Driving out to Caldwell with my bag of construction paper, scissors, tape, pins, and stickers, the excitement boils in my heart with anticipation that the children are going to make "I can" pins. "I can tie my shoes," "I can sing," and "I can draw" are examples of what the children can write on their pins to attach to their shirts and show off to their friends and parents. The 45 min drive is somewhat relaxing as I imagine what children will be in the Youth Enhancement Program (YEP!) today.
Family Advocates' YEP! Program includes the children of parents who participate in Baby Steps and Parents Anonymous. On Wednesdays, Baby Steps and Parents Anonymous are located at Caldwell Church of Christ which is a medium sized church just large enough for a nursery, children's rooms, and a teen youth room. YEP! currently uses the nursey and teen room for activities but with more workers could fill every room.
Baby Steps participants start trickling in the front door about 1pm and class starts promptly at 1:15. Since school is in session during Baby Steps, the YEP! activities are geared for 0-5 year olds. Attendance is fluid and an exact number of how many children will arrive is never certain. Today, 3 children arrive ages 3 weeks, 1 ½ years, and 5 years old. The 3 week old remains with her mother. The two other children (siblings) look hesitantly at me as I wave them into the nursery after saying "Hi" to Mom. Tony, the five-year-old, is dressed in a superman costume for his third week in a row. His sister has a head full of curly black hair and a sly smile because she has brought a snack with her, hiding it behind her as she looks at me. I reminded her about the baby Elsa doll in the Nursey and she gave me a huge smile. Two weeks before she did not want to go to the nursery and she sat and cried for a good 5 minutes and periodically through the rest of the hour and a half. She was happy today which resulted from having a familiar face and an encouraging spirit. Tony dashed around the room in his superman costume and answered questions about his day. When time came to work on the activity Tony helped trace his round pin on the construction paper which he cut out and said confidently that he could sing. Together we spelled "I can sing" and he decorated and taped his circle to his "I can" pin which he pinned under his costume. For positive feedback, I proclaimed, "Look at all that blue, how creative of you."
Every YEP! group ends with clean up and reading a story. Tony and his sister sat and listened to the ABC Story but when their mom came to pick them up Tony had wanted to read The Jungle Book and demanded to take the book home with him. Luckily, he had a copy at home and I assured him we could read it next time he came to group. Mom and I exchanged goodbyes and I let her know that we had fun.
For the next two hours, my coworkers and I finish paperwork and collaborate on what needs to be done for the following week. At 5pm, we start preparing for Parents Anonymous, which is also on Wednesdays at Church of Christ in Caldwell.
At Parents Anonymous, families enjoy a meal together before the group breaks, separating the children from the parents. Service Learners from Boise State and College of Western Idaho are split up to help in different groups. Two Service Learners assistance with the YEP! program. They start with circle time and say their name and one thing they like about the program or what activity they enjoy. They play monopoly for about 15 minutes then work on a few "I can" pins.
An 11-year old boy named Tim who is diagnosed with autism and has the mentality of a 7 year old arrived for his first time and a little late. He was terrified! Tim did not want to be in group but another older boy introduced himself and took him under his wing inviting him to Chutes and Ladders instead of Monopoly. Tim eased in and seemed comfortable the rest of the evening. YEP! program is focused on developing leaders and Tim benefited from the older boy taking a lead and being kind that night. The Service Learners are encouraged to tell parents of any positive behavior they observe through the evening and have an opportunity to debrief at the end of group to talk about any challenges and observations. The youth are learning to have fun during group and be a positive influence on others. As a whole the day was a success!
This blog post was written by our YEP! Program Director, Josie Hurley.