Connections Individual and Family Services first started operating in Comal County in 1981 and since then, has expanded to provide a variety of services in nearly 20 Texas counties. Connections CEO Kellie Stallings estimates that the organization now reaches over 20,000 people a year through its various programs that include counseling, substance abuse prevention education, emergency shelter and other critical services to youth and families. Each of the lives it touches helps fulfill its mission of “strengthening communities, one youth and one family at a time.”
“When you think about the individual lives you’re touching, you can really make a huge impact on children’s futures,” Stallings said. “When we step in and change young lives, our whole community can be transformed.”
Connections’ work is grounded in the idea that for youth to successfully transition to adulthood, they need support from their family or other caring adults. With family violence, substance abuse and other issues on the rise, there are many factors that can lead to family breakdowns. Connections works to prevent these breakdowns through services such as a 24-hour crisis hotline, education in the community to make families more aware of issues their children may be facing, resiliency and substance abuse education within schools, and counseling to youth and families through the state’s STAR program. In cases where crises cannot be averted, Connections operates two emergency shelters where children can stay when their family environment is no longer an option, as well as a long-term transitional living program for youth who are preparing to exit the foster care system.
Connections has been a member of TNOYS since its early years, first joining in 1984, and Stallings has served on the TNOYS board since 2010. She says that while Connections first became aware of TNOYS through the Annual Conference, they have since gotten many more benefits out of their membership, including in the area of training and technical assistance.
“We have gotten TNOYS to formulate trainings specific to the unique needs of our community,” Stallings said. “We also really like how TNOYS advocates for and encourages youth voice and recently, has even had youth help train providers on how to meet that need.”
One of the most recent customized trainings TNOYS held for Connections took place in January and featured experts from TNOYS, HHSC, and three youth co-presenters training approximately 70 Connections staff members who held a variety of roles, from direct service workers to administrators. The interactive training covered issues including cultural competency and diversity, as well as youth advocacy. For an organization with a strong focus on touching individual lives, being able to have a customized training prepared specifically for their staff is helpful in meeting the unique needs of their clients. If you are interested in training or technical assistance from TNOYS, we encourage you to click here to learn more.
TNOYS thanks Connections for its long history of involvement with our network and looks forward to continued work together in the coming years.