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Grant offers a boost to mothers and sons

Cory Fisher

Boys will be boys, but those who grow up without responsible male adults in their lives run a higher risk of making destructive choices, experts say.

“Statistically, boys who grow up without a male role model in the home tend to be more influenced by their peers,” said family counselor Diane McMillan. “That means they have a higher likelihood of becoming juvenile delinquents.”

That data was the impetus behind Club Timberwolf, a Tahoe Youth & Family Services support group for single mothers with sons between the ages of 10 and 14.

“This is a preventive program,” said McMillan, who coordinates the program. “The only criteria is to be a single mom with a son.”

Funded by a state juvenile crime prevention grant through July of 2000, McMillan says early intervention is the biggest key to avoiding future destructive behavior.

Club Timberwolf works with 10 families and three counselors for six months each, McMillan said, resulting in a strong, supportive network. After that, an after-care program assists in providing families with appropriate services and activities.

“We stress the development of positive communication, self-esteem and independence – the tools that make a person mentally strong,” McMillan said. “We’ve seen incredibly shy kids transform into outgoing people who are able to make better friendships. We also emphasize the need for compromise in the parent-child relationship.”

Activities solely for the boys, who meet twice a week, are wilderness-based, including rock climbing, camping and skiing. Under the supervision of youth counselors, California Conservation Corps members have also recently served as mentors to the boys.

“I love seeing kids do things they initially said they couldn’t do,” said counselor Linda Hardin. “We work a lot on team-building and trust.”

Another key component is the group support single mothers provide one another.

“I was going through a divorce – I needed the support,” said Zina Booth. “I began to see that others were dealing with the same types of problems. I developed friendships with other moms – I didn’t feel nearly so isolated. It’s also reminded us to have fun with our kids, to enjoy them. We’re often so focused on providing for their needs.”

Hardin, who, through the course of the program has seen many success stories, said her greatest concern is when the roughly $100,000 per year grant money runs out in two years.

“You can just see the immediate impact of the program and I’m sure the long-term impact will be significant,” Hardin said. “Hopefully beyond the grant, there will be community support and funding.”

Booth, who recently completed the program, has become involved in helping Club Timberwolf stay alive beyond the grant funding.

“It’s helped my son a lot – he saw other kids who didn’t live with their dads,” she said. “Our house is now more settled, more peaceful. The program helped us through the storm.”

A new Club Timberwolf group is beginning April 2. Those interested in participating may call Tahoe Youth and Family Services at (530)541-2445.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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