Alexandra, “Alex”

Alexandra, better known as Alex, at the age of 16 has already experienced more trials and tribulations than most do in a lifetime. Her journey to Youth Haven was an incredibly rocky road. She has never known her father and at a young age the courts removed her from her mother.

She was bounced from foster home to foster home and then forced to leave the state and live in a group home. Having little success, as a last ditch effort, she was moved back to Florida to live with her cousin; unfortunately that was unsuccessful and she was placed in Youth Haven’s care.

Alex learned early on to take care of herself, to create her own goals and dreams, and to work hard to get where she wants to be in life. Unfortunately, her life circumstances were not conducive to her efforts. Alex found herself in the midst of substance abuse, gang activity and truancy. Coming to the Youth Haven Emergency Shelter was definitely not a part of Alex’s plan. She arrived at the Shelter with pink hair, tattoos and a “no-nonsense” demeanor. Shortly after her arrival, it became apparent to the staff that Alex had a gift, a gift of expression through words. Alex enjoyed writing stories and engaging in “rap battles” with peers at school.

During her time at Youth Haven, the staff enrolled Alex in the Boys and Girls Club of Collier County program, as a healthy afterschool activity. Her first go around wasn’t successful; she was kicked out due to disruptive behavior and angry outbursts. However after working with our therapist and understanding the underlying issues behind her anger, the Youth Haven staff was able to re-enroll her into the Boys and Girls Club. This time around she flourished and was quickly awarded “Youth of the Month” and then was nominated for the Boys and Girls Club’s “Youth of the Year” award.

Alex became a leader in her community, opting to aspire to the position of Motivational Speaker rather than Rap Superstar for a career. Alex began to focus on her education and desire to graduate.

It was through the power of therapy, Youth Haven’s staff and a new found safe and loving environment that Alex was able to transform from a one-time combative and angry tough girl to a beautiful, intelligent young lady. She is now living with a wonderful and loving foster family, where she is flourishing socially and academically.

Daniel, “Danny”

Daniel, or Danny as he goes by, was a lovely 11 year-old blond hair blue eyed boy who lit up a room! Sadly though, his life was not always a ray of sunshine. Danny is no stranger to the Youth Haven Emergency Shelter, in the mere 11 years of his life he has been in our care three times.

Danny’s mom, a single parent, could not handle his Asperger’s Syndrome and was floundering trying to take care of her other two children and newborn baby. Danny has been removed from his mom numerous times due to severe substance use and domestic violence in the home. Danny has lived in various foster homes and was eventually removed from his most recent home due to the caregivers’ inability and unwillingness to effectively manage Danny’s behavioral outbursts.

Whenever Danny is at Youth Haven, he tells us that he feels at home; feeling safe, secure and for once like he is accepted.

Danny responded well to a highly structured therapeutic approach. This treatment plan consisted of traditional therapy and art therapy, where he was able to express his feelings in another avenue. This proved to be a powerful and successful tool for Danny. Through the power of art he was able to express his fears and successes in a way he was unable to do with his words. Danny’s outbursts became less frequent, he was happy, and confident, becoming the beam of light we all knew he had inside himself.

Gradually, with the support of his therapist, Danny has reunited with his father. Danny’s parents have long been estranged and his father kept out of Danny’s life for the most part. With the help of his therapist the supervised phone calls became a gateway to a new and improved relationship with his father. Through services provided to Danny’s father, he was able to move forward with the necessary preparations to welcome Danny into his home. Danny’s father continues to receive outpatient therapy and education at Youth Haven so he can effectively manage Danny’s behavior while showing him the love and the consistency Danny needs.

Images, names and minor details have been changed to protect the children’s identity and privacy.