Light House Youth Program

The Light House Youth Program–a name generated by the youth themselves–serves children and youth, ages 0-18, whose families are part of BHA’s Transitions program for families experiencing homelessness.

One-On-One Work With Moms and Their Children
Our Youth Program Coordinator meets with each mother and Family Advocate when the family enters the program to discuss concerns with the mother related to her child’s development and determine if additional support is required. The Youth Program Coordinator conducts developmental assessments for newborns through three years old, refers to appropriate intervention services as needed.

For pre-teen or teen youth, the Coordinator will meet one-on-one to develop a supportive relationship and, when appropriate, develop an individual goal plan and connect them with after-school and summer programs in the community.

Weekly Youth Program
The Youth Program Coordinator organizes and runs a weekly program with volunteer assistance. An average of 7 volunteers are needed every night to provide adequate supervision and develop nurturing relationships with the children. The Youth Program Coordinator trains and supervises all youth volunteers as well as interns and service learning students.

Lesson plans are developed based on age groups and focus on themes such as art, food, gardening, goal setting and health/fitness. A variety of lesson plans are taught to encourage self-esteem and support the children as they are developing self-regulation and conflict resolution skills.

An Emphasis on Safety and Resiliency
Homeless youth face trauma* and instability at an early age. Keys to overcoming such trauma are developing safety and resiliency:

  • Safety is the number one requisite for trauma-informed care, regardless of age. However, with younger children, this translates to consistency in care with much greater emphasis on simplicity in programming rather than stimulation and/or intensive learning goals. Once in place, it allows for subsequent programming to carefully address learning needs.
  • Resiliency is the inner strength, skills and character needed to weather difficult times and stand strong in the face of adversity. Building character and life skills in at-risk youth is vital for them to navigate the challenges that lie ahead. For young children, this translates to an emphasis first on role-modeling and second, actual limited instruction.

A trauma-informed redesign of BHA’s Light House Youth program has begun, based on initial training resources from Drexel University, Texas Christian University’s Institute of Child Development, and Build-A-Bridge International.

Intended Outcomes of the Light House Youth Program
The goals of the Light House Youth Program are listed below:

o   Youth and Children demonstrate positive ways to handle conflict.  Youth and Children will be exposed to positive ways of handling conflict through role playing and activities.

o   Youth and children increase self-efficacy through mastering tasks and setting goals. Self-efficacy, the belief of a person that s/he can succeed in a certain situation, is key to resilience.  

o   Youth and children demonstrate self-regulation skills.  Self-regulation encompasses emotional awareness and the ability to manage one’s response to a situation, especially a stressful one. 

o   Youth and children develop supportive relationships with adults. The volunteers in our youth program commit at least monthly which allows the participants to build relationships with them. 

o   Youth and children are provided a safe and secure environment.  We provide a safe environment through the classroom location, locking the classroom and having consistent adults for the children.

To volunteer with the Light House Youth Program, contact Heather Cotignola-Pickens, Youth Program Coordinator, at 717.233.6016 or complete our on-line Volunteer Interest Form.

Contact HeatherVolunteer Interest Form

* The traumatic effects of homelessness on the health of children are just beginning to be understood. According to studies compiled by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, homeless children are sick at twice the rate of other children. They suffer twice as many ear infections, have four times the rate of asthma, and have five times more diarrhea and stomach problems. Homeless children also have twice the rate of learning disabilities and three times the rate of emotional and behavioral problems of children with a home. The combined stresses and unattended impact of prior traumatic events is both a tragic reality and an opportunity for BHA’s program to make an even more profound healing impact with trauma-informed programming.