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News from Boys Town New England

News From Boys Town New England​​

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bt-helps-couple-copeBoys Town Helps Couple Cope with Baby Daughter’s Unexpected Health ProblemsNew England
Norma, Jose and their daughter Dayana are on steadier ground now thanks to the assistance they received from Boys Town Consultan
Friday, May 5, 2017

Life can change at a moment’s notice and irrevocably alter a family’s trajectory.

That’s what happened to Norma Franco and Jose Gomez when they unexpectedly learned that their newborn daughter had Down syndrome and a serious heart condition.

The news stunned the couple. They had no warning or time to prepare themselves emotionally, or to develop a health care plan with specialists who could meet Dayana’s current and future needs.    

Overwhelmed, the new parents were referred to Boys Town New England Care Coordination Services.   

“Norma and Jose were full of fear, confusion and hopelessness,” said Krystel Acosta, the Boys Town New England Consultant who worked with the family. “They just didn’t have the confidence or knowledge to know where to start.”

Acosta immediately stepped in and worked with the couple to identify the community resources and supports they would need to help their daughter and their family.   

The most critical and pressing issue they had to address was heart surgery for Dayana.

“Jose and Norma had known for months that Dayana would need the surgery, but they were unable to get it scheduled and completed due to a lack of resources and not knowing what to do and where to start,” Acosta said. “We worked together and identified how to get Dayana to her pre-surgery medical appointments and to other procedures required before surgery.”

At the same time, Acosta determined the family was underinsured. This was a major source of stress and contributed to their difficulties in pursuing the best ways to meet Dayana’s medical needs. 

“We prioritized finding a solution to this problem,” Acosta said. “Within a couple of months, Jose and Norma were connected to the resources they needed to get their medical insurance needs met. They just didn’t know these resources were even an option.” 

In addition, Acosta helped arrange for the couple to meet with a counselor who could guide them through the sudden and traumatic events they were experiencing.

Once Dayana’s immediate health needs were addressed, Acosta was able to begin working with Jose and Norma on other problem areas that were holding them back. One area was Norma’s education. Norma had to leave high school prior to graduating because of her family situation then, and had struggled with not completing her education.  

“Norma had a goal to complete her GED,” Acosta said. “We worked to help her see that this goal was attainable, despite the family’s challenges. Currently, she is on track to complete her GED this year.”   

Acosta also worked with Jose to clean up a minor driving offense that he was not able to resolve due to the all-consuming priority of making sure Dayana was healthy. She helped Jose to put together a simple plan where he finished his community service, paid a small one-time fee and completed a driving class.

“Jose and Norma are great parents whose child is their top priority,” Acosta said. “We were able to work together to overcome the obstacles that froze them in their tracks. They’ve accomplished every goal during services. Norma and Jose just needed a little hope and education… and now they and Dayana are thriving!” 

Boys-Town’s-Rapid-Response-Helps-Mom,-Daughters-Move-Out-and-Move-UpBoys Town’s Rapid Response Helps Mom, Daughters Move Out and Move UpNew England
Boys Town’s Rapid Response Helps Mom, Daughters Move Out and Move Up
Friday, Mar 17, 2017

​Lauren Quarles was a single mom, eight months pregnant and raising her 10-year-old daughter Laurencia in a transitional living apartment provided through a homeless shelter.

The apartment was in a high crime area and so was the school Laurencia attended.

Lauren's due date to give birth coincided with the date she would have to move out of her apartment and seek other housing. She was stressed out and worried, unsure of where her family would live and how she would be able to find a new place with her baby coming soon.

Then she was referred to Boys Town New England's Care Coordination Services (CCS). In this program, trained Consultants connect families to resources in the community to help them meet specific needs.

From the start, Krystel Acosta, the CCS Consultant assigned to work with Lauren, knew it was time to move, and move fast.

It took a week or two of the two women getting to know each other, but Lauren quickly realized Krystel was there to help. More importantly, Lauren put her trust in Krystel to do what was best for her and her family.   

Krystel didn't disappoint. She put in hours of research and planning, and soon located a new place in a safe, thriving, family-centered community that boasts one of the best school districts in the state. In a matter of a few months, Lauren, her newborn daughter London and Laurencia had moved into a clean new apartment, completing a process that usually takes a year or longer. Even Boys Town New England staff members were stunned by how quickly the move had occurred.   

The best part of the new location is that many of Lauren's neighbors are single mothers and their children, families that share common experiences and support each other in their challenges.

Lauren also showed her commitment to ensure her partnership with Boys Town would lead to success. She consistently met with Krystel, canceling only one visit due to bad weather so Krystel wouldn't have to drive in the snow. Lauren was open to changing her point of view, welcoming suggestions and trying new ideas. 

The hard-working mom also covered a multitude of other responsibilities. She filled out her applications for new housing; consistently paid her rent at the transitional apartment even when it meant having only $25 in her pocket for the rest of the month; and used and was grateful for all of the resources Care Coordination Services provided (some families are reluctant to do this).

During the whole time she received services, Lauren was an excellent mother to her two girls and always made sure their needs were met.

Through sheer determination and a bond of trust, Krystel and Lauren were able to transport Lauren's family from a place of darkness and doubt to a welcoming new home. Today, Lauren is raising her daughters in a safe, thriving community, surrounded by helpful resources and support, and eager to explore new opportunities the future holds.

For more information about Boys Town New England Care Coordination Services and the site's other life-changing programs, visit 

boys-town-new-england-ouples-compassion-ensures-that-siblings-grow-up-togetherBoys Town New England Couples’ Compassion Ensures that Siblings Grow Up TogetherNew England
Siblings Shayna, Aryanne and Bryan (left to right) were adopted by two different couples but are growing up together.
Monday, Jan 9, 2017

​​When two couples – Candida Tavarez and Carlos Aquino, and Chelsea Guevremont and Mario Rosario Jr. – decided to become Boys Town New England Foster Parents several years ago, they had no way of knowing three siblings would one day bring them together as families and friends.

The story of how the siblings – Bryan, Aryanne and Shayna – found their way into the homes and hearts of the couples began in August 2013. Bryan and Aryanne, then 4-year-old twins, and their 18-month-old sister, Shayna, had been removed from their home and needed a safe place to live.

Both Candida and Carlos and Chelsea and Mario were contacted by Boys Town New England's Foster Family Services® program about accepting the children with the intent of keeping them together, if possible. But when it became clear that arrangement wouldn't work, a decision was made to do the next best thing: Bryan and Aryanne were placed with Candida and Carlos and Shayna went to live with Chelsea and Mario.

Both couples quickly realized that caring for the children was going to be a challenge because of the neglect all three had suffered. Bryan and Aryanne were extremely angry and lashed out by hitting others and trying to hurt themselves. Shayna had severe tantrums and nightmares.

As difficult as the task was, the couples resolved to do whatever it took to help the children heal and overcome the trauma they had experienced. Part of that commitment included preserving the bond between the siblings. So the families got together often for parties, playdates and sleepovers. As the relationships among the children grew stronger, so did the relationship between the two couples. Candida and Carlos and Chelsea and Mario continually supported each other and collaborated to help the children get better and thrive.

When it was determined the children would not be able to return to their own parents, both couples took the next big step for "their" kids. Candida and Carlos decided to adopt Bryan and Aryanne, and Chelsea and Mario decided to adopt Shayna.  

After a long, arduous process, adoption day finally arrived. On June 28, 2016, friends and relatives packed a courtroom to celebrate as both couples officially welcomed the siblings into their families.

After almost three years in foster care, Bryan, Aryanne and Shayna had not only found their forever families but also had been inseparably united.

Today, all three children are doing well, both socially and in school. Bryan and Aryanne enjoy playing on the same t-ball team while Shayna and Aryanne have taken a dance class together. The children and their parents also continue to have their family parties, playdates and sleepovers.

Two separate families, but forever joined by one inseparable bond.​​

boys-town-a-beacon-of-hope-for-troubled-youthBoys Town: A Beacon of Hope for Troubled YouthNew England
Thursday, Dec 29, 2016

​​​​​​​This story aired on CBS Sunday Morning and was posted on on December 25, 2016.

"There's no place like home." Rarely is that truer than this time of year. Our Christmas Cover Story is all about a very special home for some very needy children, as reported by Tony Dokoupil:

Right near the midpoint of America, ten miles outside of Omaha, Nebraska, there's a town that sits between childhood and whatever comes after.

"These young people are about to become citizens of the most famous village in the world," said Father Stephen Boes at a swearing-in ceremony.

In this town, almost every kid is at a crossroads -- and the goal of all the grown-ups here is to help kids leave Boys Town behind.

"I do solemnly promise … that I will be a good citizen."

Eighteen-year-old Chase Pruss, from Dodge, Neb., was sworn in here six months ago --  arriving, like a lot of the kids, straight from jail.

"I took the school safe," he said.  "Just for money. For Beer money. And gas money. And buy cigarettes."

Two more break-ins followed, and Pruss ended up arrested in front of his bewildered parents. "My mom was crying, my dad was crying," he said.

He had run through four different schools, stolen and lied.

And he faced 80 years in prison, ​until a judge helped get him into Boys Town. "I ​​had that mindset of, "I never want to ever ​put myself in the position where I could land myself back in an orange jumpsuit," Pruss said. "I never ​wanted my ​jail ID ​number to say ​who I was."

Andre Harris (right) in class at Boys Town. CBS News

Seventeen-year-old Andre Harris came to Boys Town the same way.  Nearly three years ago, back in Amarillo, Texas, he stole a car, and ended up in juvenile detention.

"I didn't feel like I was gonna amount to anything after that," he told Dokoupil.  

Frankly, he didn't think he'd amount to much before jail, either. College seemed out of reach. He can't remember hearing someone say they were proud of him.

Dokoupil said of Boys Town, "More felons per capita here than any town in Nebraska."

"Probably!" Harris laughed. "But we're all doing our best to change."

Almost every week here at Boys Town, new boys (and since 1979, new girls, too) are sent by social workers, judges and desperate parents. Most of the kids have been unable to live anywhere else without getting in trouble.

And Boys Town is their last chance.

"A lot of people would say they're bad kids," Dokoupil said. "Is that how they see themselves when they get here?"

"Some of our kids do," replied Tony Jones, one of Boys Town's "family teachers." "They see themselves as, you know, on the bottom of the totem pole."

And how do they change that mindset? "You show them that this is your decision. This is your life."

Jones and his wife, Simone, run one of 55 homes on campus. Eight Boys Town children live there like a family, alongside the Jones' three biological kids.

"Every single young man that has come through my home has now become a part of my family," Jones said.

This is a large part of what makes Boys Town so powerful; all 360 kids living here have paid Boys Town parents like Tony and Simone.

"It's a professional, full-time Dad, brother, uncle, cousin -- whatever my boys may need me to be at that particular time in their life, that, then, is who I become for them," Jones said.

Tony Jones and his wife, Simone, and three children share their home with eight Boys Town students. CBS News​

He began at Boys Town as a boy himself. He was born to a shattered family in Detroit. "I can recall my brother and I standing at a bus stop, and it was in the dead of winter. And we only had one pair of socks to share between the two us," Jones laughed.

But then a priest gave the Jones brothers a chance to change their lives at Boys Town. "It was a total transformation," he said.

Dokoupil asked, "Where do you think you would be if you had said no to Boys Town?"

"Oh, two places: I would either be incarcerated, or I would be dead."

Father Edward Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town. CBS News

The Jones story is typical of a hundred years of stories at Boys Town, which began in 1917 as Father Flanagan's Home for Boys. The most beloved clergyman in America, he created arguably the most famous reform school in the world.

Of his charges, Father Flanagan said, "His bruised and tortured heart and mind must be nursed back to normal health through kindness."

You may remember a 1938-Oscar winning movie about the place starring Spencer Tracy. But what you probably don't know is it's a real town, with a real post office and police department.

At about $65,000 per student per year, Boys Town is comparable to a top private college -- and it's mostly taxpayers footing the bill.

But taxpayers pay for prisons, too -- more than $39 billion a year nationally. Boys Town says it can help keep those prison cells empty, while nearly doubling the chance that these students will graduate from high school.

Dokoupil asked Jones, "How do you avoid coming in and being just another person telling them all the things they're doing wrong?"

"By telling them all the things they're doing right," Jones replied. "That's how you help kids change. It's being able to say, 'Hey, young man, you did a good job this morning getting up.'"

"It almost sounds like a joke."

"Well, you know something? That little praise goes a long way."

That little praise goes all the way back to Father Flanagan's ​founding idea: "There are no bad boys."

And if that all sounds too pat to be successful … well, the results say otherwise.

When asked where he would be without Boys Town, Chase Pruss replied, "I'd be in lockup." As did another.

And if that all sounds too pat to be successful, just listen to the results. Tesharr said, "I've been here for a short amount of time. But since my first day I didn't feel like I was in a place where I couldn't leave. I felt like I was home."

Of course, the Boys Town way does not work for every child who comes here; there are failures. But for Chase's parents, Dan and Trish, it's been nothing short of a Christmas miracle.

Dokoupil asked them, "Who was Chase before Boys Town and who is he today?"

"He was dishonest, disrespectful, a thief," said his mother. "And now he is the Chase that I always wanted him to be."

For Andre Harris, the change has been no less dramatic since stealing that car. "It's not even the same person," he said.

And how is he different? "My actions, the way I speak. I've grown up. I've become a young man."

He's a school leader now … a star on the track team … and he's just found out he's headed to college next year.

But first, he's headed to Amarillo for the holidays … a place he hasn't seen in nearly three years. It's a place that Boys Town has been preparing him for since the very day he made his grand theft exit:

It's home.

"This is my Christmas gift," Robert Harris told Dokoupil. "This is all I wanted!"

Andre Harris is welcomed by neighbors back home in Amarillo, Texas. CBS News
holiday-celebrations-at-boys-town-new-englandHoliday Celebrations at Boys Town New EnglandNew England
Gifts in the back of a vehicle
Thursday, Dec 29, 2016

​​Boys Town New England celebrates by involving the whole campus in events. Every year, they hold a tree lighting ceremony organized by staff members. The children help extensively decorate the interior and exterior of their family homes and then are able to invite their families, teachers, mentors, caseworkers and other important people in their lives to come tour. The youth take great pride in showing off their homes to their guests and the event is very important to them.

​Throughout the duration of the event, staff and the youth sing Christmas carols while they wait for Santa to come light the tree. This year, Boys Town New England had a local choir come and sing carols with the guests throughout the entire event. The lighting ceremony ends with a countdown and the lighting of the large tree in the center of campus.

Another event held by Boys Town New England is their yearly toy drive. This toy drive encourages employees and members of the community to donate toys in hopes of providing enough for every youth. This year, over 200 presents were donated.​

boys-town-new-england-celebrates-25-years-at-its-spirit-of-youth-galaBoys Town New England Celebrates 25 Years at its Spirit of Youth GalaNew England
Monday, Jun 13, 2016

​​On Friday, May 6, 2016 Boys Town New England celebrated its annual Spirit of Youth Gala at The Hotel Viking in Newport, Rhode Island. This year’s gala celebrated an important milestone, seeing as 2016 marks the site’s 25th anniversary.

The gala welcomed 250 guests who enjoyed dinner, dancing, raffles, and a silent auction. During the event, Executive Director Bill Reardon recognized past Spirit of Youth Honorees who have played pivotal roles supporting Boys Town over the last 25 years. These honorees include:

  • Mrs. Beatrice Bazarsky
  • Mr. William Corcoran Esq.
  • Former Congressman Mr. Patrick Kennedy
  • Raytheon and its Employees
  • The McIntyre Family
  • The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund
  • Mr. Michael Ryan
  • The Employees of Pare Corporation
  • The Honorable Laureen D’Ambra

“This year’s event had one of our bigger turnouts, if not the biggest,” said Bill Reardon, Executive Director, Boys Town New England. “It ​was gratifying to see all the community support we received, including the past honorees of the Spirit of Youth award, who turned out to help us celebrate our 25th year of helping children and families in the New England area. We look forward to continuing this tradition of excellence for years to come.”

Boys Town thanks the staff, volunteers, and supporters who continue to support the mission.

boys-town-new-england-receives-united-way-grantBoys Town New England Receives United Way GrantNew England
Thursday, May 26, 2016

​​​Boys Town New England has been awarded a grant by United Way of ​Rhode Island in the amount of $300,000 to support community engagement efforts at the site. Boys Town will receive $100,000 yearly for three years to support its In-Home Family ServicesSM program in Central Falls, Rhode Island and Pawtucket, Rhode Island where Boys Town will receive referrals from the school system in each town.

“The most exciting part of this funding is that it gives us the ability to kick off some amazing community engagement efforts,” said Ashley Kuzmanko, Boys Town New England Development Director. The groundwork for this program was laid early on by Community Engagement Developer Marcy Shyllon. Marcy built relationships with the Central Falls and Pawtucket school districts and with city officials to make this initiative possible. Receiving funding was the last piece of the puzzle to begin offering In-Home Family Services to families in these two communities.

The grant is awarded by United Way for the first year of its new 2016-2019 grant cycle, with a focus on funding efforts that help kids fall in love with learning, help adults reach new career goals, and help families meet their basic needs. In total, United Way has awarded $3.1 million in grants among the $12 million it has committed through 2019 to help change the lives of 250,000 Rhode Islanders by 2020, the overarching goal of its new strategic plan, LIVE UNITED 2020.

"The collaboration between Boys Town New England’s development office, local community engagement efforts and programs, as well as the support from our national office made this opportunity possible,” said Kuzmanko. “We are very excited about this funding as it will allow us to truly make a difference in two communities here in Rhode Island.”

Boys Town New England submitted its funding application in response to United Way’s request for proposals last fall. The submission was one of 224 proposals received by United Way. Funding proposals were put through a vigorous review process by a diverse group of 75 United Way community volunteers, who spent nearly six months reviewing proposals before delivering their funding recommendations to the United Way Community Investment Advisory Committee for approval. Volunteers received more than ten hours of training to become reviewers, and were tasked with taking a total of $16.5 million in funding requests to allocate the $3.1 million made available by United Way.

“While our goal of changing 250,000 lives by 2020 is ambitious, the innovative ideas of the funding proposals we received really captured the forward thinking we need to make the vision a reality,” said Anthony Maione, President and CEO of United Way of Rhode Island. “We know that when families have access to stable housing, children receive the opportunities they need to succeed in the classroom, and adults get the support they need to advance in the workforce, there’s no limit to how strong our communities can become—and that helps everyone.”

boys-town-new-england-silver-anniversaryBoys Town New England Silver Anniversary New England
LEFT: Karen Sironen, Casey Smith, Tayor Zurowski, and Ashley Blaess
Friday, May 13, 2016

This article was posted ​on on Thursday, May 12th.

2016 marks the 25th year that Boys Town New England has been part of the Newport County community, serving at-risk children and families throughout Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts. Since opening its doors in 1991, over 4,000 children and 1,600 families have benefited from the hallmarked services which include the Boys Town Family Home Program, situated on the 18-acre Bazarsky Campus in Portsmouth.

In celebration of this landmark, 250 guests attended the annual Boys Town New England Spirit of Youth Gala at the Hotel Viking on May 6. During the event, Executive Director Bill Reardon recognized past Spirit of Youth honorees who have played pivotal roles in supporting the mission over the last 25 years. These honorees included Beatrice Bazarsky, William Corcoran Esq., former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, Raytheon and its employees, the McIntyre Family, the Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund, Michael Ryan, employees of Pare Corporation, and the Honorable Laureen D’Ambra.

All proceeds from this event directly support the programs offered at Boys Town New England such as foster family services, in-home family services, family visitation services and common sense parenting classes.

In 2015, Boys Town provided services to over 800 children and 300 families in Rhode Island. Boys Town New England is one of the 11 national sites of Father Flanagan’s Home for Boys aka Boys Town, which has served millions of children and families nationwide since 1917. Boys Town New England is proud to be a part of an agency that will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2017.

with-boys-town-new-englands-help-mom-gains-self-confidence-reunites-with-daughterWith Boys Town New England's Help, Mom Gains Self-Confidence, Reunites with DaughterNew England
Jessie Raymond
Wednesday, Dec 30, 2015

When difficult ​circumstances led to the removal of Jessie Raymond’s 8-year-old daughter from their home by child protective services, Jessie had just one goal – improve her situation so she could get her child back.

The problem was, Jessie didn’t know where to turn.

She had no job. She had little financial support. And she also was caring for her disabled mother.

For Jessie, there were many questions but few answers. Fortunately, she found Boys Town New England and Family Consultant Emily Garmirian.

As part of the site’s In-Home Family Services program, Garmirian began making regular visits to Jessie’s home. Garmirian soon understood the family’s situation, and she and Jessie talked through what had to happen in order for Jessie’s daughter to come home. They laid out goals and what Jessie would need to do to achieve them.

One of the first issues the two women tackled was Jessie’s unemployment.

Emily had not had a job for about eight years. Her attempts to interview for and obtain steady employment were hindered by her sometimes fragile emotional state. Suffering from extreme anxiety, she was barely able to make it through an interview.

“Most of the time, I would end up crying afterward,” Jessie said.

Through practice and hard work, Jessie gradually learned skills that would help her succeed.

“Emily helped me gain confidence to be myself,” Jessie said. “She convinced me that I can talk to people better than I thought I could. More than anything, though, Emily helped me feel better about myself.”

Leading up to a job interview, Garmirian role-played with Jessie and went over questions that might be asked. They talked about appropriate answers and how Jessie could interact with her potential employer. When the day came, Garmirian accompanied Jessie to her job interview and sat in to provide support.

Afterward, Garmirian praised Jessie for her bravery in the interview.

“I was proud of myself,” Jessie said.

Jessie eventually landed a job and began earning a steady income. But there was a bigger picture to the entire process. She was beginning to understand what it was going to take to be successful as a mom and a provider.

“The interview skills helped me in getting a job,” Jessie said. “But it helped me in other areas, too, like meeting people. When you’re down so long, it’s hard to believe that things can get better. They definitely did, though.”

Boys Town New England also connected Jessie to local resources, all of which helped her improve her home situation so her daughter could return. She found furniture for her apartment, utilized local food banks and clothing banks, identified local farmers’ markets that accepted food stamps and learned household budgeting skills. And Jessie completed the Boys Town Common Sense Parenting® curriculum, which helps parents enhance their parenting skills and learn new ones.

The biggest blessing came when Jessie and her daughter were finally reunited. Jessie said she appreciated the way she was treated by Garmirian and all the people at Boys Town New England.

“I really liked the Boys Town people,” Jessie said. “They were nice to me and my daughter. And they never made me feel bad that I had lost my daughter in the first place. They always made me feel like I’m a good mom, and I’m working hard and I deserved to have her back.”

Day-to-day life is still difficult for Jessie. She works hard to care for her daughter and her mom, and does her best to make ends meet.

But the main thing is that her family is back together.

“Boys Town has been very supportive,” Jessie said. “Without them, I definitely would not have been able to meet all the standards the state required for me to get my daughter back. I am so thankful.”

orphan-sunday-event-helps-recruit-foster-familiesOrphan Sunday Event Helps Recruit Foster FamiliesNew England
Monday, Dec 14, 2015

As the leaves begin to fall from the trees and we approach the holiday season, many of us feel more inspired to ask: How can I be of service to others?

In Seekonk, Massachusetts, just a few miles from Rhode Island, Boys Town New England Foster Family ServicesSM gathered recently at His Providence Church to try to answer that question together. The dinner event celebrated Orphan Sunday, an international call-to-action organized by the Christian Alliance for Orphans. The event was held on the evening of Sunday, November 8, as a part of His Providence Church’s annual program which has been running for a few years now.

Orphan Sunday began in a church in Zambia, Africa when an American churchgoer named Gary Schneider felt inspired by the pastor’s plea for Christians to help save the lives of the many orphans in the area. Spreading to the United States in 2003, the movement has inspired many churches and organizations to dedicate a day to the cause each year.

For His Providence church, the dinner event has been primarily a way of encouraging members of their community to consider fostering or adopting a child in need. Boys Town New England’s Foster Family Services program has been connected to the project for most of its history, linking interested families with resources and education. In fact, two of the event’s facilitators, Kim and John Gagne, have since helped recruit several foster families for Boys Town New England.

Director of Program Operations Doug Vanden Hoek says Kim’s involvement in particular has been pivotal to growth within the program. “She’s developed some really good relationships with folks in our Foster Family Services Program services program, and has been very helpful in recruiting foster families.”

The food was catered to the church, and guests enjoyed their meal while listening to the heartwarming stories of multiple foster parents, including one family who recently adopted two of their Boys Town foster kids. Boys Town New England had an informational booth set up to help recruit new foster care providers.

They say that a small group of concerned citizens can change the world, and this holiday season, the community at Orphan Sunday seems to have the potential to do just that. Boys Town New England wishes to thank His Providence Church and all of those involved with this event for helping save lives by connecting youth with their forever families.

william-reardon-some-at-risk-youths-need-residential-careWilliam Reardon: Some at-risk youths need residential careNew England
Thursday, Nov 19, 2015

This article ​was originally published on November 18, 2015 in the Providence Journal.

For more than a quarter-century, one primary principle has guided Boys Town New England in its mission to help children and families: Always do what is best for the child.

We firmly support the idea that all children should grow up in families that love and support them as they mature into healthy adults. We also agree that the vast majority of at-risk children and youth can find stability and receive the treatment they require while remaining with their own family or living with relatives, when their safety can be assured.

Last year, three out of every four youth who received treatment through Boys Town services received those services in their own homes. When services such as foster care or family-based interventions can provide effective assistance, those youth should receive help in that manner. However, there will always be a subset of troubled youth who need a higher level of care. Often, these high-needs children have been abused, neglected or abandoned. Many suffer from severe behavioral or mental health issues. Trauma has been their constant companion, and the result usually is extreme behavior problems, school failure and a sense of isolation and withdrawal.

It is unrealistic to expect foster parents to manage and/or change such behaviors, so foster care cannot be the only out-of-home option for these youth.

High-quality residential care is often the only answer for stabilizing these high-needs children, teaching them the skills they need for success and preparing them for placement in a permanent family. And although this type of care costs more in the short term, it results in long-term personal and economic benefits for youth, their families and society.

Tens of thousands of youth have experienced significant positive changes in their lives through high-quality residential care. With this care option, boys and girls with serious problems can get the treatment they need in a safe environment from caregivers who are properly trained to address even their most serious challenges. And anyone who works in juvenile justice, child welfare, mental health care and education knows a troubled child who could benefit from the intensive care provided by a high-quality residential care program.

Sadly, some decision makers and child welfare reformers want to do away with residential care, saying it traumatizes children by removing them from their own family, is expensive and does not produce positive outcomes. Unfortunately, these critics don’t differentiate between poor- and high-quality residential care, and ignore research (www. that shows that good residential care is the best option for children whose treatment needs cannot be met through foster care and family-based programs.

This is why Boys Town and a number of other organizations have taken a leadership role in advocating high-quality residential care, both in New England and across the nation. We believe such care is the most effective way to treat high-needs children and gives them their best opportunity to achieve positive outcomes. We see those positive outcomes every day in the youth who receive compassionate, effective care in our family-style residential program at Boys Town New England.

We strongly disagree with critics who contend that eliminating high-quality residential care is the answer to cutting costs and reforming the child welfare system while still providing effective care for youth with the greatest needs. The experience of other countries like Australia and England provides grim examples of how children suffer when public policy goes too far in restricting effective treatment for them. As these countries dismantled their residential care systems, children began to experience more failed placements, were placed farther away from their family of origin and were increasingly involved in the juvenile justice system or became homeless.

High-quality residential care must be available for boys and girls who suffer from the most severe emotional, behavioral and mental health problems. Boys Town and its fellow advocates know the needs of these children firsthand and will continue to fight to ensure they receive the right care, in the right way, at the right time.

blue-across-rhode-island-event-helps-improve-boys-town-homesBlue Across Rhode Island Event Helps Improve Boys Town HomesNew England
Thursday, Oct 29, 2015

They say it’s the little things that make a house a home. This season, Boys Town New England got a lot of help with those little things in an effort to make the youth living on their Bazarsky campus feel even more at home.

This year Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island celebrated its 4th annual “Blue Across Rhode Island” event, an annual day of service during which they choose multiple non-profit organizations throughout Rhode Island to receive a $5,000 grant as well as volunteers to complete a proposed project. This was Boys Town New England’s first time applying and being chosen as a host agency for this event.

About 70 Blue Cross & Blue Shield volunteers showed up on Friday, October 2, to help paint the interiors of four Bazarsky campus family homes as well as 7 BEHR Paint-Pro volunteers. Some of the youth even got to help choose paint colors.

Boys Town Rhode Island Donors Relations Specialist Amanda Richardson said the walls had not been repainted since the campus was built 10 years ago. She adds: “We would never have been able to paint all the homes without this help.”

Not only did Blue Cross Blue Shield generously supply the $5,000 grant for the project, but they also provided busing for volunteers and helped secure media coverage. The CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield Rhode Island was on site Friday.

The team at Boys Town Rhode Island also received help on the days leading up to the event. “On a smaller scale, we had a group from Ocean Point Church come in with about 30 volunteers to help prep the homes,” said Richardson. In addition, paint was provided by Behr paint, who sent volunteers to help out on October 2. It was truly a community event.

The youth were happy to see their homes become even a little more their own than before, and are excited about the improvements. Boys Town New England wishes to express extreme gratitude to Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Ocean Pointe Christian Church and BEHR Paint and looks forward to building on these relationships in the future.

an-island-of-stabilityAn Island of Stability New England
Frankie Lopez, 18, inside his home at Boys Town, is a senior at Portsmouth High School. The Providence Journal/Steve Szydlowski
Monday, Mar 2, 2015

This article is written by ​Donita Naylor. It was published February 28, 2015 at

Directly across from the entrance to Raytheon on Route 114 is Flanagan Road, named after Father Flanagan, founder of the original Boys Town in Nebraska.

Flanagan Road leads to Boys Town New England, which consists of five large ranch-style houses and an office building. Together they resemble an upscale condo neighborhood. On the sloping lawns, a doe and her twin fawns were often seen last summer, grazing placidly in the presence of children.

Living in each house is a married couple, their children and six children for whom Boys Town was a last resort.

"If they're coming to us, there's no other place for them," said Matthew Zoerhof, 32, who serves with his wife, Kathy, 29, as family teachers for six boys and girls 12 and younger.

The children stay until a more permanent setting can be found for them.

The Zoerhofs, who met at church in Holland, Mich., have no children of their own. They have parented at one of the two homes for younger children for more than three years and said that, in their house, they do "anything that is done in a regular normal home."

Except they keep a 9-foot artificial evergreen in a corner of the living room all year, decorating it according to the next special day on the calendar.

On a February afternoon when the tree bloomed with paper hearts, one boy worked with a tutor at the dining table, one girl met in therapy with her family of origin in the office, and another girl read aloud to Michaela Newcomb, the family assistant, in the playroom. The home's three younger children had not yet returned from school.

Because of the snow on the enclave's rolling hills, sledding is a popular event, and sleds were included in the heaps of presents donated to each child for Christmas, the Zoerhofs said.

"The problem with sleds, as we're learning, is they don't last very long," Matthew Zoerhof said. Luckily, Boys Town has extras. Kathy Zoerhof said the children like to form sled trains, and she likes to join them when she can.

"We consider it to just be a huge joy," Matthew Zoerhof said of being a parent to six children. "It can be gut-wrenching because you build a relationship with them and you love them to pieces and they do end up moving on."

The other three homes are for adolescent boys, from 13 to 17 years old, although one young man, Frankie Lopez, is 18. He arranged to stay until he graduates from Portsmouth High School in June. He's learning about independent living in hopes of moving into an apartment. He'd like it to be in Middletown or Newport so he can attend the Community College of Rhode Island. He wants to be a social worker.

From the age of 12, Lopez said, he was in and out of Boys Town and other group homes. "I decided when I was 16, I was done worrying. Since Boys Town was always the constant in my life, I gave it a shot," he said. "I took all the tools they gave me."

buy-a-bird-campaign-provides-fresh-thanksgiving-baskets-for-ihfs-familiesBuy A Bird Campaign Provides Fresh Thanksgiving Baskets for IHFS FamiliesNew England
Thursday, Jan 8, 2015

Families in the Boys Town New ​England In-Home Family Services (IHFS) program were given Thanksgiving baskets during the Buy A Bird social media fundraising campaign, Nov. 1-15. For the second year, staff used the Boys Town New England Facebook page and emails to help spread the word.

This year, Thanksgiving baskets were extra special because they contained fresh food and dairy products, all which were packed in reusable shopping bags. Also, many of the items put in the baskets, such as stuffing and pumpkin pies were made from scratch with homemade recipes.

Families were extremely grateful for the unexpected holiday dinner. One grandmother raising her grandchild thought she wouldn't be able to holiday dinner for the child to experience until Boys Town New England swept in to the rescue. “When I arrived at their place with a Thanksgiving basket for them, the grandmother was overjoyed, saying I was an angel sent from the sky," said Sarah Koley, Director, Boys Town New England IHFS Program. "It was such a rewarding experience to see the simple joy of one basket."

Eleven employees helped distribute 48 Thanksgiving baskets. The campaign raised more than $3,500 thanks to donors like you.

portsmouth-cops-reach-out-through-hoops-hoodsiesPortsmouth Cops Reach Out Through Hoops, HoodsiesNew England
A Boys Town player sets a pick on Portsmouth Police Detective Nick Arruda (wearing gray tank top). Photo by Richard W. Dionne Jr
Thursday, Sep 25, 2014

This article was posted by on August 9, 2014. Please follow the link to see pictures accompanying this story.

PORTSMOUTH — After being fed the ball for a breakaway, ​a Boys Town player seemingly had an open path to the hoop for an easy basket.

Until, that is, he ran into Deputy Police Chief Brian Peters, who got a hand on the ball and forcefully swatted it out of bounds.

“You know what they call that?” asked Officer Shawn Church, Major Peters’ teammate. “The long arm of the law.”

After sharing a quick laugh, the two teams — Portsmouth Police Department vs. Boys Town — got back to their hard-fought game which featured some impressive outside shooting, bodies banging underneath the hoop and even a little trash-talking.

“Nineteen to 15 — the good guys,” Detective Nick Arruda teased after the cops scored another basket to increase their lead. The first team to score 21 by at least two points would be declared the winner, so victory seemed close at hand for police.

But the boys weren’t through. Comfortable on their home court at the Boys Town New England’s Bazarsky Campus across from Raytheon on West Main Road, the young players clawed back to tie the game at 22. Shortly after that, a 20-foot jump shot put them ahead 24-23.

Detective Arruda, however, ended up putting the game away for the cops with an outside shot of his own. Final score: 26-24.

The game was more than just a friendly competition to break some sweat. It was one of several events held Tuesday for National Night Out which is designed to improve relationships between residents and police and emergency personnel, with the goal of reducing crime and encouraging neighbors to look out for one another.

Although National Night Out was first initiated 31 years ago, Police Chief Thomas Lee said Portsmouth hasn’t participated in many of them over the years.

“It’s just a little bit of community outreach from the police department,” said Chief Lee, adding that the department was invited to play basketball with kids from Boys Town during a cookout with them earlier this year.  “We want to show the kids, ‘Hey, we’re not bad guys.’”

Hopefully, he said, police get the message across that residents — particularly teens and young children — can go to the police if they ever need help, he said.

“We want them to see the human side of policing. They see us all the time in the cruiser and sometimes it’s not in the best of circumstances. Let them see us off duty playing ball. It’s just a different experience,” said Chief Lee.

Kelvin Santos, a residential consultant at Boys Town New England, which has five family homes serving 30 adolescents and young children, said the kids were thrilled to have a chance to compete against the police.

“We’ve got some solid athletes here. The nice thing is, we know no one’s going AWOL today,” said Mr. Santos. “It’s a perfect opportunity for the boys to see the police in a different light — come out, play some basketball with them, hustle up and show them that they’re not the enemy.”

Like Mr. Santos said, the Boys Town players were no pushovers. Several of them play competitive ball, including Louis, who’s on the Portsmouth High School team and is entering his junior year.

“It was pretty cool, having them come down here and play us,” said Louis before joining the police for some pizza.

Coffee and ice cream
Basketball wasn’t the only outreach the police took part in Tuesday. The day started with a “Coffee with a Cop” at Portsmouth Publick House. Nine members of the department were there, although they didn’t get much of a turnout from the public.

Resident John Vitkevich, however, made sure the conversation stayed lively. He talked about the potential of a regional police department for Aquidneck Island, the need for more officers on the local force, and the location for the next “Coffee with a Cop.”

“You should have done this on the (Island Park) seawall,” said Mr. Vitkevich.

In the afternoon, two police officers handed out 100 free Hoodsie cups to children in some of the bigger neighborhoods in town, such as Island Park and Common Fence Point.

“The kids had fun. It was great,” said Officer Garrett Coyne, one of the officers in charge of the ice cream.


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