The organization’s Youth Program expands the range of choices and opportunities that equip, empower, and encourage youth to achieve positive growth and development, improve expectations and capabilities for future success, and avoid risk-taking behaviors.
MONDAY - FRIDAY
1-12 GRADE STUDENTS
10 WEEK SUMMER PROGRAM
1-12 GRADE STUDENTS
MONTHLY TEEN NIGHTS
YFC provides after school and summer programs where youth are empowered to grow emotionally, socially and academically. YFC’s unique, multifaceted approach is based on the understanding that all children can grow and build resilience once their individual strengths are maximized and their needs are met.
The children that the Youth and Family Center of McHenry County’s (YFC) Youth Program serves are at-risk to experience significant challenges emotionally, socially and academically due to the following risk factors. All of the 210 children in the program last year qualified for free or reduced school lunch. Less than 1% of the children’s parents finished high school, and 28% only attended elementary school. Furthermore, 41% of the children have experienced one or more adverse childhood experience, including loss of a parent, physical or sexual abuse, domestic abuse, or homelessness, and half of the middle school youth have experienced 3 or more adverse childhood experiences. Of the children that have experienced a traumatic event, physical abuse was reported by parents to have occurred in the homes of 28% of the children. Finally, when the YFC youth´s parents were most recently surveyed about what concerns they had regarding their child, 56% expressed concerns about their child’s social and emotional well-being, and 35% expressed concerns about their child’s academic progress.
These families experience many barriers that prevent them from accessing and navigating services to mitigate the detrimental effects of their family or life circumstances on their mental and physical health. Many of YFC’s clients are referred by other organizations for any number of reasons, including when a family has experienced the loss of a family member or when a child shows signs of mental illness. A unique, multifaceted service delivery model is used to help youth grow academically, socially, and emotionally that focuses on the child and family’s strengths and facilitates collaboration between the parents, children, YFC staff and other community organizations. Furthermore, YFC is the only youth program in McHenry that is offered year-round to all school age children and the only program that does not charge registration or transportation fees.
Our Youth Prevention Program goals and outcome measurements are: “increase knowledge and resiliency” and “increase social connectedness”.
YFC has structured the program space to provide quiet spaces that accommodate the different school schedules allowing all children to focus on their homework, read, and write. Staff and volunteers support children in completing homework and school projects. Children also have access to technology and other educational tools. Illinois Student Assistance Commission offers services at YFC to provide pre-college planning and preparation support for high school youth and career awareness and exploration for middle school youth. To foster leadership among the parents and develop their knowledge and skills to navigate the education system and other community resources, YFC also facilitates a Parent Council group.
To strengthen skills, a staff person from Turning Point, an agency specializing in the needs of victims of domestic violence, facilitates groups at YFC to help youth heal from the effects of this trauma and to prevent the cycle of abuse from occurring. In addition, a therapist from Pioneer Center of McHenry County facilitates skill buildinging sessions for youth to address topics such as bullying, self-esteem, and suicide prevention. This year, YFC’s Peace Room opened, which serves as a private space where some of the children receive therapy from a mental health professional. Finally, this year YFC hired a Community Integration Coach to work individually with youth to bridge the gap between the youth’s current reality and their future potential based on individual goals
According to Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, “By reducing families’ sources of stress, providing children with responsive relationships, and strengthening the core life skills we all need to adapt and thrive, we can prevent and counteract lasting harm [from Adverse Childhood Experiences].” These recommendations form the basis of YFC’s program model. To provide children with responsive relationships, YFC hosts the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of McHenry County program on-site and recruits other community volunteers to serve as mentors and role models. In addition, YFC facilitates service learning and recreational activities in conjunction with Girl Scouts of America, Free Guitars for Future Stars, McHenry County Conservation District and more!