WHEELING - Local youth service agencies have been providing assistance to children and teenagers of the Ohio Valley for many years.
In Wheeling, the Crittenton Services for girls, Children's Home of Wheeling, St. John's Home for Children and Youth Services System Inc. offer "Level 2" treatment services for both boys and girls.
Crittenton Services is continuing to move forward with cutting-edge, trauma-informed treatment. Crittenton has adapted a clinical framework called "ARC" - Attachment, Self-Regulation and Competency, developed by the Trauma Center at the Justice Resources Institute in Brookline, Mass. It is the first treatment facility in the state utilizing the program.
Photo by Art Limann
Joe Platt, residential service director for The Childrenás Home of Wheeling, left, talks with Jim Edge, director of food services and Erica Icenhower, clinical director about the new nutrition and cooking program being developed.
Kenny Fisher, assistant director of the St. John’s Home for Children, stands with one of the new pieces of exercise equipment which has been installed at the home.
According to Crittenton spokeswoman Stacy Rich, the program is being used in Crittenton's residential program as well as community-based counseling services, Wellspring Family Services.
Kathy Szafran, president and CEO of Critenton Services, said "Our residential program continues to move forward with the best in trauma-informed behavioral health services for the girls we serve. We are always looking to move forward in treatment and philosophy. We want to be at the forefront of treatment for children and families in West Virginia."
Crittenton's residential program is a behavioral-health residential facility for girls ages 12-18 in West Virginia, offering the only licensed maternity care treatment facility in the state. Crittenton also serves young women who aren't pregnant or parenting. The girls in treatment at Crittenton are victims of abuse, neglect, sexual assault, some of whom are battling drug addiction, depression and a variety of other challenges.
Crittenton also operates Wellspring Family Services, an outpatient counseling service available in 18 counties, with five offices in Wheeling, Weirton, New Martinsville, Parkersburg and Morgantown. Wellspring Family Services is currently serving more than 500 children, families and individuals.
The Children's Home of Wheeling has seen many changes over its 143-year history. Since the late 1970s it has specialized in residential treatment for males and most recently has specialized in care for youths age 12-18. Residential capacity is 14 and 13 boys are currently be housed at the facility.
Louise Paree, executive director, said, "It is our mission to provide shelter and treatment as well as quality of life programming that is not paid for through state funding. With donor support, we are able to offer an art program, music instruction, educational support, substance about prevention Education/counseling. A character building summer program is now in the development stages."
"All of the youth we serve at The Children's Home of Wheeling are court ordered into residential treatment. They come from different backgrounds, from throughout the state of West Virginia. Most of their emotional and behavioral challenges stem from abuse, neglect or a lack of parental guidance. Truancy and substance abuse are growing problems," she said.
The Children's Home has a gymnasium with a climbing wall and a Snoezelen multi-sensory therapy room that engages all of the senses to relax and open communication. A new grant funded organic gardening program has been started as well as a nutrician and cooking program which Paree believes will at some point work together.
At St. John's Home for Children, Kenny Fisher, assistant director, said his facility provides services for boys between the ages of 8 and 14. The average age is 10.
"Our ultimate goal, at St. Johns, is to return the child to his family and community. Hopefully we continue doing this better," Fisher said. "Family involvement is required."
St. John's opened a new building two years ago and went from eight beds to 12. It continues working with sister agencies and the state in a program called "Quality Care is in our own Backyard," which is an effort to keep West Virginia kids in West Virginia instead of shipping them out of state.
This year the facility has added four new pieces of exercise equipment. Fisher explained the new machines were put in the main recreation room and electronic games moved to another room to encourage exercise rather than playing stationary games. He said the electronic games are now being offered as a reward. Individual exercise programs are also offered.
Youth System Services offers a wide range of services for youths age 2 to 21. It operates the only two emergency youth shelters in the Northern Panhandle, the Helinski Shelter in Moundsville and the Samaritan House in Wheeling.
In addition to community, school, and home-based services it has the Tuel Transitional Training Center in New Martinsville, where adults between 18-21 learn skills for independent living, continue their education, and learn work skills needed for gainful employment. Other job training and employment programs are also offered along with a transitional living program.
It also operates the Northern Regional Juvenile Center, which is dedicated to reducing recidivism and supporting positive decision making, Youth Achievement Center, and the Wheeling Community Child Care Center.