Waymakers Youth Shelters are a Ray of Hope for Teens in Crisis

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Photo by Michael Fernandez, Contributing Photographer

With all the struggles children are facing today, including stress of grades, expectations to succeed, social media environment, a need to fit in and the presence of bullies, Waymakers Youth Shelters, located in Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach and Tustin, can provide rays of hope for teens in crisis. Currently, our Laguna Beach Youth Shelter is celebrating 40 years of serving struggling children in Orange County, and our services are more critical than ever in this culture of extreme pressure for teens online and in real life.

While teen suicide statistics and close-to-home tragedies are an abrupt reminder of the public health crisis effecting today’s youth, hope still remains. When parents, teachers, and community members recognize warning signs, it is possible to help troubled youth turn their lives around. Waymakers Youth Shelters work to strengthen and support at-risk youth and their families by intervening during times of crisis to create a culture of connectedness, support and safety for adolescents and teens. Last year, 94% of shelter guests successfully reunited with their family members.

How do we achieve such high success rates? With focused attention and some “old school” approaches. For example, the Laguna Beach Youth Shelter serves up to six children, ages 12 to 17, at a time. About 100 youth go through the shelter each year for a three-week program that provides therapy, coping skills development and healthy routines. These daily activities include individual, group and family therapy, eating healthy meals at the dinner table as a family, homework, crocheting, playing board games, reading, yoga, exercising and playing musical instruments like guitar, piano and ukulele. Children are also required to turn in their phones and remain “unplugged” for the duration of the program. All of these activities help the children build healthy peer relationships, learn coping skills and enhance their mood.

In celebration of the Laguna Beach Shelter’s 40th anniversary, Program Director Carol Carlson was recently interviewed by The Orange County Register about the history of these critical support programs for teens and how the needs of youth have shifted over the last four decades. Click here to read more.

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