Take a moment to think about this: Throughout your life, who was someone — other than your parents — who you knew believed in you, who encouraged you, who made you feel safe?
The Wisconsin Office of Children’s Mental Health (OCMH) believes that question is pivotal to the well-being of our children, and after meeting with Goodman Community Center staff and teen participants Jan. 26, they're certain Goodman not only knows this but is practicing it with incredible results.
“Goodman is providing belonging for kids who may not feel like they belong at school.”
Linda Hall, director of OCMH, was inspired to invite GCC to OCMH's first site visit of the year, done virtually, after she read the cover article of the November/December 2021 issue of Eastside News. “It was clear to me [Goodman] is thinking about connectedness and the power of being connected,” she said. “Goodman is providing belonging for kids who may not feel like they belong at school.”
Social connectedness for youth is OCMH’s focus in 2022, and they created a single sentence to serve as a touchpoint: “Youth are socially connected when they are actively engaged in positive relationships where they feel they belong, are safe, cared for, valued and supported.”
Goodman checks every one of those boxes in its youth programs, and the virtual site visit was an opportunity for members of the GCC childcare and Lussier LOFT teams, five teen participants and Goodman Center CEO/Executive Director Letesha Nelson to share how GCC is working to help youth feel like they belong, are connected and are safe.
“Youth talked about how Goodman felt safe, how they had positive relationships with the staff, how they felt like they could be themselves and they felt comfortable asking for help when they needed it. Multiple times, they said it’s like family here.”
Alejandra Becerril Estrada, Goodman’s assistant director of youth programs, said the Lussier LOFT likes to give youth opportunities to speak for themselves whenever possible. This reaps rewards for the youth, giving them the chance to practice public speaking skills while sharing their experiences and — in this case — why Goodman is so important to them.
“Our youth shared how long they’ve been in the program, and that varied from two months to two years,” Becerril Estrada said. “They talked about how Goodman felt safe, how they had positive relationships with the staff, how they felt like they could be themselves and they felt comfortable asking for help when they needed it. Multiple times, they said it’s like family here.”
“That's the magic of Goodman. We have the most incredible people on our staff who see our youth for who they are and meet them where they are.”
Becerril Estrada said there wasn’t a dry eye on the Zoom call and Miranda Starr, Goodman’s director of childcare agreed. “I shared information about what we do in our early childhood program,” she said. “But it was nothing compared to listening to our youth share their experiences. I tell you: I was crying, everyone was crying. It was so cool to watch.”
“That’s the magic of Goodman,” added Nelson. “We have the most incredible people on our staff who see our youth for who they are and meet them where they are. And these are the results. It inspires me every day.”
Attending the meeting from the state of Wisconsin were Hall, first lady Kathy Evers, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jill Underly and representatives from the Department of Health Services and the Department of Children and Families.
“Our team has been sharing at other meetings this week with more state leaders how much they enjoyed talking to the teens and how impressed they were with what they had to say,” said Hall in a follow-up email.
For more information about the Wisconsin Office of Children’s Mental Health, visit children.wi.gov.
For more resources for families, visit this page.
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