Friends of Youth – Griffin Home
My Organization: Friends of Youth provides services to at-risk and at-need youth and their families. Griffin Home is the flagship program. It serves both adjudicated and non-adjudicated boys referred by government agencies, including child welfare. It has separate facilities for adolescent boys with sexual behavior problems, adolescent male refugees, and boys who need independent living skills to transition back into the community after they turn 18.
My Job: I started at Griffin Home in 2006 as a residential youth counselor, working with juvenile delinquents. After eight months I was promoted to program supervisor at Matsen House, working with sexually aggressive youth. My primary duty is to interact with the youth and staff and make sure that the program is running smoothly. I meet weekly with all youth and staff on an individual basis to check in and to make sure that their needs and concerns are being addressed. I also oversee treatment development for the youth and provide guidance to the youth counselors.
I work directly on the floor in a supervisory position three days a week, where I get to interact with the youth in their daily milieu. During these shifts I run groups, play recreational activities with the youth, organize and supervise community service activities along with fun outings for the youth, and make sure that all youth are following program and treatment rules.
How I Got Here: I grew up in Oconto, Wis., a small town just north of Green Bay. I attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where I earned my B.S. in psychology. While there, I volunteered in an early childhood and special education classroom, working with developmental and cognitively delayed youth.
After graduating I moved to Colorado Springs, Colo., where I worked as a cognitive skills trainer with youth and adolescents on developing skills such as attention, concentration, speech and memory. I moved to Seattle to earn my M.A. in clinical psychology at Argosy University.
I began working at Friends of Youth shortly after I moved to Seattle.
Best Part of My Job: Seeing youth progress and make improvements in a variety of areas as they go through a program. Many of the youth that I work with still have a number of issues they are dealing with when they move on, but the difference between their first month and their last month here is amazing to reflect on. I take pride in the fact that I can say I helped make a difference in that child’s life.
Worst Part of My Job: The challenge of never knowing what to expect on any given day. Some days the youth can be especially trying. Many of the youth have severe trauma histories and some degree of reactive attachment disorder, and sometimes it can take a lot of energy to try to respond in a therapeutic way to help break the patterns they have been used to and come to expect from adults.
Memorable Moment: I recently had a young gentleman come back to visit with me, and it was so incredible to see that he was doing so well and that he had finally turned things around. He told me and a co-worker that he was very thankful that we worked with him while he was here and that we never gave up on him. To hear that was one of the most rewarding experiences that I have ever had.
What Could Make My Job Better: Having more time with the youth, because interacting with them is the most rewarding part of my job, and sometimes it can feel like a youth just entered the program and they are already leaving. I find myself thinking that I could do so much more if I just had a few more weeks or months with this kid.