The U12 Program: How we’re providing care and support for young clients amidst big change
March 31, 2020
As the COVID-19 crisis continues to re-shape how we go about our lives, we at Wood’s Homes are doing everything we can for those in our care. Our trained mental health counsellors remain available through our crisis line, text, eTherapy and LiveChat services. Our addictions counsellor is available by phone for those who now have limited face-to-face supports. Our school support counsellors have been re-deployed to programs caring for clients throughout the day as our learning centres are closed.
We are adapting in all program areas to continue to provide the best care, support and treatment for those who need us – including the youngest of those we care for, the children in our U12 program. Here, clients ages 6-12 stay with us when they or their families need a little help.
So you might ask, what are these youngsters doing during the day? Well, here’s how the counsellors and kids in this program are keeping busy, learning, maintaining routine and having fun!
Much of the morning routine has remained the same. Routine is very important for many youth in care as this sense of normalcy provides comfort in a challenging situation. Of course, for our younger clients, normal can mean a morning dance party before shifting into a newly developed in-program schooling schedule – or Learning Time.
This new schedule helps maintain structure and has been kept as close as possible to what clients would experience at our on-site U12 classroom. This includes different subjects and regular body breaks, which, you may have guessed, usually ends in another dance party.
Being unable to leave our Parkdale campus obviously has its limitations, but thankfully the campus is 10 acres and has its own soccer field, two playgrounds and pathways where our youth can indulge in all sorts of physical activity. And when the group comes back inside, it’s opportunity to practise proper hand-hygiene, which Wood’s Homes regularly advocates to all staff and visitors.
After outside time, staff and clients usually engage in a group activity teaching life skills and looking for therapeutic moments and opportunity to talk about positive experiences. Of course, given their age, this sometimes takes the form of arts and crafts.
As the school day comes to a close, youth in U12 engage in an hour of quiet time. They are given this time to decompress from what can sometimes be big days with big feelings.
As the program prepares for dinner, they gather together around our large kitchen table to discuss Lemons & Lollipops – the day’s pros and cons. This is group-talk focuses on positives and working through the negative emotions or challenges that may have come up during the day.
After dinner, the kids get into their pyjamas and start relaxation time. This can come in the form of yoga or a meditation of some sort. Many of our U12 clients love and look forward to yoga.
Then it’s back to routine. Youth might enjoy a snack as they get ready for bed. Getting ready might look a little different for each client. For some, staff will read a bedtime story; for others settling in for the night involves what’s called a down regulating activities like meditation, listening to music or playing I Spy.
Then it’s lights out to rest up for another big day!
On the weekends, morning and evening routines remain much the same. In the middle of the day, it is routine for kids to tidy up their rooms before helping staff with a major cottage chore. Much like they would in their homes, within their own families, this keeps the shared living space clean and allows for time together, bonding over a shared activity. And yes, sometimes it becomes a dance party. Weekends are also when the program enjoys movie night!
For more information about U12 and ways Wood’s Homes is providing much-needed mental health services to the community, visit www.woodshomes.ca.