Life at Family Resources’ Bridge House looks much like normal life for many of the girls. Young women 12 to 18 have a safe, reliable place to live, and receive counseling and other services that help them to both heal and better understand themselves, their feelings, and their behavior.
Family Resources can house 35 youth—10 of those are at the Bridge House Unit. They also have programming for boys in different units.
"The work is not all about counseling," said Stephanie Hernandez, Director of Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice. “People think that group foster care is isolating, but that’s not the case here,” she said.
The girls attend regular school and spend lots of time in the community doing activities like bowling, ice skating, and going to the movies. They also volunteer at local nursing homes and animal shelters. “We seek to make life as normal as possible," Hernandez said, which allows the girls to develop a routine, invest in healthy relationships, and experience a smoother transition back into a home setting.
Through intensive therapy services, Family Resources hopes to return girls to a home like setting within six months. If they are not able to return home, they help find supportive foster care homes.
More than anything, Bridge House is a place for healing. “I think some people look at Bridge House and see it as the place where the bad kids go,” Hernandez said. “These aren’t bad kids. These are kids that have had bad situations and made decisions that were not good as a result of their experiences. They’re in survival mode.”
While in the house, services are tailored for each girl, who is assigned a caseworker. Some girls have experienced physical, emotional, or sexual abuse and have specific needs. “Each girl has someone who is ensuring that everybody is doing their part to make sure she’s successful,” Hernandez said.
Bridge House truly has a long-term impact on the girls and their families, said Emily Thomson, Program Coordinator. She recalled one girl who came to Bridge without a permanency plan for a return home. "It was up in the air where she would go, and that was hard on her," Thomson said.
Eventually, her mother was able to pass a home study, and the girl moved back home, with the support and encouragement of her Bridge House family. "That was cool to see,” Thomson added.
Hernandez said it was a reminder that sometimes it takes a team effort to help families stay healthy. “It was attributed to the mom making healthy changes, and also to the therapy and counseling her daughter received here that kept her motivated to do well,” she said. "It's really about an overall healthy community. Every time a child is removed from their home, there is trauma. They feel unsafe, and they act out. When these girls return home, we hope they will be productive citizens and contribute to our community."
Bridge House continues to keep in touch with girls and their families, long after they have left. “They wouldn’t be able to do what they do without the support of the community,” Hernandez said.
The girls enjoy and rely on the relationships they develop with staff and community volunteers who come to Bridge House to spend time with the girls, mentoring, providing programming, exercise classes, games, and church activities. "These girls know what they've done wrong, and they have so many different feelings about themselves," Thomson said. “When people invest in Bridge House, when they come in and help, it makes the girls realize that there are a lot of people who care about them.”