By Cecilia Nasmith
Rebound Child and Youth Services has just had a very busy few months, of which its recently expanded premises are only the latest news.
Located upstairs at 700 D'Arcy St. in Cobourg, the agency is saying goodbye to the days of kicking people out of their offices in order to use the room for confidential counselling. Dedicated meeting rooms are now theirs with the move of staffers' desks into a sunny new room of their own, and an extra meeting room has even been added. These rooms sometimes see service as a place for programming as well – using them for their free guitar lessons, for example, keeps the distraction out of earshot of office workers and other youth programming like literacy tutoring and homework group.
This is all perfect timing, executive director Carol Beauchamp said, since their services have doubled over the past five years and they were bursting at the seams.
“It impacts our ability to provide capacity, but we have invested in our staff team as well to deliver the highest-quality programs and services. That's always been at the centre of what we do,” Beauchamp said.
In other recent news, March saw the beginning of an initiative Rebound undertook with Northumberland Hills Hospital Community Mental Health Services and the Cobourg Counselling Centre – launching a two-days-a-week youth walk-in mental-health counselling service at the NHH facility at 1011 Elgin St. W. in Cobourg.
“It just makes sense,” Beauchamp said.
“If something is bothering you today, you want to get help today. Why not a place where you can just walk through the door.”
Rebound supports this initiative by providing a staffer whenever the service is open and by being available for referrals.
Beauchamp appreciates the way anyone who shows up (even if it's late in the day and the clinic is about to close) gets seen. Someone will talk with that young person – which in itself is somewhat therapeutic, she noted. And while a session may not necessarily be arranged for that same day, one will be arranged in short order.
“At the minimum, someone will have a talk with that person – and if there's an issue emergent, that will become apparent.” she said.
The process is not a two-minute cursory interview but a conversation that takes 15 minutes to half an hour. Just that review of the situation and the attempt to understand the young person's needs means that already the process has begun, she said. You have taken some action. You have taken that first step, which so many people feel is the hardest.
“You realize there are resources there and people willing and able to listen.”
We have grown to realize that caring for our health means caring for our mental health as well, and Beauchamp considers it vital that young people have this option for themselves. When they take the initiative to do so, she said, “to me, that's a very resilient and strong thing to do.”
Rebound is a little farther along with another initiative known as CUIP, the Cobourg Under 12 Intersectoral Partnership launched in October with Rebound and the Cobourg Police Service as primary partners (working with community partners such as YMCA Northumberland, Kinark Child and Family Services, Highland Shores Children's Aid Society, both school boards and Cornerstone Family Violence Prevention Centre).
“It's based on a model developed very successfully in Regina,” Beauchamp said.
Deputy Chief Paul VandeGraaf encountered the program at a conference and encouraged Rebound to get involved. Beauchamp investigated and was sold after she learned first-hand what the impacts were. The Ministry of Safety and Correctional Services approved funding for the two-year pilot project, which will centre on Cobourg in these initial stages.
“It's for those young people under 12 who potentially have a number of markers that put them at risk of coming into conflict with the law later,” Beauchamp said.
“It's not just the young person who has an outburst at school. It's for those who face challenges in a number of areas, who are connected with services that are not successful or have things happening in their family that make it really difficult for them at this point in time, a recent school suspension, aggressive behaviour or bullying (or those who are targeted), recent trauma, victimization, experimentation with substances, encounters with the police, chronic absenteeism,” Beauchamp listed.
“The idea is a holistic approach to the family's needs, bringing multiple partners together to develop a plan of care unique to that family and that young person. We will link them to our organization and others to find the right pathway for them, support them with developing school plans and plans of care to ensure the continuum of services.”
When they launched six months ago, they anticipated serving about 15 young people in their first year, Beauchamp said, but they have already taken care of 10.
All told, taking into account their many different services, Beauchamp estimates that a year's caseload for Rebound might involve 936 young people benefiting from the services they offer to keep the child and family uppermost.
“So much of what we have been doing has been changing over the last couple of years. We have really shifted gears,” Beauchamp said.
“That's not necessarily moving away from our core services, but seeing what we can do in a much more holistic way, and expanding programming to support that.”
Beauchamp mentioned some of their key services like the Youth Justice Diversion Programs that offers diversion options from the traditional criminal-justice system for young people aged 12 to 17, in partnership with the Cobourg Police Service, Youth Justice System and Crown Attorney's office. There is also a version of the service specially targeted to young people in conflict with the law who have mental-health needs.
In conjunction with the County of Northumberland's Community and Social Services, they are piloting a Trusteeship Program in support of young people aged 16 to 18 who require assistance through Ontario Works for things like financial management, housing and food stability, and community connections – all the things they need to be safe and stay in school.
READbound Tutoring and Homework Help Program assists students aged four to 18 through trained volunteers who have made a difference for many in their academic achievement.
Beauchamp is really proud of their Triple P Positive Parenting Program. While they aim to give young people some of the tools they need to help with skills building, she said, “being able to provide some of those supports for parents is also important.
“This program is not for bad parents. It's for all parents. I don't know of any parent who hasn't needed some great ideas or support from time to time.”
The flexibility of the program is the key to its success, offering parents what they need where they need it, from tip sheets to one-on-one-support to seminars and intensive group work.
When these basics are in place, Beauchamp said young people are more likely to do well in school and less likely to come into conflictd with the law.
The key is always to keep an eye trained on what each unique young people requires, with supportive conversations offering guidance for what Beauchamp called a deeper dive that may indicate what connections might be in order to which programming and, if necessary, which agencies in terms of referrals.
“All our programs are free, incidentally,” she added.
One thing they work hard at is avoiding a waiting list, which is one reason behind the satellite programming like the Homework Help program they run twice a week at Trinity College School in Port Hope.
Rebound is in its 23rd year, so the programs they offer are a mix of newer ones aimed at addressing needs that have emerged over that time as well as older, reliable ones that have been around since the start – like literacy tutoring that is made available to as many as 134 young people in a year. Much of that programming is delivered by their corps of more than 70 trained volunteers.
“Some as young as 15 and the oldest probably over 80,” she figured.
“A lot of former teachers, a lot of high-school students who can share some of their knowledge and build unique and special relationships, a very active and very engaged group. It absolutely supports young people with their outcomes, but it also gives a young person that person who is not a parent that they can talk to. And a lot of them build very strong relationships through coaching and mentoring that go beyond help with math and reading.”
The variety of services they offer do have one thing in common – equipping the young people of the community for the best possible future by addressing what needs to be taken care of now.
“Our team has been very responsive in helping us to develop those opportunities, but also seeing gaps in services and opportunities. I think we have an amazing staff team and an amazing team of volunteers,” Beauchamp stated.
“As an organization, we have a culture of helping, and everyone is very hard-working and always looking for those opportunities.
“We respond to those needs in an agile way, and I think that is one thing we will continue to do.”