(734) 641-6550

Youth and Family Services assists families and teens

The Wayne Youth and Family Services team from left to right Lisa Bradford, Jessica Ecie, BBA, Carrie Vella, LLMSW, Barb Christner, Director, MSW, Erin Davis, LLBSW, Natalie Reeves, MA, LPC and Allison Smith. Wayne Dispatch Photo by John P. Rhaesa

By Carolyn Marnon – Are you concerned that your child might be on the road of risky behaviors that could lead to more trouble somewhere down the line? One place you may be able to turn to for help is Wayne Youth and Family Services located in downtown Wayne. WYFS is committed to providing ethical and high-quality services for young people and their parents/guardian to promote family development and enhance the quality of community life. They aim to do this by reducing high-risk behavior and by building protective factors that help contribute to success. If you don’t know where to turn, they can connect you with the most appropriate services.
In collaboration with local schools, police, courts and community service organizations,WYFS offers a variety of programs including prevention and early intervention services, diversion programs, school-based truancy diversion, tutoring, individual and group counseling and referral services. The program is not a punitive program, but one that is strength-based, showing youth how to make life easier when they are struggling.
Does your child have problems at school? Are there family problems happening within the home? Is your child acting incorrigible at home or at school? Do you suspect drug and/or alcohol abuse? Has your child had run-ins with the police or been to court? These are the children Youth Services wants to help. Youth can come to the program through referrals by the court, by the police, by school or by a family member reaching out for help. A lot of the youth who come through Wayne Youth and Family Services are self-referred through family.
Here are just a few of the services they offer:
Teen Skills Course: A goal-oriented program for high schoolers designed to help teens replace risky behavior with healthier choices and learn the skills they need to succeed.
Strengthening Families: Fun activities that teach skills for success in school, at home, and in life. This program is designed for upper elementary and middle school youth.
Anger Management: An activities-based program that teaches healthy outlets for anger and alternatives to aggressive behavior.
Academic Assistance: After school tutoring and study groups at Franklin Middle School and Wayne Memorial High School.
Girls Group: A fun, “girls only” group focused around helping girls conquer the issues they will come into contact with in their teen years.
Life Skills: A highly effective curriculum which has been proven to increase self-esteem, develop healthy attitudes and improve knowledge of essential life skills.
Barbara Christner, MSW, is the director of the program. She speaks of the Truancy Prevention program in Wayne. It is a pilot program outside of Detroit. WYFS works with Judge Laura Mack to do informal truancy hearings. They look for the reason why a youth is absent from school. Reasons might include health problems, sickness in the family, youth being bullied, perhaps the youth doesn’t have proper clothing. If, after 3-6 months, things are still not going well, the youth is referred to the Third Circuit Court. They aim, however, to deal with the problem in the early stages and thus try to prevent the issue from getting to the formal court system.
Recently, the center ordered fidget spinners to share with the police department. Instead of having the center’s logo on them, they read “I’ve been caught being good.” The idea is for the police to hand them out to youth in the community when they are being good. It’s a simple way to give a child positive attention and reinforce good behavior.
There are tons of success stories regarding youth who have gone through the program. A youth will come back and tell the staff how they are in college or have a job or have a family of their own.
“You’ll get a family who doesn’t want to be here,” says Barb. There are “not a lot of instant rewards.” The family will soon learn that if they were referred to the program through the courts, it is not a form of punishment. It is a path to a better situation.
Although about 50% of the referrals to the program are through the court as an intervention, the other 50% are self-referrals and often a preventative measure. “There are no bad kids. Just ones who make poor choices.”
Wayne Youth and Family Services is not funded by the City of Wayne although their funds are disbursed through the city’s budget. They have been self-sufficient for nine years now. “This city manager gets it; I love her,” said Barb when talking about the program’s funding mechanisms. City Manager Lisa Nocerini is experienced with writing grants and understands what Barb goes through to fund this important youth program. This community-based program is funded by Wayne County Department of Health, Veterans and Community Wellness, Conference of Western Wayne and State of Michigan Byrne Justice Assistance Grant.
For more information, contact Wayne Youth and Family Services at (734) 721-7004 or youthservices-@cityofwayne.com. The program is located at 3850 Second St, Suite 120 in downtown Wayne.

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