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group photo of director Laurie Klith with three young women holding flowers

The Center for Family Outreach – Strengthening Families. Inspiring Youth.

Center guides teens to safer ground

by Betsy Lynch

“Adolescence can be a turbulent timThe Center for Family Outreach logoe,” says Laurie Klith. Yet in her 23 years advocating for kids with emotional, behavioral, and substance use issues, she’s found area teens to be respectful and cooperative with staff offering a healthier path.

“Sometimes people have a stigma about teenagers, but once you understand who they are and what they want their lives to be, you just want to help them get there,” says Klith, founder and director of The Center for Family Outreach (TCFFO).

When a student is referred to the Center, Klith doesn’t see a “troubled teen.” Rather, she sees a smart and capable individual who has yet to learn the life skills needed to successfully navigate this complex world.

Teens are naturally curious, experimental, and sometimes impulsive. They might want greater independence. They may not think about the consequences of high-risk behaviors such as drinking alcohol, drug use, unprotected sex, fighting, online interactions, skipping school, or other self-harming choices. Add stress, anxiety, depression, peer pressure, insecurity, bullying, family dysfunction, and other challenges to the mix, and it’s not surprising that some teens find themselves failing in school, arguing with parents, addicted to substances, or in trouble with the law.

Rather than let these youth continue down such treacherous roads, the Center provides counseling, therapy, and classes to raise self-esteem, improve communication, and address emotional and behavioral problems so teens can get back on safer footing.

The Center’s staff includes therapists, counselors, educators, and case managers who work with approximately 250 students and their families each year. Referrals come from teachers, parents, school counselors, juvenile justice officials, social workers, and mental health professionals.

“I feel so privileged to be able to work in Larimer County, a community that advocates for its young people,” Klith says. “We are united in our efforts on behalf of our kids.”

The organization partners with the Health District of Northern Larimer County’s Child, Adolescent, and Young Adult Connections (CAYAC) team when teens need a higher level of treatment than TCFFO can provide. CAYAC staff includes a child psychiatrist, psychologists, and care coordinators who promote early identification and treatment of mental health and substance use disorders for young people, including psychological testing, short-term counseling, and brief medication management. They also connect families to community resources that meet their needs.

TCFFO has offices in Fort Collins and Loveland, where classes such as “Navigating Life” and “Power of Conversation” are taught in age-appropriate groups. There’s also a Parent Navigators Program that teaches strategies for interacting more effectively with teens.

Services are provided on a sliding fee scale. No one is turned away due to an inability to pay. To learn more about TCFFO and its programs, go to tcffo.org, or call 970-495-0084.

TAC 212: A Safe Hub

In mid-June, TCFFO and the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment (LCDHE) opened a new Teen Activity Center at 212 W. Mountain in Fort Collins. Known as TAC 212, it’s a hub run by teens for teens and overseen by a youth leadership council.

TAC 212, funded through a state grant, offers a safe space outside of home and school for teenagers to hang out, do homework, play games, pursue arts and crafts, search for jobs, and participate in program activities. Adult supervision and support is provided to the leadership council by TCFFO and LCDHE staff.

“These kids supply true leadership and the energy needed for this teen center,” says TCFFO’s Klith. “They chose the name, educational programming, and picked all the artwork and furniture. They pretty much tell the adults how they want it to be run.”

What parents need to know

Sometimes, parenting is no picnic. If you’re dealing with a crisis or looking for the “missing manual,” The Center for Family Outreach has a guide called The Parents Need to Know Book. It’s a collection of local resources, including legal, financial, housing, education, employment, addiction, domestic violence, health care, childcare, LGBTQIA+, and other available services, updated annually.

Download the manual at tcffo.org/parents-need-to-know-book or call 970-495-0084 to request a copy.

 

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