Fort Worth, TX October 20, 2019- Today, most kids are exposed to alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. But studies show that the risk factors that predispose kids to substance abuse and addiction are more prevalent in those who have had an adverse childhood experience, live in poverty, or regularly deal with other stressful challenges.
At Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Tarrant County, the median household income for our Club members is $28,011. Thanks to government funding, we staff a Prevention Services Department that provides a myriad of services to our Boys & Girls Club members and the families in our community. Services provided include evidence-based curriculum groups designed to increase protective factors and decrease the likelihood of future alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use; one time presentations on a variety of mental health and substance use topics; individual and group counseling with licensed professional counselors; and large scale events recognizing awareness days.
One initiative that has been close to our Prevention staff’s hearts is our work with mentoring specific Club members. Three years ago staff recognized that the Club provided after school care to a number of youth in the foster care system. We put our heads together on how we could provide those members with something special that would help them to recognize that they have trusted, caring adults and a support system of other youth in foster care that they can depend on while attending the Boys & Girls Club. We put together what we call a ‘Foster Youth Retreat’ for them that we have held every summer for the last three years.
We have had over 50 youth participating in the retreats held over the summer months. Although the goal of the retreat is to have fun, we also want to be sure that we are giving the youth real skills that they can depend on to help them through difficult times. Sessions held during the retreats have included mindfulness, sound bathing, yoga, calming techniques, recognizing their strengths, making healthy and positive choices, and developing their creative skills.
“It is so exciting to make these youth feel special. They love getting to participate in fun activities away from their Club sites with other youth who understand what they are going through,” said Heather Brizendine, Senior Director of Prevention Services. “We love being able to do something a little bit extra for them, and they are always amazingly positive and appreciative of the experience.”
Our ultimate goal with the retreats is that the youth feel appreciated and can recognize that they aren’t alone in their situations. We have had a tremendous response to the retreats from both staff and youth.
“I’ve had an adventure since I met [prevention staff]. It is like we’ve become a family,” said foster youth member.