Program to assist high-risk children |

Program to assist high-risk children

Provided to the Tribune

Children’s mental illness and emotional disabilities are a silent epidemic. One in 10 children suffers from some sort of mental health problem. Sixty percent of children with serious mental health needs do not graduate from high school, and at least 20 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system suffer from severe mental illness.

Research studies have shown that up to 37 percent of youth exiting the foster care system have been incarcerated at least once, and up to 35 percent are or have been homeless. So, what type of program can address the issues of mental illness and out-of-home placement among community youth?

Wraparound: a strength-based program through Tahoe Youth & Family Services and El Dorado County Mental Health Department, is designed to meet these vital concerns. The primary focus of the wraparound program is to prevent out-of-home placement of a high-risk child, birth to 17 years old. In addition to a high risk factor, the youth has been diagnosed with an emotional, behavioral or mental disturbance. The goal is to keep the family whole, while at the same time teaching them life skills to succeed and become integrated and functioning members of the community.

Wraparound is an individualized, collaborative, support network designed to help a family increase its sense of competence, develop new skills, and have access to community resources. In wraparound, we work together with the family as a team to help identify strengths, needs, and goals. Case management and services will be implemented when and where it is most comfortable for the family, with services they have chosen.

Wraparound has been established in nearly 80 percent of the counties in California and is experiencing success. As of May 2001, nearly 50 percent of the children in the Sacramento County Wraparound Program have been reunited with their families and more than 10 percent have been moved to a lower level of care.

Tahoe Youth & Family Services in El Dorado County has adopted the Wraparound program as part of their services to the Lake Tahoe community. The Wraparound team consists of four qualified individuals: a facilitator, responsible for organizing and leading the team; two wrap workers, who will provide one-on-one support for the child as a life coach; and a parent partner, who will build relationships with the parents.

The wrap facilitator is lifelong South Lake Tahoe resident and former ski bum, Cristie Tibbetts. After graduating in 2001 from UC-Berkeley, Tibbetts returned to her favorite childhood stomping grounds to work at Lake Tahoe Community College. For nearly five years she acted as the outreach coordinator and community liaison for high risk students and single mothers. Tibbett’s passion for working with high risk youth encouraged her to work towards her master’s degree in counseling and educational psychology at the University of Nevada, Reno. Upon finishing the requirements for her degree, Tibbetts again has decided to devote her education and experience to the community of Lake Tahoe as the Wraparound facilitator at Tahoe Youth & Family Services.

Mariana Rojas, although raised in South Lake Tahoe, is a Bolivian native, who will be lending her bi-cultural skills as one of two wrap workers in the new program. She is a South Tahoe High School alumna, who received her bachelor’s degree in community studies with a minor in education from UC-Santa Cruz in June. Rojas has worked for nine years with youth from many different backgrounds, fueling her passion to serve Lake Tahoe’s diverse community. Her love for Lake Tahoe has brought her back home with a desire to give back.

The second wrap worker is Ariana Vodra, born and raised in Virginia, just south of our nation’s capital. Vodra graduated in 2005 from James Madison University in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in religion. Vodra has three years experience working with children who have emotional disabilities. In September, she hit the road with three friends and a couple of pooches. Her bubbly attitude and free spirit brought her to South Lake Tahoe. She is quickly adjusting to the Tahoe lifestyle, although a little uncertain about driving in the snow; she is excited and ready to hit the slopes.

Nicky Hayward, wraparound parent partner, is the proud mother of two young boys. Although Hayward calls Tahoe home, she was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, and grew up in England. She studied mechanical engineering with hopes of joining the military; however, at age 19 she decided to open her own restaurant and bar. Hayward came to the U.S. 16 years ago, landing herself in the San Francisco Bay Area as a nanny. She has been at Tahoe for nine years.

The Wraparound program is now getting off the ground. For more information, contact Cristie Tibbetts, MHSA Wraparound facilitator, Tahoe Youth & Family Services, at (530) 541-2445, ext. 107, or cristie@

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