The PEAKS (Physical and Environmental Activities for Knowledge and Skills) Adventure Program has been transforming the lives of its participants since 1984 when a group of youth care workers and young people from shelters, halfway houses, and juvenile justice agencies partnered with Texas Network of Youth Services to create an intensive residential camp experience founded on best practices in youth development theory.
Thanks to a grant from the Office of the Texas Governor, TNOYS and the Texas Center for Child and Family Studies (The Center) launched this collaborative project to reduce the risk of youth becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation of youth (CSEY) and to facilitate recovery for survivors. Through the project, TNOYS is building on its relationships with youth-serving organizations across the state to ensure these providers have knowledge of trafficking and the unique needs of youth who have been trafficked, as well as the resources to properly support them.
Strengthening Safety Nets Across Texas
Natural disasters are on the rise globally and Texas tops the nation in natural disasters. Children, youth, and families who are displaced by natural disasters experience trauma and instability that heightens their risk of victimization and exploitation. With funding from the Texas Children’s Justice Act Task Force, TNOYS is undertaking the Strengthening Safety Nets Across Texas project to identify and develop recommended policies, protocols, training content, and resources for keeping children safe during and after natural disasters.
Starting in fall 2018, Texas Network of Youth Services, Texas Homeless Network, and Texas Homeless Education Office began working in partnership with all regions of Texas affected by Hurricane Harvey (outside of Harris County) to support schools and community-based organizations in meeting the needs of homeless youth and families displaced by the storm. Providing free support with a collaborative, community-based approach impacting many in the Houston area.
In late 2016, TNOYS kicked off a collaborative initiative in Central Texas designed to integrate youth engagement with principles of trauma-informed care. One of the key principles of trauma-informed care is to give people being served input into the services and decisions that affect their lives. Funded by a grant from the St. David’s Foundation, TNOYS has collaborated with partner organizations to conduct quality trainings and support integration of these principles into the delivery of youth services.
The Harris Transition Coalition is a group of providers, youth, and caregivers working together to improve services for teens and young adults with mental health conditions in Houston from ages 16-24. We are all working in partnership to make sure that services and supports in Houston/Harris County are youth-friendly and meet the most pressing needs. Including youth and caregivers in program planning, design, and implementation because we need their opinions and voices to succeed.
Youth Count Texas!, the first ever statewide count of youth experiencing homelessness in Texas, was mandated by a vote of the Texas Legislature in 2015. The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA), which was tasked with carrying out the count, contracted with TNOYS to help develop the survey tool and implement it.
From 2014 to 2017, TNOYS coordinated the statewide Seclusion and Restraint Reduction Leadership Group, building upon the work it began in 2007 to drive restraint and seclusion reduction efforts across the state by supporting changes in organizational culture and legislative policy. The group provided a statewide forum for networking, advocacy, and learning and did important work to improve the care of the individuals in our communities who live in residential treatment settings.
The Creating a Culture of Care Initiative was a collaborative effort between TNOYS and the University of Texas’ Hogg Foundation for Mental Health to impact how youth in Texas residential treatment centers receive care. It involved quantitative and qualitative research that measured seclusion and restraint reporting and documented organizational changes at 11 intensive sites.