Grant will help youth with sexual behavior problems
Partnership awarded $300,000 in federal funds
FARMINGTON — A nonprofit organization and a counseling practice that are both based in Farmington have been awarded one of two national grants to help expand services for young people with sexual behavior problems.
Capacity Builders Inc. and Second Chance Counseling LLC were awarded $300,000 by the Office of Justice Programs operating under the U.S. Department of Justice
The grants were awarded to efforts to protect children and respond to juvenile victimization, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release. The St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, Conn., also was awarded $300,000.
The sites operate under the Youth with Sexual Behavior Problems Program, which helps communities develop effective treatment and supervision of programs for young people with sexual behavior problems.
It's an area that Second Chance Counseling has chosen to specialize in to provide trauma-informed care with victims, youth offenders and their families, according to executive director Alisha Hawthorne-Martinez.
Hawthorne-Martinez, a drug and alcohol abuse counselor, and clinical social worker, said she previously worked with young people in area schools and quickly realized there were no home-based, family-centered services for young people with sexual behavior problems.
"It became really apparent that in order to meet the needs in this community, we needed to be available to offer home-based services and work with not just the juvenile offender but the entire family," Hawthorne-Martinez said.
The goals of the program are to promote family wellness by eliminating sexual harm by treating the youth offender, victim and family.
About 10 percent of high school girls and about 4 percent of high school boys in the state have reported being physically forced to have sexual intercourse, according to the New Mexico Department of Health.
Young people with a history of forced sex have more than three times the risk of developing poor mental health outcomes and twice the risk of substance abuse, including alcohol and drug use, according to the state health department.
Rachel Nawrocki, Capacity Builders executive director, said her organization regularly assesses requests for proposals from federal programs, and after discussing the possible grant with staff, organization officials sought a partnership with Second Chance Counseling to address the community need.
The grant is set up to offer services for 40 young people with sexual behavior problems between the ages of 9 and 14, but Second Chance works with children of all ages, according to Hawthorne-Martinez.
She said the agency plans to surpass that amount and has expanded services to include McKinley County.
The program has been operating under the grant since Oct. 1, and there are nine youth offenders and four victims enrolled in San Juan County.
Hawthorne-Martinez described an intense and multi-phase series of intervention and treatment services that involves almost daily contact with the youth offender, victim or family members.
Those phases include performing an assessment and evaluation to help determine a diagnosis of the client, taking steps to ensure the safety of the family and client, and making a commitment to end sexual harm within a family's home.
The phases help in several ways, including to help an offender identify his or her responsibility for the act he or she committed and helping the clients understand and identify different types of harm, including emotional harm, that clients have experienced.
"No one wants to get that call that their kid is being charged with a sexual offense," Hawthorne-Martinez said.
In some situations, counselors work through multiple therapy sessions to reunify families in which the offender and victim live under the same roof.
"We do believe that families are strong. We do believe families should be together whenever it's appropriate," Hawthorne-Martinez said. "We want to make sure it's safe to do."
The treatment programs for youth offenders have a great success rate in ensuring offenders don't commit another sexual offense, Hawthorne-Martinez said.
She said she hopes the expansion of services will provide help to people in need who some community members believe are unworthy and don’t deserve help.
"If we are not making sure they can integrate into the community in a healthy way, we're setting them up for failure," Hawthorne-Martinez said.
Providing the best possible treatment services for families is important for Hawthorne-Martinez.
She believes in giving hope and believing in families to let them know it's possible to live a happy, functioning and normal life.
Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.