No April Fools Here: Finding Common Ground and Building Community



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The Harris County Transition-Age Youth and Families Initiative is an opportunity for youth, young adults, parents/caregivers, and service providers to come together to support mental health during the transition into adulthood.  A six-month planning phase is drawing to a close, but the initiative is one that will continue to grow and change over the next four years in order to build a stronger Houston.  TNOYS staff are excited to be coordinating the process and capturing its progress.

Some called April 1st the “best meeting yet!” and the energy that evening definitely supports that claim.  On Tuesday evening, April 1st, over 80 people – a diverse mix of youth, caregivers, and providers — gathered at DePelchin Children’s Center to review 8 plans that will be submitted to the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health in 2 weeks.  These plans came from teams at: Baylor College of Medicine’s Adolescent Department; Communities in Schools of Houston; Disability Rights Texas; Easter Seals of Greater Houston; Family Services of Greater Houston; Hay Center of Harris County Protective Services; Houston Department of Health and Human Services; and Star of Hope Mission.  During the planning phase, these teams conducted focus groups, interviews, and collaborated with youth and caregivers to design well-informed plans that complement one another.

The final planning meeting sparked connections and critical conversations.  It included: a review, discussion, and visual display of all plans; open dialogue; presentations by a team of youth and one caregiver; and a community dinner.  While not everyone in the conversation agreed on what is right for transition-age youth in Houston, the important thing is that they all have come to the table and are committed to developing plans that keep youth and caregivers at the center.  The efforts during this planning phase are only a first step; what follows will be the real work to change the system one organization at a time.

TNOYS is positioned to guide these eight organizations and their partners through a process of genuine youth and caregiver engagement that will result in stronger, more relevant services and supports.  Currently, the TNOYS team (Christine, Duncan, Lara, Elizabeth, Joyce, Sinclair, and LaQuentin) is building and strengthening a planning council, youth council, and caregiver council while also exploring participatory evaluation methods that will allow consumers to steer the initiative and promote continuous quality improvement.

TNOYS is looking forward to learning more about all of the plans, and hosting a community kickoff event in June in Houston.  We hope to have several more “best meetings yet.”

– Lara




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3 Responses to “No April Fools Here: Finding Common Ground and Building Community”

  1. Nikki Sopchak

    I would like to get involved with helping this population, I think neurofeedback could do wonders for many of them. Do you have a chapter in the North Central Texas area?

    • Lara O'Toole

      Hi Nikki,

      Thank you for your interest. We are a statewide organization, with offices in Austin only. We are excited to be working with this collaborative group of organizations in Houston to change services and systems to put youth and caregivers at the center. Each organization offers specialized services that include advocacy, education and more; only a few offer direct counseling. If you have information that might benefit the group, feel free to email it to me at ~Lara O’Toole, Director of Program and Professional Development


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