Personal Outreach…Meaningful Change
Cook Elementary is full of dedicated teachers and happy kids. But for 4th grader DeAndre* there was little to smile about. Years earlier, he’d lost his mom to chronic illness. He then went to live with his grandmother who suffered a stroke and died suddenly. Heartbroken, DeAndre was acting out in class and struggling academically. He would often blame others for his disruptive behavior. Family explained that he was having trouble sleeping at night. Every time his aunt/guardian left the house, he feared he’d never see her again.
A school-based Youth Guidance counselor held individualized, weekly sessions with DeAndre for four months. During that time, he received help with his grief and anxieties, and learned valuable coping skills and relaxation techniques. His mood, behavior, grades and ability to connect with his peers began to improve. His teacher also reported major progress on key aggression assessments.** Today, DeAndre says that he has learned that it is okay to be sad about losing his mom and grandmother. He has more control over his emotions and is performing much better in school.
Where some see only challenges, Youth Guidance sees hope. Our in-school counseling services support kids like DeAndre with intensive, personal outreach, allowing them to heal emotional wounds and address feelings of confusion and fear. School-based counselors help youth chart a new course towards better school—and life—experiences.
*Name changed for confidentiality. **50% improvement on the TRRPB (Teacher Report of Reactive & Proactive Behavior, an aggression measurement in children).
About School-Based Counseling…
On average, only one-fourth of children in need of mental health care get the help they need. By Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) own estimation, 20% of the student population—about 81,000 students—are in need of early or intensive interventions to improve both behavior and academics. Research suggests that schools may function as the de facto mental health system for children and adolescents.
Public schools offer a neutral, non-labeling environment that students already trust. Youth Guidance meets youth where they are—physically within schools, socially and emotionally—to offer professional counseling support. Responding to the requests of teachers and school administrators, counselors often address issues such as: adjusting to a new school environment, improving behavior and interpersonal relations, coping with grief or loss, handling environmental trauma and stress (family, school, neighborhood) and regulating emotions. Staff members help students develop their own resiliency to overcome barriers to school success.
Positive change is facilitated through individual, group and/or family counseling. Counseling staff also spend up to 15 hours per week planning, completing required documentation and consulting with school administration and parents. Through advocacy and case management, they provide resources and linkages to services to ensure that students attend school regularly, move on to the next grade level, achieve academically and graduate from high school.
Currently, Youth Guidance operates individualized school-based counseling at 10 CPS sites, serving more than 500 youth each year. More than 94% are from low-income communities.
Youth Guidance interventions are designed to create real change in all the areas of school life that affect student social-emotional health and achievement. We use developmental, strengths-based and systemic thinking to help schools identify areas that need support and interventions, targeting those that will produce the greatest change in the school environment. Our service values include:
- Addressing the mental health needs of the school community
- Working directly with students who have serious mental health disorders and few community supports
- Using a strengths-based perspective
- Implementing and utilizing evidence-based practices such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Working from a systems perspective, including families, schools, and communities
- Social and emotional learning
- Fostering the assets clients already possess
- Involving parents and families in planning for, implementing and evaluating services
- Instilling hope and coping skills
- Setting goals and planning for the future
- Being committed to culturally competent programming
- Challenging clients by holding them to high standards
- Advocating for and empowering clients
- Following the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics
A Memorable Student: “I am a school-based counselor at Gale Math and Science Academy. I have one student who had difficulties managing his emotions and behavior. I used to have contact with him on almost a daily basis due to the severity of his behavior at school. This year, I have had nothing but positive interactions with him. He has become a leader in the classroom and has drastically improved his behavior at home. He has a sense of pride that is amazing to see.”
Best Part of the Day: “The best part of my day is when I’m walking through the hallways of the school and there are students all over the place that want to talk to me. It is often a simple “Hello, Mr. Droy”, but it shows that I have established a relationship with them and they enjoy interacting with me. Without building trust and relationships, my job would be impossible. I am inspired by the resiliency of the students at Gale. So many of them have witnessed or experienced so many difficult things in their young lives, yet they are trying their best to be successful students.”
Too many Chicago youth don’t have the support they need to achieve positive life outcomes. For every youth we reach, there are many others who need help.
Together, we can bring even more counseling support to our city’s schools.
Every gift has the power to change a life.