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SCV takes care of its teens

Plenty of programs despite tanking economy

Posted: December 16, 2008 9:52 p.m.
Updated: December 17, 2008 12:24 p.m.

Marcus Jackson, 14, plays basketball at the Boys & Girls Club in Canyon Country Tuesday after school. Left: Kids and teens entertain themselves with a variety of activities at the Boys & Girls Club.

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Job layoffs, bankrupted businesses and countless residential foreclosures are having a negative effect on the teenage population, who will begin their adult lives in a world unlike the one in which they were raised.

Though kids may feel isolated and alone, several inexpensive or free teen outreach programs are available for Santa Clarita Valley youth.

SCV Youth Project receives student referrals from teachers and counselors. Kim Goldman, executive director, and her team work at secondary-school campuses to help avert teen-centered trouble.

"We work with students who have changed recently for one reason or another," Goldman said. "We meet with them one time and determine whether they want to talk. If they do, we meet with them on a weekly basis."

The Child and Family Center has three locations in Santa Clarita and offers several mental health outreach programs.

Kids are referred to the center by parents, schools and physicians, said Lois Bauccio, executive director of the Child and Family Center.

"So many of our clients are on Medi-Cal or Medicare," she said. "Those are often the first people who become unemployed."

Bauccio said the center helps 650 kids a week deal with mental and behavioral issues.

"Stephanie" and "Cindy" are two of the center's success stories. They both found mental health help at the Child and Family Center and subsequent hope for their futures. Their names were changed for privacy.

Stephanie is a success story because she turned to the Child and Family Center after her mother, a drug addict unable to parent, turned the 13-year-old over to her aunt.

During that upheaval, Stephanie struggled with a host of personal and social issues that kept her from succeeding in school or life. But after treatment, Stephanie was able to graduate high school and continue on with college.

Cindy was a teen whose mother reached out for help after finding her daughter cutting herself with sharp instruments. Cutting was Cindy's emotional coping mechanism.

Though treatment took time, Cindy's mother was much relieved when her daughter finally stopped cutting herself.

The Santa Clarita Valley isn't the perfect Shangri-La parents often hope for, Goldman said, adding that truthful communication with teens is the best way to redirect potentially self-abusive behavior.

Depression, drugs and alcohol abuse are common themes during student interaction, and parents and teens often don't talk to each other, she said. The SCV Youth Project's goals include listening and providing honest feedback.

"(Santa Clarita) is a youth-focused, youth-friendly area, but it doesn't mean that stuff doesn't happen here," Goldman said.

And that's why ACTION, a parent-teen support group, exists. Because stuff happens.

Cary Quashen, executive director of ACTION, a parent-teen support group, has a passion for reaching out to teens and their parents who are having trouble.

"We believe there are no bad kids, just kids who make bad choices," Quashen said.

Quashen also serves as executive director of Behavioral Health Services at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital and is always on alert for kids who need help.

ACTION holds parent-teen support-group meetings Tuesdays at Saugus High School, at which parents and teens can learn about each other's emotional issues.

The Boys & Girls Club of the Santa Clarita Valley has three locations where kids can go to interact with positive adult role models as well as peers struggling through the same kind sof problems.

More than 3,500 young people between the ages of 7 and 17 enjoy a wide variety of programs, including education and career exploration, the arts, sports, recreation and fitness, character and leadership development and healthy life choices.

"We provide opportunities for young people to learn, explore, contribute and grow in a safe environment supervised by trained and dedicated staff members," the club's Web site says.

Led by Chief Professional Officer Jim Ventress, the club's mission is to inspire and enable young people to reach their full potential as responsible, productive, healthy and caring adults.

SCV Youth Project: (661) 257-9688, (800) 920-9688, (800) 843-5200.
Child and Family Center: (661) 259-9439, (661) 286-2550, (661) 286-2562.
ACTION: (661) 297-4460, (800) FOR-TEENS, 1 (800) 367-8336.
Boys & Girls Club of the Santa Clarita Valley: (661) 254-CLUB.

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