St. Augustine Youth Services can now be able to help more young boys at their therapeutic group homes.
The nonprofit celebrated the opening of a new group home Thursday with a ceremony on the campus at 201 Simone Way in St. Augustine at 5 p.m.
The ceremony included a few words from Executive Director Schuyler Siefker, a plaque signing, a performance by the youth being served by the program and tours of the new and existing houses. The new home will be the fourth on the St Augustine Youth Services campus.
“It’s very impactful for us,” Special Events and Marketing Coordinator Chelsea Reppin said of the new home.
The new home increases the capacity from 30 to 40 beds and help the nonprofit serve an additional 12 to 17 youth annually in the residential program, according to Reppin. She said the residential program services only boys because of a higher demand for males to be placed in foster homes.
According to KidsCount.org there were about 22,000 foster children in Florida in 2015 with 51% of those being male.
The new beds will allow the nonprofit to place more boys in the residential program in order to have access to the mental health services they need. All of the children in the group homes have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder and have suffered abuse and neglect, Executive Director Schuyler Siefker said.
The program works to help children obtain life and social skills. The ultimate goal, Siefker said, is help the younger boys reunify with family members and prepare the older boys to have the skills they need to support themselves when they age out of the foster care system.
The youth are referred to the program through a variety of child welfare services. The purpose of the residency varies on a case by case basis, but a majority of the boys are in the foster care system. The average length of time the youth stay is 18 months, according to the St. Augustine Youth Services website.
The program also offers community outreach programs such as a mobile crisis response team, targeted case management, and transitional life coaches.