Forging Futures Remembers Judge Robert C. Wyda

“In his more than 13 years on the bench, District Judge Robert C. Wyda developed a reputation for his calm demeanor, his concern for young adults with substance abuse problems and his practice of treating everyone who came before him with respect.”  ~Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

We at Forging Futures want to express our appreciation for the late Judge Wyda’s compassionate approach to young adults with emotional, behavioral, and substance abuse issues.  He understood that treatment was often a better solution than incarceration for these young people and, as a result, he was a proponent of alternative sentencing when appropriate.

I personally remember meeting with Judge Wyda.  He immediately put me at ease when he chose to come out from behind the bench and sit next to me.  I was there to discuss the issue of alternative sentencing for young people, but our conversation meandered to the topic of our own children.  When I mentioned that my son had attended Vanderbilt, I remember that Judge Wyda’s eyes lit up.  His daughter was hoping to go there too and we had a good conversation about the university.

I see that his daughter’s wish came true and I know that he must have been very proud of her.  I’m so sad to think that he won’t be able to move her into her dorm—something our brief interaction tells me he would have wanted to do.

Our condolences go out the Judge’s family and our thanks go to the Judge for modeling compassion and wisdom in his work with youth.

Sincerely,

Susan Weiner, CEO

Forging Futures

 

Alternative Sentencing: A Therapeutic Option for Teens and Young Adults with Legal Problems

As a parent, nothing is more heart-breaking than knowing that your child may face juvenile hall or jail and a possible criminal record.  Often a young adult’s behavior is a reflection of severe inner turmoil and psychological distress, however, meaning that his or her legal troubles are symptomatic of other issues that require treatment, not jail.  Fortunately, alternative sentencing may give your child or client an opportunity to heal without serving time in jail or juvenile detention and, in some cases, without generating a negative legal record.

get-out-of-jail-free-card

What is Alternative Sentencing?

Alternative sentencing is not a “get out of jail free” card so much as it is an appropriate rehabilitative alternative to incarceration.   There are many different forms of alternative sentencing, most of which provide alternatives to incarceration.  This can include treatment programs, fines, probation, house arrest, restitution, community service, etc.  Judges determine whether or not to impose alternative sentences based on the severity of the crime, the age of the defendant, and the defendant’s criminal history.  In the case of young adults, especially those who have not acted violently, judges may determine that they would benefit from a treatment program instead of detention.  If a defendant can prove to the judge that they have successfully completed a treatment program, the court will often expunge their criminal record.  Forging Futures has experience working with parents, attorneys, mental health professionals, educators, and magistrates to provide the assessment and recommendations necessary to make a case for alternative sentencing where appropriate.  Having therapeutic options that are vetted by our experts as appropriate for a given teen or young adult can help tilt a judgment from punitive sentencing to therapeutic treatment.

Alternative Sentencing Gives Youth a Second Chance

In recent years, behavioral research has shown that adolescents are cognitively different from both children and adults.    Because their brains are in a state of rapid transformation, adolescents and young adults often lack the cognitive tools to appropriately assess risks, control impulses, or make proper judgments.  In fact, most childhood development researchers agree that adolescents who have committed crimes are more likely to reform their behavior than adults.  Therefore, giving certain young adults the chance to go through treatment can provide a critical second chance.  As mentioned above, successfully completing treatment may even result in the court nullifying the young person’s criminal record altogether.   This is often critical for future opportunities such as college admissions and employment.  At Forging Futures we have experienced great therapeutic success with teens and young adults who were on the cusp of legal interventions.

Is an Alternative Sentence Right for My Child?

If your child or client is facing juvenile or adult legal charges and you feel he would benefit from treatment instead of incarceration or probation, Forging Futures can become part of the conversation you have with the court.  Forging Futures will assess your child or client and, when appropriate, assure judges and magistrates that recommended treatment options are appropriate.  We offer the additional assurance that the treatment process will supported by our clinical experts in order to maximize success.

Our staff is equipped to work alongside your family, attorney and the court with the goal of restoring harmony in your family’s life.  We work closely with you to assess how your child reached this point and then determine the steps it will take to recover.  We want to be your partner during this difficult period and give your child the chance to heal.

Surfing Reveals Healing Powers

We came across a wonderful article in Southwest airlines’  magazine, Spirit, about the amazing healing powers of the ocean and more specifically, surfing.  Van Curaza, a former pro surfer, started a nonprofit called Amazing Surf Adventures that aims to rehabilitate people through surfing.  In 2008, he developed Operation Surf to help injured veterans.  Now Operation Surf offers programs not just for veterans, but also for at-risk youth and for anyone who is physically or cognitively challenged or struggles with addiction.

The article, “Still Waters,” highlights the story of 13-year-old Taylor Cottrell who suffered from a rare immune deficiency disorder.  Cottrell was so ill that she became housebound until she started learning to surf with Curaza.  Just a few short weeks after she began surfing, Taylor’s doctor confirmed that her blood tests revealed that she was healing at a rapid rate.  The article also tells the story of an Iraq War veteran whose life has completely changed after surfing with Curaza.  Bobby Lane, 26, suffered from PTSD and a brain injury after serving in Iraq and was near suicide until he attended Operation Surf.

Curaza himself suffered from addiction and turned to surfing to turn his life around.  When he got in trouble with the law for drug possession, he realized that he would no longer be able to surf if he kept making these decisions.  He then allowed the natural healing powers of the ocean to restore him.

Why have both of these people who have faced such difficult challenges seen unbelievable improvement from a sport?  Researchers are saying that it’s the amazing healing powers of the ocean.  Wallace “J” Nichols, biologist and researcher at the California Academy of Sciences, studies the positive effects the ocean has on our health.  His and others’ research is showing that our bodies produce dopamine and adrenaline when we surf or interact with the ocean in any way.  Nichols says we’re learning that the ocean is like medicine for us mentally and physically and believes that doctors will someday prescribe surf lessons and long walks on the beach.

Click here to read the article.

 

 

The Price of Affluence

Research is showing that privileged teens may be suffering from depression more than ever before.  According to an article in the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology, adolescents who come from higher income homes are experiencing more depression, anxiety and substance abuse than teens in any other socioeconomic group in the country. 

Our family advisor Amanda Thomas has worked with privileged teens for years and wholeheartedly confirms that this is the trend that she has seen firsthand.  She believes that this group of young adults are often overlooked because they are star athletes, great students and often hide their behaviors from family and friends.  The adults in their lives, including teachers, coaches and therapists also tend to minimize their problems because they fear resistance from the young adults and their parents.  They fear lawsuits and often feel intimidated by the young adult and his family’s power and wealth, which keeps them from intervening when they see a problem arise.

Thomas observes that achievement pressure, parent isolation, materialism and lack of healthy self-development are just a few factors that create feelings of emptiness amongst young adults in this socioeconomic group.  Amanda’s goal when working with our clients is to help them develop positive and lasting relationships, resiliency traits, responsibility and internal motivation.

Ultimately, pain is present within all populations, but we are discovering that this particular population of privileged young adults greatly needs our help.

Click here to read the “The Price of Affluence.”

Sources:

Amanda Thomas- Forging Futures Family Advisor

“The Price of Affluence” by Amy Novotney from American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology (January 2009, Vol 40, No. 1)

 

National Suicide Prevention Week Starts Today

Today marks the beginning of National Suicide Prevention Week, as well as World Suicide Prevention Day.  Almost 3,000 people commit suicide everyday and many of them are adolescents.  According to the CDC, suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth between the ages of 10 and 24, which shows that treating depression and early signs of suicide in adolescents is extremely crucial.

Despite the horrific  impact suicide has on our society, we don’t hear about and discuss awareness, treatment and prevention as much as we should.   Therefore, today should just be the beginning of bringing light to suicide awareness throughout the year, rather than just once a year.

While clinicians and treatment professionals work to save lives everyday, they can’t help those who haven’t sought treatment.  If you know someone who suffers from depression or has suicidal thoughts, seek help for them today.

For more information about National Suicide Prevention Week and World Suicide Prevention Day, visit http://www.take5tosavelives.org/ and the World Health Organization’s website.

“The Medication Generation” in Wall Street Journal Worth Reading

We came across an article entitled “Medication Generation” in last weekend’s edition of The Wall Street Journal and couldn’t help but to share it with you, as it is so incredibly relevant not just to what we do at Forging Futures, but to all adolescents today.

The article shares statistics about the number of adolescents and adults on antidepressants and makes the case that while this type of medication can be helpful, it’s being overprescribed and its lasting effects are yet to be determined.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 5% of 12 to 19-year-olds and 6% of 18-39-year-olds in America currently take antidepressants.  What’s more shocking, however, is that 62% of those 12 and older have been on this type of medication for at least two years and 14% have been on it for more than 10 years!  This means that people are becoming more and more reliant on antidepressants  and adolescents especially find themselves wondering after years on medication, “Who am I?”

The article points out that more and more young people are growing up on antidepressants and have a difficult time deciding whether or not to stop as they become adults.  One woman interviewed for the story mentions that she has been on Prozac for nearly 15 years since she was a teenager and desires to know what her life would be like had she never taken it or if she were to stop taking it now.

What hits home for us is the importance of development in children and adolescents, physically, socially, emotionally and intellectually.  Although antidepressants can help those who are, as the article states, “genuinely struggling,” they are being overprescribed and are interfering with young people’s ability to connect with their true feelings and cope with the challenges of life.

There has been a movement in our society to treat depression and anxiety as medical conditions caused by chemical imbalances, rather than normal human emotions that can be dealt with through means other than medication.

We all want the best for our children, but it’s important that we help teach them coping skills, rather than simply bandaging their bad feelings with medication.

Read the article online or watch a video.

12-Step Programs Modified for Teenagers

We came across this article about adapting 12-step programs for teenagers and want to share it with you.  Parents and mental health professionals are discovering that these programs, having been used effectively for adults for decades, are not always effective with teenagers because they aren’t designed for them.

Steven Jaffe, MD, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Emory University and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta has spent 25 years modifying these programs for teenagers in order to make them more appropriate and meaningful.

There are several aspects of traditional 12-step programs that may not resonate with adolescents, including becoming powerless over drugs and alcohol and surrendering.  Dr. Jaffe points out that teens are not looking to feel powerless, but rather want to feel strong and empowered, which is why shifts focus to show them that clean and sober equates to a strong and powerful mind and body.

Dr. Jaffe also sees the importance of teens completing a workbook throughout the program so that they are able to monitor their own progress.  See the full article by clicking here.

Gap Year Resources

Our family advisor, Amanda Thomas, gave a fabulous presentation on gap years two weeks ago at Sewickley Academy. We also enjoyed hearing from three gap year participants who told us all about their wonderful experiences.  Here are the resources we shared with attendees after the event.  These articles are extremely helpful and explain the benefits of taking a gap year, despite the fact that little research has been collected thus far.

The Gap Year Option: Should You Take a Time Out?
This article from Peterson’s College Search discusses students’ ability to defer college enrollment and the importance of making a definitive plan before choosing to take a gap year.

Time Out or Burn Out for the Next Generation by William Fitzsimmons discusses the pressures on today’s college applicants and their need to take a year off in order to prevent burnout.

 

Is Your Adult Child Failing to Launch or a Victim of the Recession?

Normally, it’s fairly easy to spot a typical “failure to launch” case.  It looks something like this: young adult moves home, sleeps incessantly, lounges at the country club and lives off of his parents’ dime. The general picture that describes these cases is that of pure laziness.

These days, however, it can be tricky to tell whether a college grad is failing to launch due to laziness or because he is unable, despite his efforts, to find work and get fairly compensated for it. The truth is, only you, the parent, really knows what your adult child is doing all day and can decipher whether she needs motivation or needs (and deserves) a job offer.

In October of 2011, just 74% of young adults between the ages of 25 and 34 were working.  Even a lot of employed young adults, however, are forced to live with their parents because they don’t make enough money to support themselves.

Others who are living at home and aren’t fortunate enough to find work may appear to outsiders as though they’re mooching off of their parents, but in reality, they could be having really tough luck in this job market.

A survey done by Twentysomething Inc. last May reported that 85% of college graduates are moving back in with their parents and that only 46% of people under the age of 25 are employed.

So think of it this way: if your adult child is living at home and is unemployed, despite the fact that she spends hours a day sending out her resume and interviewing, she is not failing to launch. If she is lazing on the couch eating Ho Hos and watching soap operas all day, she is failing to launch.

What is crucial for parents to keep in mind during difficult times with their young adult children is the root cause of the problem.  Is the cause apathy or is the cause the horrific job market?  If it’s the former, that’s what we’re here for.  If it’s the latter, well, your child is going to need your continued guidance and support.  You may not have ever imagined that your successful college graduate would be back in his twin bed, but believe us, he is most likely making every effort to get out.

College Dropout Rates Soar

If your son or daughter dropped out of college, believe us, you are not alone.  Whether for financial reasons, inability to keep up with the workload, or simply not being ready or suited for college, students are leaving college at an alarmingly high rate.

It’s easy for parents to become discouraged when their children return home without a college degree and without job prospects, but it’s important to keep your son or daughter’s best interest at heart.  For one reason or another, if she left school, she was most likely not at the right one for her anyway.

Thisarticle discusses the extreme debt many students are left with after graduating from college, as well as the fact that many schools are being accused of “education malpractice.”  This could, for instance, mean that your child is sitting in a lecture hall with 500 other students with a teacher or graduate student who couldn’t care less about the quality of education their students receive.

Therefore, it is imperative that you look at your child’s needs—both social and academic—before sending him back to school, so that you don’t continue to waste precious time and money.  While a college degree is an asset in the workforce, your child should be getting it from the right college for the right reasons when he is ready.