2017 Hope and Grace Fund Recipient: Directions for Youth and Families

May 31, 2017

It’s May, which means it’s time to introduce you to this year’s Hope & Grace Initiative Grant Recipients! This illustrative list of community leaders and initiatives are making great strides in the field of mental health, shining a light and improving lives every single day. We’re proud to assist them in their goals, and to that end are proud to announce that this round of grant recipients brings us to over 3 million dollars granted in just three short years. It’s our honor to help these initiatives pave the way to a brighter future for mental health.

We’d like to introduce you to our grant recipients, and today’s feature is on Directions for Youth and Families, a clinical counseling service for young people in Central Ohio. Maranda Libster, Grant and PQI Manager, and Katie Greene, Clinical Program Manager for the Teen Parent Connection Program, took some time to tell everyone a bit more about this amazing program:


“Directions for Youth and Families provides clinical counseling and prevention programming to youth and families throughout Central Ohio. The majority of our programs are outreach, so youth are served in their homes, in school, or in local communities; we meet them in the environment where services are most needed. We also operate two afterschool youth centers that focus on reducing delinquent behaviors and resiliency-oriented behaviors through reinforcing protective factors that prevent delinquent types of behaviors. The vast majority of our population has a low socioeconomic status. We quite often work in underprivileged neighborhoods with limited resources. A lot of these girls have their own trauma histories, many have been physically and/or sexually abused.

We’ve had a pretty high rate of teen parents here in Central Ohio. Typically, we serve around 77 adolescents in our teen parent connection program, and we’re proud that over 80% of those girls have shown a marked improvement in their functioning and progress toward their individual treatment plan. The treatment plans are goals set between the young lady and their counselor that consists of 2-4 goals on which they focus weekly directly linked to a mental health assessment and the resulting diagnosis. For example, a lot of girls in the program might have a diagnosis of depression, anxiety, or PTSD, so those goals might look like improving coping skills to decrease depressive symptoms, processing through trauma, and working to improve communication skills with family members. We also focus on helping them connect with other resources like school and healthcare services. But overall the goals are linked to the mental health diagnosis.

Our client population has significant needs, and all the girls we serve in the Teen Parent Connection Program have Medicaid funding, which only covers the clinical aspects of the service provision that we provide. It’s why we’re so excited and grateful to have been named a grant recipient of the hope & grace fund! That additional funding allows us to provide more of the intensive case management component these girls need, such as access to childcare, job skills training like filling out resumes and interviewing so they can obtain employment for a more stable environment for themselves and their child, and other soft skills like how to interact with your employer and coworkers, how to dress for and speak professionally in interviews and employment settings, and conflict resolution. We’ll also be helping them access additional resources like physically taking them to food pantries, arranging transportation so their children get the immunizations they need, and so many more comprehensive case management services to help meet the needs of these young women and their children.

We also provide help with additional soft skill training that will help them grow more resilient, like leadership development and decision making. We address drug and alcohol abuse, healthy eating, and offer recreational fitness, drum and dance ensembles, instrument and vocal lessons, and art activities. We’ve also purchased a curriculum that specializes in helping parents of children ages 0-5 to recognize appropriate behaviors for parenting along with the different milestones they should be looking for in their children. The curriculum also addresses how to handle some of the more difficult times as a new parent.

The thing that might surprise you about our population is how many of them are homeless. Oftentimes, these girls have very limited support: they may have been kicked out of their primary homes because they’ve gotten pregnant so very young, which means they’re now living from friend to friend to neighbor to possibly someone they don’t even really know, all while trying to raise a child. Some go from couch to couch and their living situation is different every week.  All of that stress is on top of being a new mother. Your hormones are fluctuating, you have the added stress of having a newborn or young child, and we do have cases of postpartum depression. Most of our girls don’t have stable homes for their children, so their lives can be in a constant state of flux and distress. We’re helping them get back to some level of normal. We try to instill hope in our clients, that with the right support they can make a difference and change this path they’re on, even if that path may change in the future.

We encourage anyone who might need services like our to reach out if you’re in our area. We work very closely with a lot of the different community providers in the area, and we market our services to all local Columbus city and charter schools. They refer a number of teen girls to our program. But you can find us on the web, and we’re always here to help.”