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Boys Town in the News

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Kara Neuverth
Media Relations Director

Lauren Laferla
Media Relations Specialist
Twitter: @LaurenLaferla

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News From Across the United States

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a-mothers-grit-and-determination-sets-positive-example-for-her-sonsA Mother’s Grit and Determination Sets Positive Example for Her SonsNevada
Brothers Erick (left) and Adrian have been inspired by their mom’s tenacity and love.
Friday, Jan 27, 2017

Her marriage was a fairytale until it wasn't. Infidelity, manipulation and verbal abuse had created a toxic home life for Claudia Chavez and her children. She had to make a choice: stay or go?

She chose to leave.  

Claudia mustered the courage to seek a new start for herself and her young sons, Adrian and Erick. With no financial support from her estranged husband, Claudia worked two jobs to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. It was an uncertain and demanding time, but Claudia didn't complain. Instead, she went to counseling to heal emotional scars and enrolled in parenting classes to be a better mom.

She also didn't hold onto grudges.  

Claudia wanted her boys to stay connected to their father, so she often hired him to babysit. This warm gesture, however, wasn't rewarded.      

Her ex-husband remarried, became a stepfather and then ignored Adrian and Erick. It felt like a second divorce to 8-year-old Adrian, and he lashed out.

Jealous and angry, Adrian took his sadness out on his little brother, his mom and his teachers. There were fights, arguments and tears at home and in school. His grades went into freefall. Adrian was so out of sorts and disruptive, school officials referred the family to Boys Town Nevada In-Home Family Services® for support and counseling.   

When services began, Claudia was apprehensive. She feared it would antagonize her ex and dash any hopes of reconnecting him to his children, said Boys Town Family Consultant Yoly Smith, who worked with Claudia's family. 

To overcome Claudia's resistance, Yoly patiently listened to the family's concerns and praised Claudia for being a positive role model. The family quickly felt more at ease, and for the next six weeks, they embraced the Family Consultant as one of their own.

Yoly taught Claudia parenting skills, including how to correct misbehaviors, set appropriate boundaries and use praise to reinforce and encourage her sons. Yoly also taught Adrian and Erick helpful social skills so they would know how to channel their feelings in healthier, more helpful ways.

The skill teaching had a profound effect on the family, especially Adrian. His daily disruptions at school diminished to the point where he went weeks without a single incident. At home, there was much less tension and far fewer arguments.

"Yoly showed us new ways to seek opportunities," remarked Claudia. "We've grown so much and have a new way of seeing the world!"

The boys are thriving and although they are not as connected to their father as they once were, they are happy. Claudia continues to work hard and be a provider. She recently began a new job that has expanded her professional opportunities, giving the family more flexibility and financial freedom.

With a fresh perspective and boundless courage, Claudia and her sons have reclaimed their future.​

boys-town-north-florida-names-new-executive-directorBoys Town North Florida Names New Executive DirectorNorth Florida
Marcus Lampkin
Tuesday, Jan 24, 2017

Boys Town announces Marcus Lampkin as the new Executive Director for Boys Town North Florida, an affiliate of the original Father Flanagan's Boys' Home, where he will lead the organization's mission of saving children and healing families in the Tallahassee community.

Marcus is a human administrator with over fourteen years of administrative experience and twenty years of professional experience in the human services field. Marcus has been with Boys Town for fifteen years and served in many capacities including Senior Director of Operations for the Boys Town North Florida site for the past seven years. Marcus holds a Master of Science in individual and family services and a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice with a minor in social work. 

"We are very excited to announce Marcus as the new executive director in North Florida," said ​Father Steven Boes, Boys Town President and National Executive Director. "Marcus brings years of experience and a comprehensive knowledge of Boys Town programs to the position."

Marcus has received numerous commendations for his outstanding service to youth and families and was nominated for and awarded the state-wide competitive Florida Coalition for Children, "One Man Can Make a Difference Award"  and the Department of Children and Families Outstanding Service to Clients Award for Palm Beach County. ​

boystowncalifornianightofhopeBoys Town California Night of HopeCalifornia
Boys Town California Night of Hope
Tuesday, Jan 24, 2017

​​​​Boys Town California's annual Silver Jubilee Charity Gala, Night of Hope, was held November 5, 2016 at the Resort at Pelican Hill. The silver tie event was held in honor of Boys Town California's 25th anniversary of serving children and families within the community. The Night of Hope also fell on the evening before Boys Town's centennial kickoff celebration.

The annual Silver Jubilee Charity Gala saw a large turn out and featured both a live and silent auction, all while showcasing the importance of raising awareness and funds to support Boys Town California's programs. Guests were able to enjoy a five-course dinner, live entertainment and dancing. Funds raised showed a 26 percent increase from the previous year and totaled over $180,000.

"We are thrilled with the results of this year's event", said Lawren Ramos, Boys Town California Executive Director. "The generous support displayed by our sponsors, from ultra-premium auction items to the outstanding setting at The Resort at Pelican Hill, really helped put us over the top in record-setting fashion. The evening once again provided us with an impressive platform to continue our mission of providing much needed assistance to at-risk children in our communities."

Boys Town California extends a thank you to the generous sponsors from this year's event: Zarley Family Foundation, SC Fuels, The Bollar Family, Hartmann Law Firm, Hoffski & Pisano, KCOMM, Miller Miller Menethe and Dr. Jody Ward.

hallofhistorynewexhibitoffersglimpseofmodernboystownHall of History New Exhibit Offers Glimpse of Modern Boys TownNebraska
Hall of History Remodel
Tuesday, Jan 24, 2017

​​Each year, around 30,000 people visit Boys Town's Hall of History to learn about our humble beginnings and the vision that Father Edward Flanagan had for the organization. 

Opening in 1986, the museum filled its space with memorabilia, newspaper clippings, an Oscar statue, and many more artifacts that showed what life was like for kids not only at Boys Town but also in America. 

This year, the Hall of History received a major facelift for the first time in its 30-year existence. 

"Over the last 30 years, we have refreshed exhibits every five to six years; however, this is the first major update since 1986," explained Tom Lynch, Director of Community Programs and the Hall of History. 

To design the new exhibit, Lynch and his team went back to its roots commissioning the design firm Eisterhold Associates of Kansas City, Missouri to do the job. Eisterhold were the original designers of the Hall of History and have a history of working on museums that involve civil rights. In fact, they have designed exhibits for both the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, and the Rosa Parks Museum and Library and Children's Annex in Montgomery, Alabama. 

Eisterhold set its sights on designing Boys Town's Hall of History in 1986 because of Father Flanagan's commitment to helping boys of all races and religions. 

"We were excited to bring this project to Eisterhold," said Lynch. "The same designer that worked with us 30 years ago, worked on the new exhibit, as well." 

In 2015, Eisterhold laid the blueprint for the design of the new exhibit. The new exhibit was built by McCullough Creative in Dubuque, Iowa and transferred to the Hall of History in fall 2016.  

The exhibit offers a glimpse of the modern Boys Town, educating visitors on Boys Town programs and issues Boys Town youth face today through interactive presentations and videos. Each Boys Town site is represented on a large map, and a whole wall is dedicated to the care we provide children and families through the Boys Town National Research Hospital.  

In addition, special artifacts, such as the Centennial Coin Bill signed by President Barack Obama, and a window from Saint Patrick's Church in Omaha are also in the exhibit. Boys Town youth also will display artwork. 

"The intent was to show visitors how our children live in the Village of Boys Town and across the United States. Coming to this exhibit, they get a feel for what it's like to be a Boys Town youth or family," said Lynch. "A lot visitors to the new exhibit have said they didn't realize the scope of Boys Town's work and are interested in learning more."

To see the new exhibit, stop by the Hall of History Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. To schedule a group tour, contact Tom Lynch at 402.498.1186.

boys-town-national-hotline-partners-with-nebraska-medicine-and-omaha-public-schools-to-assist-with-suicide-preventionBoys Town National Hotline Partners with Nebraska Medicine and Omaha Public Schools to Assist with Suicide PreventionNebraska
Your Life Your Voice
Monday, Jan 23, 2017

The Boys Town National Hotline® recently partnered with Nebraska Medicine and Omaha Public Schools in an effort to provide lifesaving information to more at risk youth in the Omaha community. Nebraska Medicine's mental health-related initiatives aligned perfectly with the Hotline's efforts within the Omaha community. By partnering with Omaha Public Schools, Nebraska Medicine and the Hotline are able to reach a large number of students across the Metro.

The partnership between these three organizations will provide Hotline materials such as posters, wallet cards, banners, pencils and many other small items containing the Hotlines contact information to 85 different schools across Omaha. Over 52,000 students in the Omaha community will be given potentially lifesaving contact information due to the large donation of $25,000 from Nebraska Medicine and the support of Omaha Public Schools.

"We are so grateful for this opportunity to reach the students of Omaha Public Schools," said Ginny Gohr, Director of the Boys Town National Hotline. "We are a national hotline, but Omaha is our home, and we want all of the students in Omaha to have our contact information in case they ever need someone to listen."

Boys Town extends a thank you to Nebraska Medicine for the substantial donation and to Omaha Public Schools for their support. With the help of these two organizations, the Boys Town National Hotline will be able to serve more youth within the Omaha community.

tom-lynch-awarded-prestigious-DAR-national-community-service-awardTom Lynch Awarded Prestigious DAR National Community Service AwardNebraska
Tom Lynch receiving DAR Award
Monday, Jan 23, 2017

​Congratulations to Tom Lynch, Director of Community Programs, Boys Town Nebraska, on his recent receipt of the Daughters of the American Revolution Community Service Award. 

The Daughters of the American Revolution formally known as DAR, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to historical preservation, promotion of education and encouragement of patriotic endeavors. This organization was founded in 1890 and has since grown nationally to 3,000 chapters with 185,000 members who dedicate their time and efforts to DAR’s mission that values God, home and country. ​

The Omaha chapter of the Nebraska State Daughters of American Revolution awards a National Community Service Award every year to a deserving recipient who values the organization’s main goals of historical preservation, education and patriotic endeavors. 

Kim Justus, the Current Public Service Director of Omaha DAR, is in charge of finding a member within the community whose values align with that of DAR’s. Kim then compiles information regarding their service to the community and submits this to the National DAR Committee for review. The decision whether the nomination is accepted is ultimately up to the National DAR Committee.

“Thinking about this year’s recipient and all the important things that the DAR does, I realized that Tom Lynch also has the same visions and values.” Justus said. “When I thought of his extensive work with the Boys Town Hall of History and his involvement with many different community outreach programs, I knew he would be the perfect person for the award.” 

Tom has worked with Boys Town for over 30 years and continues to preserve Boys Town’s rich legacy in the Hall of History.

“Community engagement has allowed me to reintroduce Boys Town to the Omaha community. Many people are surprised by the current Boys Town programs and are eager to learn how they can help the Home through volunteering and giving.” Lynch said. 

Through his knowledge and expertise, Tom and other volunteers have been able to maintain a large archive filled with nearly 100 years of history. This also includes many relics and photographs that are on display at the Hall of History.

“It was an honor to be able to present Tom with the national award for outstanding community service for his ongoing efforts in preserving history, honoring our troops and promoting education,” Justus added.

south-floridas-25th-annual-basket-brigade-serves-hundredsSouth Florida’s 25th Annual Basket Brigade Serves HundredsSouth Florida
South Florida Basket Brigade
Monday, Jan 23, 2017

​​​​Thousands of people in need have been provided with holiday meals every Thanksgiving for the past 25 years due to the generosity of many caring volunteers at Boys Town South Florida’s Basket Brigade.

This year, more than 100 volunteers gathered on Saturday, November 19, 2016 at Boys Town South Florida’s campus in preparation for the 25th annual Basket Brigade. More than 20,000 pounds of food was packed into baskets throughout the duration of the event.

The Basket Brigade is an annual food drive held by Boys Town South Florida to support families in need within the community. Every year, thousands of families in Palm Beach and Broward Counties are not able to afford the ingredients needed in order to prepare a Thanksgiving meal. Boys Town believes that by helping children and healing families, memories created during the holidays are also created in the kitchen where children and parents come together to prepare the Thanksgiving meal.

This event provides individuals with a basket containing a full holiday meal to enjoy with their family. The contents of the basket include: a large turkey, five pounds of potatoes, dinner rolls for the whole family, two cans of vegetables, a box of stuffing, and one can of cranberry sauce, one box of Jell-O and dessert.

Boys Town South Florida’s annual Basket Brigade is funded by both corporate sponsors and by volunteers who raise money. Volunteers are broken up into teams of 10, but all volunteers raise money individually through donations to add to the fund to purchase food for the families.

Every penny is used to help provide families in need with a Thanksgiving meal. Thanks to the help of the numerous volunteers who spent their Saturday filling baskets for people within their community, Boys Town South Florida was able to serve 310 families, an increase from the 250 families served last year.

Boys Town South Florida extends a thank you to sponsors and volunteers who helped make the 25th annual Basket Brigade a success!

changing-communities-boys-towns-south-omaha-officeChanging Communities: Boys Town's South Omaha OfficeNebraska
South Omaha Office
Monday, Jan 23, 2017

In 2014, Boys Town opened an office in the heart of South Omaha, Nebraska, as part of community initiative efforts outlined in the Strategic Plan.

"We went into the community and listened to see what the community needs and how Boys Town fits in as part of Father Boes' initiative to concentrate services in areas of high need," said Chris Miller, Director of South Omaha Program Operations.

Nearly three years after opening, the office is making huge leaps to help children and families in the high-risk Omaha community. Now a staff of 12, the office has a new three-year strategy to take their programs and services even further.

This three-year strategy focuses on establishing community partnerships, offering an array of services to children and families, collaborating with other organizations and providers for the benefit of the community, demonstrating a clear physical presence, generating new and innovative ways to fund Boys Town services, implementing data collection, and establishing a marketing plan.

"Our overall goal is to strengthen families, keep youth in school, out of trouble and safe at home," said Miller.

Both Miller and Regina Costello, Manager, South Omaha Programs, were brought into the South Omaha office last summer with the responsibility of leading the charge on this three-year strategy and growing the programs. Specifically, the two were tasked with beginning both Care Coordination Services and the Parent Connectors Program.

Care Coordination Services is an intensive, family-centered case management program designed to help families navigate through complex systems such as the mental health care system, school systems and available community programs. Through the Parent Connector program, parents can speak to a peer-parent from the community who has been in a similar situation and who can help the family navigate the path to helpful services.

"We spent time last summer at both the California and Nevada sites being trained on these programs," explained Costello. "We are now at the one-year mark since beginning these services in South Omaha."

That one-year mark has brought success to the office and has helped grow Boys Town's presence in the community. So far, the South Omaha office has helped 551 children and 221 families through Care Coordination Services, Parent Connector Program, Common Sense Parenting® classes, Behavioral Health Services, and a Community Speaker Series.

"Someone is coming in our door every day for help," said Costello. "That's why our location in the community is so important. Word of Boys Town's presence in the community is spreading."

The South Omaha office is unique to the community because it helps non-system children and families. This means that children and families are able to receive help before a crisis occurs and the police or State of Nebraska gets involved. "Helping non-system families is imperative to the community. These families now have access to programs and services designed for early intervention," Miller said.

In addition to its location on one of the main streets in the community, Boys Town also has a staff member whose office is located in South High School. "Our staff is easily accessible and it removes barriers for students or families looking for help," added Miller. "We are also looking to partner with the middle schools that feed into South High School so we can connect with families even before high school."

The South Omaha office also uses community events for outreach and to bring awareness to their services by setting up a booth or participating in a parade. Just recently, the office staff and additional Boys Town volunteers took part in the community's annual El Grito Celebration – a parade and festival celebrating the Mexican Independence Day and National Hispanic Heritage Month.

Both Miller and Costello agree that without their staff, the South Omaha office would not be as successful as it is today.

"The staff understands that work is outside of a regular 8 to 5," Costello said. "Our staff is very dedicated to the mission and a lot of them are from the community and are graduates of South High, so they want to see the community change for the better."

Going forward, Costello and Miller want to continue to spread the word about Boys Town in South Omaha and foster community partnerships. They do, however, realize there will be some challenges along the way.

"It's a challenge because we're on the front edge of the mission," said Miller. "We are living in the grey area and need to learn as we go."

Miller, Costello and the staff at South Omaha are excited to see where the office will be in the next few years and to witness firsthand the changes they can bring to the South Omaha community.

central-floridas-candy-cane-5k-celebrates-10th-anniversaryCentral Florida's Candy Cane 5k Celebrates 10th AnniversaryCentral Florida
Candy Cane 5k Run
Monday, Jan 23, 2017

​Boys Town Central Florida held their 10th annual Candy Cane 5k on Saturday, December 10, 2016 at Central Winds Park in Winter Springs. This year, over 600 runners took off at 8 a.m., on the five kilometer run through the park and raised over $15,000.

Runners brought out their best holiday running outfits in an attempt to take home the title of “Best Costume”. Although impressive, the fake beards, elf costumes, red and white stripped socks and even a Santa costume didn’t beat the best costume winner - Ms. Barbara Opper. Ms. Opper portrayed Mrs. Claus complete with a candy cane tutu. Teams also gathered in order to win the title of largest team competing. This year’s winner, the EEES Roadrunners from English Estate Elementary School, took home the title with an impressive 34-person team all sporting matching Christmas costumes. 

​According to Boys Town Central Florida Executive Director, Greg Zbylut, “This race has grown immensely through our community support and engagement efforts. We are blessed with a caring community that wants to have a role in making a difference for children and families.”

The Candy Cane 5k began in 2006 as a class project of Leadership Seminole and has since grown in number of runners who participate and in the number of sponsors who support the event. This year’s run was sponsored by Holland Pools, Anderson and Ferrin Attorneys at Law, Synergy Mortgage, Ti’Juana Flats, Yang Enterprises INC., The Canovas Photography, Charter Spectrum, Beers and Gordon Civil Trial Attorneys, Citizens Bank of Florida, Fun Spot America Theme Parks, Garganese, Weiss and D’Agresta Attorneys at Law, M Paul General Contractors, The Law Office of Timothy A. Moran, Orlando Health, Oviedo Car Care, Nemours Children’s Hospital, University Behavioral Center, Waste Pro, Your Oviedo Dentist, Krispy Kreme in Winter Park, Moon-Glade Photography, Oviedo Mall, Race Time Sports, City of Winter Springs, Kiwanis, Darlene Brown Team, First 2 Aid, Look Local Magazine, My House Fitness, Paramount Urgent Care in Oviedo, Synergy Mortgage Powered by The Mortgage Firm and Breeze Entertainment.

Throughout the event, there were numerous activities for the whole family to enjoy. In addition to the 5k, there is also a Kids Fun Run for younger children to participate in and a Kids zone complete with crafts and fun activities such as face painting, a bounce house, music and even a meet and greet with Santa. 

All runners receive a medal for participating in the run and the top three from various age groups received a prize in addition to their medal. The top times in the four categories were: Tyson coming in at the top time of 17:40 minutes for the male category, Elayna with 19:47 minutes for the female category, Angelo at 19:04 minutes for the male masters category and Tracey at an even 24 minutes for the female masters category.

Boys Town Central Florida extends a thank you to all the sponsors of the 10th annual Candy Cane 5k and to all the runners who made this year’s event a success! Thank you for supporting the children and families of Boys Town Central Florida!

foster-family-services-serving-the-community-by-serving-a-mealFoster Family Services: Serving the Community by Serving a MealNebraska
Foster Family Services
Monday, Jan 23, 2017

​​​Mugs of hot chocolate, grandma’s famous roasted ham, and your second (okay, maybe third) holiday cookie of the evening: Hearty meals with lots of sugary snacks in between is a staple part of holiday celebrations across the country. ​However, not being able to put food on the table is a harsh reality for families in need during the holiday season.

With this in mind, the Boys Town Nebraska Foster Family Services staff decided to go a step further during the holiday season and give back to the community on a more personal level through by partnering with In-Home Family Services to help a Boys Town family. On December 22, Foster Family Services generously donated a meal to a family in need just in time for the holidays.

This tradition began three years ago when Foster Family Services heard about a family in need and jumped at the chance to help the family and spread some joy. After donating the funds and purchasing the food, the staff picked up the holiday meal for the family. This experience ended the program for the year on a perfect note, so they decided to maintain the tradition and it continues to this day.

Matthew Priest, Director of Boys Town Nebraska Foster Family Services, says that this is just one small way his generous staff goes above and beyond when it comes to caring for the community. “While our staff is committed to helping others as part of their career at Boys Town, giving back on a personal level is just as important to us.”

Foster Family Services is a community-based program where professionally-trained foster parents provide care and support to children of all ages. While their incredible staff work with families in need throughout the year, this tradition is a great way to support families in the community who would appreciate this gesture from the staff. This tradition is just one small way Foster Family Services works to support other programs in the Boys Town's Integrated Continuum of Care®.

Thank you, Foster Family Services, for being an inspiration through your caring and generosity this holiday season. It’s employees like the Foster Family Services staff that maintain Father Flanagan’s vision and what make Boys Town® the unique nonprofit that it is today.

capital-periodontal-associates-bring-smiles-to-boys-town-north-florida-youthCapital Periodontal Associates Bring Smiles to Boys Town North Florida YouthNorth Florida
Breanna is all smiles
Monday, Jan 23, 2017

​​​Like most kids her age, 10-year-old Breanna Meraz is afraid of the dentist. In fact, a simple dental check-up caused the Boys Town North Florida youth to experience extreme anxiety and fear. So much so that she began to refuse dental examinations.

The intense fear that Breanna felt along with her refusal for examination, resulted in her dental provider sedating her whenever she had an appointment. Being sedated was a very traumatic experience for Breanna and this additional trauma was unnecessary to add to her already stressful young life.

After hearing about Breanna’s dentist office experience, Boys Town North Florida supporters stepped-in to help Breanna overcome her fear of the dentist in a comfortable setting. Board Chairman Rhonda Baldock, a long-time North Florida supporter, booked an appointment for Breanna with Dr. Tyler Baldock, owner of Capital Periodontal Associates. 

Candy, balloons and most importantly, smiles welcomed Breanna as she walked into the office and helped put her fears at ease. Dr. Baldock was able to perform a full dental exam, complete with x-rays, with absolutely no protest from Breanna. In addition to making Breanna feel comfortable, Capital Periodontal performed the exam at no cost to Boys Town. 

Following the appointment, Breanna couldn’t stop talking about her trip to the dentist and how much fun she had!

“The Baldock’s act of kindness demonstrates what our Boys Town family is all about: finding ways to give our children the tender love and care they need, providing them the right treatment at the right time.” Dena Strickland Boys Town North Florida Development Director praised. 

Boys Town North Florida extends a thank you to Board Chairman Rhonda Baldock, Dr. Tyler Baldock and Capital Periodontal Associates​ for their support and part in making a huge difference in Breanna’s life.

no-place-like-the-family-homeNo Place Like the Family HomeNorth Florida
Family teachers Craig and Victoria Shelton, at left, are joined by four of the young women they mentor for a family photo
Monday, Jan 23, 2017

​Boys Town stabilizes the lives of displaced children

This article is written by Steve Bornhoft. It was posted on in January 2017. The photos are copyrighted by Lawrence Davidson.

After four years working as a correctional officer, Craig Shelton was ready to make a career move. His wife, Victoria, newly graduated from Florida State University, was — she would find out — ready to start hers.

The couple paused when they spied an online job posting: Boys Town North Florida was looking for a teaching couple to lead a household of six teenage girls.

"I was the product of a poor family, but I got involved in church at a young age, and a family there took me under their wing and helped raise me," Craig said. "I had always wanted to help kids in the way that I had been supported, and Boys Town seemed to me to be the perfect opportunity to do so."

Victoria had planned to "go straight through" to a master's degree in social work.

"Working right away wasn't part of the plan, but once we read about the opening at Boys Town, we couldn't let it go," she said. "It's not just a job; it's a lifestyle. If you don't feel like you are called to do it — whether by a higher power or because it's your purpose in life to give back to children, you are probably not going to last very long.

"We were called."

The Sheltons had been married for two years when they signed one-year commitments to Boys Town. Two years later, they have no plans to leave any time soon.

Victoria grew up in Crawfordville as the oldest among seven siblings. For her, the prospect of a large family was "just like a regular day."

Guidelines for the Boys Town Family Home Program are established at the headquarters office in Omaha. But the household presided over by the Sheltons is an exercise, said Marcus Lampkin, Boys Town North Florida's senior director of program operations, in "self-governance."

Children are afforded a chance to "appeal the negatives" when disciplined. At family meetings conducted in the living room after the evening meal, cases are pleaded and "consequences" may be raised, left unchanged, lowered or removed by decision of the group.

But far more often than not, those family meetings have to do with positives: sharing accomplishments, planning outings, playing board games. 

The children — girls were first enrolled in Boys Town programs in 1979 — take turns serving as the household manager, and chores are rotated among them. Girls newly arrived at the house are required to stay in constant contact with a family teacher, but soon cross a "bridge" to greater independence.

Privileges include placing three foods that the girls would rather not eat on a "Yuck List." Broccoli is prominent among the foods listed.   

Children come to the Family Home Program after participating in other Boys Town programs; through referrals by social service or juvenile justice agencies; or through placements made by parents or other caregivers. The average length of stay is 12 to 18 months; children age out of the program at 18.

After Boys Town, children may return to their families, join an adoptive family or undertake independent living.

"We are here to play the roles of typical parents," Victoria said, "and to provide stability to children that have been through lots of transitions. Here, they see the same people every day."

The Sheltons recognize that one day, they, too, will graduate from Boys Town, and the children they will be mentoring at that time will have another shift to deal with.

Celebrating a Centennial of Service

Boys Town North Florida's 14th annual Spirit of Youth Gala will celebrate Boys Town's 100 years of caring for children with love, respect and dignity.

"Boys Town has delivered a century of help for every child, strength for every family and hope for every community," said Boys Town North Florida development director Dena Strickland, quoting the centennial slogan adopted by Boys Town programs throughout the country.

Those programs, founded by Father Edward J. Flanagan in Omaha in 1917, rely on a combination of public funds and community support.

The local gala, chaired by Matt and Sheri Bryan and Tim and Jill Meenan, will take place Friday, April 7, at the University Center Club. Boys Town North Florida currently is seeking event sponsors and donations of silent auction items.

Contact Strickland at (850) 504-5007 for further information about this and other centennial events.​

boys-town-central-florida-helps-family-through-tough-timesBoys Town Central Florida Helps Family through Tough TimesCentral Florida
Da’Kendrik is thriving today thanks to his great-grandmother’s care and the guidance of Boys Town Central Florida.
Monday, Jan 9, 2017

Maxine Nelson had always put family first. So she didn't think twice when it came to deciding that she and her husband would become the primary caregivers ​​of their 10-year-old great-grandson, Da'Kendrik.

Da'Kendrik was nearly alone in the world. His mother had passed away when he was 6 and his father was never really involved in his life. The boy's grandparents also were deceased.

Maxine and her husband did the best they could to raise Da'Kendrik. But when her husband passed away, it caused tremendous financial and emotional hardships for the 83-year-old Maxine and her great-grandson. In early 2016, she lost her home of 40 years to foreclosure, and she and Da'Kendrik found themselves without a permanent place to live.

For nearly seven months, Maxine and Da'Kendrik just got by, living in sub-par surroundings. Many of Da'Kendrik's toys and Maxine's remaining home furnishings had to be placed in storage. The situation was most difficult for Da'Kendrik, who struggled in school as he tried to cope with his stress and anger.

The family's plight eventually came to the attention of Boys Town Central Florida, and Family Consultant Janae Moore began working with Maxine and Da'Kendrik.

Janae said it was very frustrating to see what Maxine was going through to keep her and her great-grandson together.

"It was a really difficult living environment and they basically had to live together in the same room," Janae said. "They also faced other tough situations like having to get by with just a mini-fridge. It was really taking a toll on both Maxine and Da'Kendrik."

Fortunately, Maxine got some unexpected help as Janae was starting her work. A neighbor named Chloe Battle met Maxine and Da'Kendrik by chance. When Chloe saw Maxine and the young boy moving in, she helped move a box because it was the neighborly thing to do. From that point on, Chloe was willing to help as much as possible.

Janae's first order ​of business was to contact local organizations that could help Maxine and Da'Kendrik find permanent housing. Once that was accomplished, Janae helped negotiate a reasonable rent. Meanwhile, Chloe contacted friends, families and churches about supporting the family with basic funds so they could get back on their feet. Chloe also recruited people to move and unload the family's belongings that had been in storage.

Besides helping with everyday living necessities, Janae also addressed Da'Kendrik's special needs.

"I helped Da'Kendrik by meeting with him weekly and teaching skills," Janae said. "I modeled positive behaviors like manners, staying calm and keeping my promises."

Janae also used games to teach the skills, which the youngster enjoyed. She took special pride in helping Maxine acquire health insurance for Da'Kendrik, who had never been to the dentist and had begun having toothaches.

As she built trust with Da'Kendrik, Janae could see him begin to show social improvement. She was able to arrange for a counselor to work with him on coping with the loss of loved ones. Janae also suggested enrolling Da'Kendrik in swimming lessons. Chloe signed him up and took him to the local YMCA twice a week.

"Chloe is amazing," Janae said. "She drives the family around, makes calls for Maxine when she needs help, you name it. Plus, she went to school meetings and acted as a tutor for Da'Kendrik twice a week. Chloe has never left them. She has been a key part in keeping them together."

Janae said it is truly satisfying to see the progress Maxine and Da'Kendrik have made.

"When I first met Da'Kendrik, he was struggling in school and was very angry, unmotivated and uncooperative," Janae said. "By the end of his Boys Town services, he was listening more to instructions, brought his grades up and just seemed to be a happier person."

For Janae Moore and Boys Town Central Florida, keeping a family together is a beautiful thing.​

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.​​

better-parents-now-and-reunited-with-childrenBetter Parents Now, and Reunited with ChildrenTexas
Izabellah Allen hugs a stuffed toy she received at the Boys Town Texas offices before the Reunification Recognition Celebration.
Monday, Jan 9, 2017

Parents honored for work to get kids back from state

This article is written by Elizabeth Zavala. It was posted on on December 29, 2016.

Adrian Alvarado kept a keen eye on his six children as he and his wife, Monique Gonzalez, herded them into Boys Town Texas on Thursday to celebrate a special event: reuniting them all.

He and his wife were among 11 families — with 31 children in all — who attended a reception at the nonprofit organization that serves at-risk families with support and education. The Reunification Recognition Celebration lauded their hard work and efforts that helped the parents get their children back from state custody after circumstances that warranted their removal by Child Protective Services.

Alvarado, 31, and Gonzalez, 32, lost their children for a year when one of them was hospitalized with bruising. They had been living in a motel and weren't able to pay bills.

"They couldn't figure out where (the bruising) came from, so they took them away for a year," Alvarado said, adding that parental visits were limited and difficult. "We saw our kids 24 times in a year."

The couple attended parenting classes and went through counseling while their children were in foster care. Today, Alvarado is a business owner, he and Gonzalez have a place to live and they have been able to spend more time with their children, who were returned to them nearly a year ago.

When agency investigators determine that children need to be removed from their parents, the separation can last for up to a year while the adults get counseling, mental health and substance abuse treatment, and instructions in parenting, said state District Judge Peter Sakai, who heads Bexar County Children's Court Division and Programs.

The families were recognized with certificates and gift baskets, and each ​had the opportunity to pose for a family portrait as a keepsake.

"We have families who work h​ard, they go through a lot," Sakai said. "The key is to have the families step up. They did (the work) on their own. I'm proud of these families. "​​

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