mother’s home due to abuse, and placed in separate foster homes. Emily, just 13 at the time she entered foster care, had reported the abuse, and blamed herself for the family being broken up. She was having trouble connecting to the foster parents, and was failing two classes in school, where the other students called her names. Emily was attending counseling because she was depressed, had thoughts of suicide, and often stopped eating. Her mental health counselor referred her to Link help her make friends, improve her schooling, and develop healthy activities.

Emily’s Link staff helped her become a volunteer at the Humane Society, join the Link Group Program, and get academic tutoring. During this time the Department of Social and Health Services was terminating the mother’s parental rights. This court process was protracted, and Emily’s feelings of guilt and loss became overwhelming to her. She became actively suicidal, and was hospitalized briefly. She stopped eating and stopped attending school, soon failing all her classes. Link was one stable and positive aspect of her life, and she met frequently – often every day - with her Link worker. 

The interagency treatment team worked together effectively to help Emily. She was moved to a new foster home, one that offered her the nurturing she needed. Emily had been inconsistent in attending counseling sessions. The Link staff took her to counseling, taking her for a treat afterwards, and with consistent attendance she began to work on her emotional issues. In this same way Link helped Emily improve her school attendance, and she began to improve in school. Link enrolled her in horsemanship lessons, which she loved. Slowly she began to trust others and stopped blaming and hating herself. She continued to attend the Link’s After School Group program, where she made friends and became a leader to the new students.

As Emily’s life stabilized she began to rely on her counselor and her foster parents for support.  Link knew that Emily was ready for graduation when the daily calls came less and less frequently. Emily continues to attend Alumni activities, and talks with her Link staff regularly.  She is doing well in school and at home. She expresses confidence in herself and hope for the future, and no longer is at risk of hurting herself.

 
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Uniklee

At referral, Uniklee, 8, lived with her mother and five-year-old sister in the Emergency Support Shelter due to substance abuse and physical abuse by her father. Uniklee’s father had been the primary authority figure in the home, and Mom was struggling to discipline the children. In addition, she had limited basic life skills. The Emergency Support Shelter’s case manager referred Uniklee and her family to Link because Uniklee was showing some behavioral issues that were beyond the their scope. 

The Link staff and Mom developed a service plan focusing on developing Mom’s independent living and parenting skills, helping Uniklee’s behavior, and developing on-going support for the family. Link helped the family get immediate housing support, as well as emergency food boxes and household supplies from the food bank. Link helped Mom develop a budget.

Uniklee’s mother had been to parenting classes, but had trouble transferring those learned skills to home. The Link staff helped Mom apply what she had learned by developing a behavioral chart that included rewards and consequences for behavior. As Mom used the parenting skills she learned, Uniklee’s behavior improved. 

Link helped the family attend their mental health appointments, and connected Mom to Parent’s Place for on-going parenting support.  For additional on-going assistance in the home, Link connected Mom to Developmental Disabilities Services. She now has a case manager who will provide continual support. Child Protective Services has been involved with the family, attends the interagency team meetings, and is taking a pro-active role in helping the family function healthily. Link is connecting the family to dental services.

To help the family develop positive family activities, Link assisted the family in  getting a YMCA scholarship. Link helped Uniklee apply for the Broadway School 21st Century Enrichment Program, an after-school program where she can participate in girl scouts, 4-H, computer labs, and receive help with homework. The family now has stable home, and family activities.  Uniklee is doing well in school, at home, and in her after school program. 

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Melissa

Melissa was a fifteen year old girl who dropped out of public school to home-school herself.  Although she wanted to go to school, she quit because she was picked on and ostracized by the other students.  Melissa was attending counseling because she was unhappy, didn’t feel good about herself, and had no friends.  Her counselor referred her to Link to help her make friends, get involved in outside activities and to return to public school.   

Melissa attended the Link After School Group Program. Group gave her the opportunity to participate in activities with other kids and to experience new activities. Soon, Melissa was paired up with one other Link student to share activities together outside of group.

Melissa’s Link staff taught her to write about her feelings in a journal, in particular noting positive events from the day. She stopped taking off-hand remarks personally. This, along with her success in the group program, helped Melissa’s gain a sense of self-confidence and competence. Melissa did so well in the group program that she soon took on a leadership role, becoming a role model for new students.

The Link staff taught Melissa to organize her home schooling, making a goal sheet to structure her homework and a schedule for assignments. Link helped Melissa get school credit for volunteer work Melissa was doing, and take driver’s education through the school district. As Melissa gained realized success and developed friendships, she felt assured enough to return to public school. The Link staff helped Melissa make this transition, ensuring the transfer of credits, introducing her to her teachers and helping her parents to become more involved.

When Melissa graduated from Link, she had new friends, was involved in positive activities and was back in public school. Melissa continued to be involved with Link as a leader in the Link Alumni Program. Melissa graduated from high school on time with the rest of her class. After graduation Melissa used Link’s Ramona Sylvester Scholarship to attend Lower Columbia College. She is still attending school and volunteers in an after school program. She hopes someday to help others as she was helped.   

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Paul

“Before, I hadn’t had anything to do after school was out – just go home bored and get into trouble”.

Now 18, Paul was referred to Link when he was in seventh grade. At the time, Paul was “out of control”. Full of anger, Paul was angry and threatening towards his mom, had no friends, played video games compulsively, was failing in school, and wouldn’t listen to anyone. Paul says, “I didn’t think I had all the answers, but I thought I had enough of them”. Paul’s mom saw a frightening future of school failure and serious trouble. 

Paul had a long history of counseling, starting at age 5, and had been on many medications.  However, he still struggled. His mental health counselor referred Paul to Link to learn some basic life skills. Paul remembers his service plan: to improve his hygiene, to make new friends, to learn organizational skills for school, and to learn to follow rules at home.  

Link staff helped him develop new behaviors. Staff  helped the family develop and maintain a Chore Sheet at home. Paul often did his homework, but lost it or forgot to hand it in, so staff helped Mom and Paul learn organizational tools for school, including how to use binders and assignment sheets. 

After meeting his service plan goals, Paul graduated from Link. However, his relationship with Link continued. Paul continued to attend group as an alumni leader, helping with new clients.  He attended every alumni activity he could.  Paul found that in the Alumni Group “you can talk about things, it’s a community”. Paul says he continued to learn from Link through his contact with the alumni program.

Paul was not the only one to benefit from Link. His Mom says “I was less stressed – I was relieved because it took a strain off of me when I had someone to talk to when I didn’t know what to do.”  She now feels that she has a good, trusting relationship with her son. She says that Link taught Paul “not to be so hateful and to learn to forgive. Link helps kids become responsible later on in life.”

No longer facing a frightening future, Paul is now an Assistant Scoutmaster in the Boy Scouts, after achieving it’s highest honor, the Eagle Scout award. He graduated on time from Kelso High School, and plans on attending Lower Columbia College this fall. He wants to eventually earn a Bachelor’s degree in computer graphic design, designing the video games he was once so obsessed with. Paul’s mother has no doubt that he can achieve these goals – quite a change from the angry, isolated, lonely son she once had.    

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Marjorie

Marjorie, 7, lived alone with her legally blind father. Her mother had died the previous summer.  Marjorie sometimes couldn’t stop crying, was very sad, lonely, distant and depressed, with difficulty concentrating. Her schoolteacher referred Marjorie to Link after seeing her struggling in school.

Link and Marjorie’s father met to create the service plan. Due to his limited vision her father couldn’t drive, so transportation was crucial. Marjorie’s Link staff rewrote the schedule in large print and taught the family the bus system, connecting him to the Transit Center for future support. Link also connected Marjorie’s father to the Human Services Transportation Para-Transport Services for medical appointments that aren’t accessible by bus. Link modeled making the phone call the first month, then supported Marjorie’s Dad as he made subsequent calls. 

Link helped the father apply for state medical benefits for Marjorie, demonstrating how to make appointments and then accompanying Dad and Marjorie to the appointments, modeling appropriate communication skills with the providers. Marjorie now has insurance and regular medical and dental care. Link took Dad and Marjorie to Hospice for grief counseling, initially attending Marjorie’s sessions with her. Gradually Marjorie’s father took over attending her sessions – finding some help for his own grief, as well. In addition, Marjorie was enrolled in a counseling program at school. Link helped Dad enroll in state services for the disabled, again modeling and supporting Dad as he made and kept appointments. Dad now has on-going support from his disability worker.

Dad and Marjorie had few activities that they participated in together. Link helped Dad and Marjorie join the library, which Marjorie loves. Link connected Marjorie to the YMCA for swim lessons, initially accompanying Marjorie to the lessons until Dad has took over. Marjorie is signed up for Girl Scouts.

At graduation Marjorie’s father has strong connections with the school, the mental health and social services programs, the state disability program, and Hospice. Marjorie’s teacher reports that Marjorie is able to concentrate, and shows academic and behavioral improvement in school. Link will continue to check in with the family through the alumni program.

 
907 Douglas, Longview WA 98632 * * * (360) 423-6741 *** TTY 711
 
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