Boys & Girls Clubs of Middlebury
“Some of our kids are completely changed.”
On a typical afternoon at the Boys and Girls Club of Middlebury, Area Director Natasha Lantz is responsible for the safety of 230 kids and 13 staff members.
The afternoons are filled with fun, games and learning. There’s a flurry of activity from the time busses drop off in the early afternoon until the last pick-up at 5:30 – a far earlier closing time than the club will have once they move back in to their regular space. For now, the club meets at Crystal Valley Missionary Church while its building undergoes renovations.
With so many kids, and so much excitement, behavioral issues have to be dealt with quickly for the safety of everyone, including the youth who’s struggling, Lantz said.
That’s where Partnership for Children comes in.
Partnership for Children, or PFC, is a collaboration among 11 youth-serving agencies in Elkhart County. It provides early detection and intervention for behavioral issues, training and support for staff at each agency and the opportunity for partners to collaborate at monthly meetings.
Lantz is glad to have PFC as a resource. She usually refers two to three kids each month for behaviors ranging from uncontrollable crying to property destruction to hitting.
“I refer kids who need coping skills and strategies, kids who need to learn about emotions and emotional regulation,” she said. “I refer especially to the skills trainers from Oaklawn, but also Ryan’s Place if there’s been a loss or other partners depending on the child’s situation.”
The skills trainers for PFC are on staff at Oaklawn, but on a team dedicated to serving only the partner agencies. That means youth can enter treatment faster and easier than more traditional means. Staff at the partner agencies also have direct access to mental health professionals as questions or special situations arise.
Not only do PFC skills trainers meet one-on-one with youth who are referred, but they’ve also volunteered for special events and led group discussions on topics such as bullying, talking about emotions or making friends. Through those interactions, they’ve identified additional youth who can benefit from services.
“They really want to help kids, just like we do,” Lantz said.
That help is invaluable. Helping youth address behavioral issues early on improves their experience at the Club, at school and at home and prevents more serious consequences, such as expulsion, or high-end services like hospitalization or juvenile detention.
“Some of our kids are completely changed after being in Partnership for Children,” Lantz said. “Some of them, you wouldn’t even know they had ever struggled with behavioral issues.”