Thank you to Jenifer Lachance, Covenant House Alaska YEC Associate Program Coordinator for Minor Youth, and Sara Jean Greenberg, Referral Specialist for Minor Youth, for sharing their direct experience with this young man.
Reggie arrived at Covenant House Alaska with raised fists and a short fuse. Just shy of 18, Reggie didn’t quite understand his size or strength yet. This only enabled him to use intimidation and fiery outbursts to push people away, whether their intentions were good or not. It wasn’t uncommon for him to punch bunk beds & walls, slam doors, and spit biting words at both staff and other youth.
This young man transitioned out of our services in just one month.
“The networking and team-approach that our community came together and did is something that we have not always seen, and it was beautiful. As a community, we came together and met the needs of this youth.”Jenifer Lachance, YEC Associate Program Coordinator for Minor Youth
Reggie moved from American Samoa several years before his time at Covenant House Alaska. He struggled with language barriers as a non-native English speaker. This in tandem with his temper landed him at a school for youth who struggle with behavioral health issues. His breaking point culminated in a physical altercation with his family, that left him battered, emotionally and physically, on Covenant House Alaska’s doorstep.
“When he first arrived, he was angry, shut down; he felt like nobody cared about him and just wanted to give up. When he left, he could tell you that we cared about him, we were here as a support system for him, and that his wants mattered. And I don’t think there’s anything more any of us wanted than that.”
On the road to healing
Our staff really went to work to install a rock solid support system for this young man. They were able to connect him with a behavioral health clinician. He attended school every day. They coordinated with his school teachers and the Office of Child Services to create a system of accountability and constructive re-enforcement as a response to his anger outbursts. Some of our overnight and maintenance staff spoke his native language, so they made a point to connect with him that way.
“They went out of their way to build a relationship with this youth so that he knew that he was cared about, that he mattered, and that his wants mattered.”
After his month at Covenant House Alaska, he went to placement with a retired teacher and his wife. They took him in so that he could finish school in Anchorage and support him as he navigated next steps.
As a whole, this is truly a story of community partnership & resiliency and a prime example of trauma-informed care.
The power of trauma-informed care
“We all got really creative, really quick to figure out how we could best serve him. We don’t come to work with a cookie-cutter approach. Trauma-informed care is evaluating a youth’s situation and troubleshooting how we can best serve them.”
The staff that worked directly with this young man speak so fondly of him and his character after his time here. It’s abundantly clear that Reggie made an impact on those around him purely by turning away from dysfunction and desiring a healthy perspective on relationship and communication.
“When he first arrived, our interactions with him mostly consisted of cursing and anger. By the time he left, we’d be able to joke with him. He’d be playing old Tupac songs outside, and we’d go out there and sing the lyrics, and he’d be so surprised. ‘What? You know this?’
Those are relationship building moments that were a privilege for our staff to have with him.”
When reflecting on this success story, Jenifer Lachance perfectly summed up the intentions we’ve built our mission around here at Covenant House Alaska:
“At the end of the day, he went to a positive placement where he wanted to be, he was able to identify his support system (included the staff at CHA whether he’s a resident here or not), and when he left, he know that he was cared about, and if he needed a safe place to come ever again, he can walk back through our doors and he’s welcome. That’s what we live for. That’s what we breathe and what we work here for.”Jenifer Lachance, YEC Associate Program Coordinator for Minor Youth