YSB's Parenting Program, from a Staff Perspective.

Youth Service Bureau’s successful Parenting program has been running in the Rockford and Freeport areas for many years, originally through Catholic Charities and then through YSB starting in 2011. Through this program, families are kept together and changed for the better by teaching parents how to listen to and love their children without resorting to verbal, physical, or emotional abuse. Featured here are some of the staff members at YSB who help to change these lives for the better.

Elaine Gaither is the Parenting Coordinator for the Youth Service Bureau of Illinois Valley and she is also a Certified Parent Educator with formal education in Child Development. She is also a Parent Education Instructor in the Outreach Service Department at Rock Valley College where she teaches Parents Education and Life Skills for Teen Parents. Ms. Gaither previously was a Crisis Intervention Specialist for Illinois Crisis Intervention Services through the Rockford Police Department for 10 years. She is known throughout this region for having some of the largest groups for mainly court-ordered adults and effectively capturing their hearts that they desire to change their behavior to become better parents. Ms. Gaither has over 30 years of Parenting Education and social services experience.

Elaine was touched very deeply by seeing and working with children who were victims of abuse and neglect. Elaine saw herself as an advocate for these children, hoping to alleviate their pain and suffering. It became clear to her that her spiritual calling was to give these children’s pain a voice by working with their parents to give them the tools to be able to grow as parents, thereby helping to reduce the risk of abuse and neglect in families, and strengthen our communities.

Lee Hicks, Jr. is a Parent Educator for the Youth Service Bureau of Illinois Valley. Mr. Hicks has a M.S. Ed. In Counseling. His educational preparation was in Individual and Group Counseling, with an emphasis in working with African American men. Prior to joining YSB, Mr. Hicks was employed for 12 years at the Rockford Health Systems, Employee Assistance Program, as a Counselor and a Training Specialist, and after that for a number of years at Catholic Charities. He has 28 plus years working with children, adults, and families in crisis. Lee believes that promoting strong unified families and communities can best be accomplished by helping to develop both an individual’s professional and spiritual growth.

In 2005 Lee was spiritually led to work in the agency’s M.I.S.T.E.R. Fatherhood Program. The agency recognized the need for a program that would promote the stability of the African American family. Lee believes that his Heavenly Father has prepared him to do this kind of work. We believe this program helps to address some of the immediate needs in the African American family. Our agency does this by providing African American males with the tools and services needed to enable them to recognize their vital role as head of the family unit while maintaining their dignity and respect. Lee believes that this “blessing” has also led him to the work that he is also doing in the Traditional Parenting Program, which works with all genders, ethnicities and religions.

Sarah Holsinger has 15 years of social service and child care experience. Sarah believes that her purpose in working with the Parenting Program is to help provide the parents who utilize this program with the tools that they need to be able to raise healthy families. Sarah feels that her many years of experience is instrumental in helping those parents to acquire and to develop those “tools”, and in nurturing positive parenting roles.


Elaine Gaither conducts a Parenting Class in Rockford




YSB hires new director at the Child Development Center

The Youth Service Bureau of Illinois Valley announces a change in leadership at the YSBIV Child Development Center. We are pleased to welcome Debra Wackerline as the new director of the center aided by Linda Janusick who has accepted the position of assistant director. Both staff have over 20 years of experience working with children and creating a child care setting that offers the highest quality of care.

Debra is very excited for her new position as Director of the Child Development Center. She looks forward to working with families and children and to continue the quality care they receive at our Day Care Center. She states that “my door will always be open to parent's with questions, or concerns, about their children as the care and teaching of the children attending our center is very important to me.”

The YSBIV Child Development Center has received the highest quality ranking through ExceleRate Illinois. The Gold Circle of Quality recognizes programs which have demonstrated quality on all fifteen standards, as validated by a state approved assessor. Gold Circle programs meet or exceed specific quality benchmarks on learning environment, instructional quality, and all program administrative standards; group size and staff/child ratios; staff qualifications; and professional development. In addition, Youth Service Bureau of Illinois Valley has recently been reaccredited through the Council on Accreditation (COA). The COA recognized the agency for not receiving any “non-compliance” practice standards as an “amazing achievement”. Being accredited and reaccredited is a very involved, time-consuming, and sometimes difficult process. This is an achievement attained by very few agencies and something that all staff work very hard to maintain.

Reggi Riley, Coordinator of Community Services, says about the Child Development Center: “We are fortunate to have an amazing staff that are all focused on the most important function of the center, which is teaching children to grow and develop in positive ways. Our doors are open to new families who want to be a part of our family.”

The role of each teacher at YSBCDC is to work as a team member helping students develop key life skills in a safe and healthy environment. Teachers are responsible for providing the type of guidance and atmosphere needed for successful learning in the program. CDC teachers are dedicated to providing an environment that is warm and nurturing to meet the individual needs of each child. They are positive role models that provide a purposeful program for the students, who in turn, help your child develop to his or her full capacity. CDC teachers are trained to advance the intellectual and physical competence of each child while supporting his/her social and emotional development.

The Child Development Center is located at 901 Grant St. in La Salle, IL. If you would like more information on enrollment, please give Debra a call at 815-224-4244, or e-mail her at kidsplace901@ysbiv.org. You can also find more information on the Child Development Center, as well as other YSBIV’s programs, including Solutions Counseling, on our website at www.ysbiv.org.




Solutions Counseling offers intensive Outpatient and Mental Health Therapy Treatment

Youth Service Bureau offers programs which address a variety of social issues ranging from court mandated Parenting classes, helping Runaway and Homeless youth, and Foster Care. We also offer counseling and treatment services through ‘Solutions Counseling’ for anybody desiring to talk to someone for a variety of issues including depression, anger, anxiety, grief, parenting, marriage, loss, abuse & neglect and many others.

Our therapists in ‘Solutions Counseling’ are all Master Level Clinicians and most are either Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors or Licensed Clinical Social Workers. All clinicians have experience in dealing with a variety of issues as stated above. If we do not feel that we can provide assistance for a particular issue, we will redirect the client to outside services that could assist them.

One of our therapists is 30-year-old Aaron Barajas. Aaron received his M.A. in clinical professional psychology from Roosevelt University in Chicago. His time spent in Chicago has provided him a unique perspective on the human process, especially when combined with his experience from living in the Illinois Valley for the majority of his life. He has been with YSB since November of 2014.

Aaron typically utilizes rational emotive behavior therapy techniques when meeting with adolescents and adults. When seeing younger children, he feels it is best to approach them from a client-centered stance with elements of play therapy. He also feels that counseling can be beneficial to just about anyone as long as they are willing to be engaged. He states: “It would be great to see more people utilize mental health services provided through the Youth Service Bureau for talking through their problems and working together to find a solution. This is one of the best ways to make improvements in one’s life.”

The frequency of participation is entirely up to each person. Our assigned therapist’s will make a recommendation of how often they feel you should come to receive maximum benefit from services but ultimately it is each client’s decision. The first session is an hour in order to complete the intake process. The duration of each session thereafter will be recommended by the therapist with the client ultimately deciding if they would like the sessions to be 30 minutes or 60 minutes.

YSB therapist’s will see clients from as young as age 3 to adults. If a referral is received for a 3-year old, it will be determined if they are verbal enough to be able to benefit from services.

Clinicians are primarily available Monday-Friday and do schedule evening appointments throughout the week. There are no set hours but generally the last client seen on any given day would be a 7 p.m. appointment. Youth Service Bureau currently has offices for treatment and counseling in Ottawa, Streator, LaSalle and Princeton.

We accept all major medical insurance. We do not accept the medical card but do offer a self-pay option with a sliding scale based on income and number of dependents in the home.

If you or someone you know would like more information regarding treatment and counseling, and would like to learn more about 'Solutions Counseling', please call our main office number at 815-433-3953 between Monday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., visit us on the web at www.ysbiv.org, e-mail us at contactus@ysbiv.org, or visit us on Facebook.

Solutions Counseling Therapist, Aaron Barajas



Children Explore, Learn and Grow at the YSB Child Development Center!

“Helping young people and families succeed by serving them in their home, school and community”

The Youth Service Bureau began its journey back in the early 1970’s as a recreation program for the YMCA’s in Streator, LaSalle, and Ottawa. The staff were young, energetic para-professionals who would supervise creative group activities for large numbers of at-risk adolescents.  YSBIV’s mission was two-fold: to provide positive activities for young people and to serve as an information and referral agent for youth requiring more intensive services.

Our mission in “helping young people and families succeed by serving them in their home, school and community” has stayed the same, and as time passed and YSBIV grew to include programs such as Foster Care, Treatment, and Community Services, the agency was able to take on and expand the Day Care Center in LaSalle-Peru. This important program was at risk of being lost to the community when the YMCA was unable to continue providing this service, so at the urging of the local United Way, YSBIV applied for and received its Day Care License. The Child Development Center, formerly called The Kids’ Place, opened with uninterrupted service on April 1, 1988.

The Child Development Center has continued successfully to this current day by offering Pre-K, Early Preschool, and Preschool classes to families in the La Salle/Peru area. Open year round, the Center serves approximately 100 children. They learn through fun activities revolving around monthly seasonal themes which teach them basic skills and prepare them for kindergarten and beyond.

The Day Care is wonderful for parents and guardians who work as well. Knowing that their child is safe, and being well cared for brings them great comfort and peace of mind.

Leading the activities at the Center is Daycare Director, Karan Player. Karan considers the work at the Daycare to be “the foundation of education”. Parent and guardian involvement in their child’s learning experience is extremely important. All of the fun activities that are learned during the day can be taken home for a shared learning experience between the child and their parent or guardian in the evening. She says that “watching [the children] grow and partnering with their parents during the early learning years is the most rewarding aspect of working with the children”.

After a solid foundation of learning in their formative years, some of the children grow up to send their own children back through the Day Care. Karan states that “the biggest thank you we get is watching a child succeed during their education years and beyond. Some of my students have brought their own children to the center.”

YSBIV would like to thank everyone involved at the Child Development Center for creating a solid, healthy learning environment for the children of our community. This solid foundation helps the children to maintain a stable learning environment as they go through grade school, high school, and beyond.

For more information on the YSB Child Development Center, visit their Facebook page dedicated to showing off daily life at the Center, including photos of the children at play, outstanding achievements by the staff, upcoming events, and general news items. If you would like to contact Karan, she can be reached at 815-224-4244, or by e-mail at Karan@ysbiv.org. Also, please visit the CDC Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/YSB-Child-Development-Center-154396801290696/?fref=ts

If you would like to make a donation to Youth Service Bureau, you can do so directly online at www.ysbiv.org.




Providing Support for Endangered Runaway & Homeless Youth

For 40 years, Youth Service Bureau of Illinois Valley has created programs that have helped endangered youth throughout our communities to find a way back into a productive, healthy environment and life. One such program for those in immediate and desperate need is the Runaway and Homeless Youth Counseling Program. When a child is left to the streets (or in danger of being on the streets) they feel that, not only do they have nowhere to go, but that they also have no one to talk to. Youth Service Bureau can and will be there to help pull a youth up from the onset of depression that comes from being homeless.

Stacey is one such youth who desperately needed our help. She started with the Runaway and Homeless Youth program when she was 15. Her mother and father were both alcoholics. Stacey struggled in school and had very few friends. Her home life was very depressing and both of her parents were on a collision course with self-destruction. She bonded quickly with her case worker. It was so nice to have an adult to talk to that could listen to her and understand what she was feeling. She set goals with her worker and accomplished them all. The case was closed as successful for six months.

Two months later the case was referred again due to the same issues. The worker met with Stacey and it was clear that she needed the extra support that the worker provided. Over the next two years, Stacey remained an open client. If she was doing well, the worker would only see her once a month, but when she was struggling, she would see her weekly. During the two years, Stacey’s mother died of alcoholism and her father is barely able to take care of himself. She graduated from high school and has since moved in with a relative who is devoted to making sure that Stacey goes to college and gets her CNA certificate.

Even though Stacey is now 18, her worker continues to stay in touch.

Although nothing stands out as remarkable in this case, having watched it over these past few years we know that the remarkable part is the worker’s continued belief that Stacey could make it if she had someone who cared for her.

If you know of someone in trouble who needs the help that Youth Service Bureau of Illinois Valley can provide, please contact us at 815-433-3953.

Pictured below is our Runaway and Homeless Counseling Program Staff.
Left to Right: Kirby Gustafson, Reggi Gerding (Director), Diana Beams, Denise Rick-Lupascu, Kim Quick, and Jeff Highsmith (inset)





YSB Redeploy/Second Chance Program gives hope to struggling families.

At the Youth Service Bureau of Illinois Valley, we provide many programs that are designed to help children and families succeed in life. One such program is called “Second Chance”, which provides services to youth who would otherwise be removed from their home and community due to high-risk, unmanageable behavior. These adolescents have demonstrated significant emotional concerns which may include mental health and trauma.

“Second Chance” utilizes the “Parenting with Love and Limits” (PLL) model which involves the entire family so as to make positive lasting changes in the functioning of the family.

Lewis and his family are one such success story. He was adopted as a young boy by a childless couple. The family had previously adopted three other children through the foster care system. Lewis was referred to the Second Chance program by his Probation Officer because his parents reported he had stolen money from them, did not observe his curfew, and had attempted to pawn his brother’s bicycle. They insisted criminal charges be filed against their son.

The Second Chance team at Youth Service Bureau of Illinois Valley began to work with Lewis and his family, immediately enrolling them in the next Parenting with Love and Limits (PLL) Cohort. The entire family began weekly group therapy and the team also met with them in their home every Wednesday evening, as well as individual sessions with Lewis. The team learned that while Lewis’ adoption had been a “Subsidized Adoption” (an adoption with medical assistance and other payments provided for on a monthly basis until the child is 18, or even 21) through the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), he was not allotted any of that subsidy for himself. Lewis had wanted to participate in sports and extra-curricular activities his whole school career, but had been told by his parents that he had to find a way to pay for those expenses himself. Consequently, Lewis was not able to participate in most of the activities he so deeply wished to. 

Lewis’ mother shared with our team that she suffered from anxiety and was not able to address conflict and stress. She acknowledged that she would ignore issues with her four sons until they were intolerable, then she would “explode” and bring her husband, who was at work a great deal of the time, into the conflict. The boys would then receive a consequence for arguing with their mother that was severe and unrelated to the infraction. These included being grounded for many weeks at a time and not being allowed to participate in extra-curricular activities that the boys had paid for. The boys would then be dismissed from the various teams because they missed so many practices.

Lewis admitted that he had taken the money to pay for football fees so he could participate his junior year. He had detasseled corn every summer since entering 8th grade to earn money to play football. His parents had confiscated the $800 he had earned to pay for car insurance, claiming that it had significantly increased because of him, but they had not allowed Lewis to even take Driver’s Education yet or ever drive any of their cars. Lewis was extremely angry with and resentful of his parents. He had begun to not come home until late and was not adhereing to their rules.

Our Second Chance team worked diligently to address the numerous issues within their home. They taught the parents skills to utilize in raising teenagers and how to avert the tremendous conflicts. The team intervened on the boys’ behalf to budget money that was intended to be utilized for their needs. Initially the parents stated, “Well we gotta do what’s good for us. What about our needs?” when approached about the subsidies. With encouragement the parents began to support their sons in their activities. The family has thanked the Second Chance team for its support and education. The father stated, with tears in his eyes, “We had no idea how to parent. We were trying to do our best. Thanks for saving our family.”    

Pictured below is our Redeploy/Second Chance Staff.
Left to Right: Roger Miskell, Sarah Price, Lauren Data, Loni Meyer, Cindy Robinson, Jill Conrad, Jordan Jackson
Not Pictured: Megan Martin