Group Homes: Safe, supportive group living environments

Alyssa first became a “youth in care” when she was 12 years old after her mother became too sick to care for her. Alyssa was in the middle of school at the time and dealing with her own health issues when the Illinois Department of Child and Families Services (DCFS) relocated her to a residential facility.

Alyssa spent the next few years moving from facility to facility and school to school looking for stability and help. In July 2014, she came to Kids Above All’s Naperville group home, a residential program that provides teenage girls ages 12-18 with a safe environment to live, learn and become empowered adults.

There, Alyssa received consistent encouragement to continue high school at Naperville Central and the support of caring, attentive staff members. She made friends with the five other girls at the home and together, they learned life skills like cooking, time management, and budgeting.

She also had an on-site therapist, trained in trauma-informed techniques, to work with her both in weekly sessions and throughout the day on coping skills and self-confidence.

After a few months at the home, Alyssa learned about DCFS’ Youth Advisory Board – an official forum for youth in care to advocate for themselves and their friends and address the department about its policies. She started going to the meetings and through the encouragement of Kids Above All’s staff, therapist and her DCFS caseworker, successfully ran for secretary of the regional board, which allowed her to lead discussions between youth and DCFS regarding the department’s policies and procedures.

As Alyssa progressed through the program, she became an officer on the statewide Youth Advisory Board. She also used her new role as an advocate to find her mother an assisted living facility so that she would receive the care and medical attention she needed.

Alyssa is the current president of the Northern Region Youth Advisory Board, which allows her to lead discussions between youth and DCFS regarding the department’s policies and procedures and is also a part-time, paid position. She graduated from Naperville Central High School and Kids Above All’s group home in 2017, and has successfully transitioned into a program that has her on the path toward independent living.

“Kids Above All’s staff helped me a lot while I was there, and I gained the confidence and skills I needed to move forward and better my life.”

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