Meet Jessica Wood

Jessica Wood, Clinical Director at Shelterwood Academy, loves seeing families restored and relationships rebuilt. Get to know Jessica.

Jessica1 683x1024 Meet Jessica Wood

What Jessica loves most about Shelterwood: Jessica points to the sense of community throughout Shelterwood. “This is a very compassionate environment in which to work, and the importance of family is communicated to our residents and our staff,” she says.

When she was a teen: Growing up in a small town in South Dakota, Jessica loved her strong support system, including her family, friends and youth group. “I also encountered some of the struggles teens today do, and I really leaned on that support system,” she says. Jessica also enjoyed being actively involved in school, clubs and sports, including volleyball and basketball.

We all scream for ice cream: Jessica’s father owned a Dairy Queen in their small town, and Jessica worked there as a teen. She still loves working with ice cream today, especially baking ice cream cakes. Her favorite flavor? Chocolate chip cookie dough.

Before Shelterwood: Jessica earned her doctorate in Psychology (Psy.D.) from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology and is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist for the state of Missouri. She spent more than eight years in residential therapy for children and adolescents. “While I have always loved working with adolescents, I felt something was missing and wanted to incorporate a spiritual element into my work,” Jessica explains. Her family had relocated to the Kansas City area, and her sister-in-law mentioned Shelterwood. Jessica continued to explore Shelterwood and applied for the Clinical Director role. “From the location to my desire to incorporate spirituality into my practice, this was all God’s timing,” she smiles.

Her favorite part about being the Clinical Director: In her role, Jessica says, no two days are the same! “I enjoy getting to be involved in a variety of activities and handling a variety of responsibilities,” she says. She provides therapy to students and their families, explores training opportunities, tackles administrative duties and more. “I really enjoy the opportunity to have a caseload and provide therapy, but also to help others in our team grow. All of our therapists come from different backgrounds, and it is fun to see how it all works together to benefit our students.”

The most unique thing happening in Shelterwood counseling right now: “We’re constantly refining our approaches to therapy,” she says. “From sand therapy to equine therapy to experiential therapy, we’re always striving to advance the therapies we’re providing for our students.”

Family: Jessica has been married to her husband for two years. They have one daughter, Lily, who celebrates her first birthday this month.  

Outside work: Jessica loves staying active and working out. She also enjoys exploring the outdoors with her family, including going on walks. “I also love just relaxing at home as a family and snuggling Lily!” she smiles.  

Best part of her job at Shelterwood: “I love watching families heal and grow in their relationships,” Jessica says. “It is a difficult thing to have your child away from home, and the best part is to watch those reconnections built and those relationships restored.”

Shelterwood Mentors: Serving Teens, Growing Spiritually

Shelterwood Mentors dedicate a year of their life to serving our teens as they journey towards restoration. Serving teens is a life-transforming experience, yet comes with unique challenges. For this reason, spiritual development is crucial in the mentoring journey. While mentors are developing teens, they are growing in their own spiritual walk.

“It can take an emotional toll doing this demanding work, so spiritual development is where we grow and find the strength we need to continue serving,” explains JJ Francis. He serves many roles at Shelterwood but most importantly is the Spiritual Development and Community Facilitator to our mentors.

Shelterwood Mentors are young adult men and women who are passionate about helping struggling teens and have a desire to grow in leadership and service in their own personal journey. Mentors, nicknamed “Bigs,” commit to the year-long life-on-life discipleship and hands-on ministry with teenagers. “We give teens grace when they mess up and teach them that they are not a failure and that they are well-loved. We are both their best friend and counselor,” JJ adds.

DSC9375 1024x683 Shelterwood Mentors: Serving Teens, Growing Spiritually
While mentors work to develop teens, they are also growing in their own faith.

Rewarding work, certainly — but it isn’t easy, JJ explains. “Coming alongside our brothers and sisters as they face a myriad of issues, we also face our own challenges. In the process of serving and giving to others, mentors learn that God can use our service to build us in the process.”

Having served as a “Big” himself, JJ knows the unique challenges our mentors experience. The spiritual development program is designed to address the one-of-a-kind trials mentors face on the journey. Spiritual development for mentors includes Bible studies, small group discussions, recreation and more. In every aspect, mentors find encouragement from every member of the Shelterwood Team.

“We call each other to a higher standard, and when you have brothers and sisters in the same struggle, you realize you’re not alone in this,” he says. “This is a challenging role, so we need to nurture each other. We lift each other up in everything.”

To guide mentors through their journey, JJ and his team recently developed the “Mentor Discipleship and Leadership Program Guidebook.” The first portion of the guidebook outlines the stages of their journey, from orientation through completion of their Shelterwood year. The second portion of the guide focuses on spiritual resources, including a spiritual gift assessment, spiritual disciplines and tools for personal development. Practical guidance is also offered, as mentors plan for their career post-Shelterwood.

All of the support given through the Leadership and Discipleship program builds a group of mentors who make life-changing impact on the lives of our students. “You see the difference mentors make at every graduation,” he says. “Parents testify that if it weren’t for them, their child would not have made the progress they have.”

“For mentors, this is not just a job or occupation. This is a calling,” JJ says. “Mentors really invest in these students. They are the backbone of our program, and Shelterwood would not be the special place it is without them.”

Parent Weekends at Shelterwood

Shelterwood Parent Weekends are an integral part of our treatment strategy. We host these very special events once in the spring and once in the fall. Designed for family restoration, we love witnessing transformation and encouragement on both sides: for the parents and teens.

Parent Weekends are planned with the intent to move the entire family forward along the treatment process, with the goal to see an increase of faith, hope and love in the hearts and minds of these families. These weekends are opportunities for families to grow in hope for healing and family reconciliation, as well as in love and appreciation for one another. Every weekend includes plenty of space and time for encouragement and training for moms and dads.

parents weekend 1 Parent Weekends at Shelterwood

Placing a teen in residential treatment is one of the most difficult decisions a parent can make, but it’s a decision that is courageous and loving. These weekends offer a chance to connect with fellow parents, discovering that no one is alone on this journey.  

Parents consistently tell us that meeting the staff who care for their teen is a highlight of the weekend. At Shelterwood, we’ve worked hard to create a place of individualized care with a low staff-to-student ratio. Every teen is educated, counseled and discipled by a full team of experts and moms and dads love meeting this team during Parent Weekends.

Moms and dads are engaged in many activities, like seminars, small groups meetings for parents and family counseling sessions. We also have meetings with the teaching staff from our high school, a testimony from a Shelterwood graduate and their parents, meals together with staff and meals together with their teens and a wonderful closing chapel service ending with an open mic and video montage.   

Our entire staff of 90 works together to make these weekends special. And a strong team of Shelterwood alumni parents cover the event in prayer! We see God at work in remarkable ways on these weekends. We’re already looking forward to our next weekend for parents of teen guys at the end of April.

Shelterwood receives the NATSAP Gold Seal Award

Everyone on the Shelterwood team is committed to serving our students with excellence. That’s why we’re especially humbled and thankful to receive the NATSAP Gold Seal Award For Evidence-Based Outcomes. This designation is just the latest in our ongoing commitment to measure our success.

As one of the first recipients of this award, this designation demonstrates the positive outcomes taking place every day at Shelterwood, says Rujon Morrison, Program Director. “The bottom line is, what we’re doing here at Shelterwood is working, and the Gold Seal Award says we have the evidence to prove it.”

DSC 3214 Shelterwood receives the NATSAP Gold Seal Award

NATSAP, the National Association for Therapeutic Schools and Programs, was founded in 1999 as a national resource for programs and professionals assisting young people. From residential and wilderness programs to long-term care and transitional living, all NATSAP organizations are dedicated to serving children, adolescents or young adults.

One of NATSAP’s key endeavors is helping their member organizations conduct outcome studies. From this effort comes the Gold Seal program. To receive this designation, a minimum of 70% of Shelterwood students and parents must participate in and complete the outcome study on an annual basis. 

The outcome study provides important scientific evidence to back up the Shelterwood program, Rujon adds. “It’s so important for us to know what we’re doing well and where our opportunities for growth are. We take what we’re doing here seriously, and there’s nothing quite like hard data to support our efforts.”

%name Shelterwood receives the NATSAP Gold Seal Award

Also driving the study is Stacy DeVries, our Shelterwood Research Coordinator. Having worked for our ministry for more than 17 years, Stacey is committed to seeing and tracking student progress. Furthermore, her efforts help our therapy team track clients and interpret the results of these important surveys.

At Shelterwood, we’re gathering data from parents and students several times along the way: within a week of enrollment, upon departure, six months after discharge and then a year after discharge. These parameters mean we’re gathering long-term data, and we’re seeing restoration and transformation that lasts long after a student’s departure from Shelterwood.

“We’re very proud of this award,” Rujon says. “The Gold Seal demonstrates that the Shelterwood program has evidence-based treatment that creates reliable change. The outcome study provides that important scientific evidence that promotes what we’re doing here.”

Justice is Empathy

Change begins with Understanding

From the judges, lawyers, or lawmakers to the missionaries in the jungle, there are some serious heroes out there fighting for justice. The need for justice in our culture can look insurmountable. We are overwhelmed by reports of human trafficking, poverty and genocide. We question what our role is in the justice system. What can we do?

I heard a quote today that got me thinking: “Justice is empathy.”

Screen Shot 2015 05 22 at 1.08.45 PM 300x155 Justice is EmpathyIt really can be that simple, and it can start with you. It can start in your home- with your teen.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. When I empathize with the struggles of my teen, I am becoming a part of the process of bringing about justice in their world.

Richard Eyre, British Director, states, “Change begins with understanding and understanding begins by identifying oneself with another person: in a word, empathy.”

When my teen acts out, my natural reaction is not to empathize. I immediately divert to becoming angry, threatening, or lecturing. Rarely, do I stop to ask him to explain to me the emotions behind his behaviors. Rarely do I empathize with what he’s feeling.

Maya Angelou asserts, “I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it.” Empathizing with my teen can be difficult. Sometimes it’s just hard to see where he’s coming from. Sometimes I fear that if I empathize, I may condone his behavior.

Daniel Goleman, psychologist and author for the New York Times states, “a prerequisite to empathy is simply listening to a person in pain.” Taking the time to listen rather than react in anger or frustration or hurt, opens up my heart to empathize and to see where my teen is coming from. It reminds me that I am for my son, not against him.

I can respond in ways such as, “That must be difficult” or, “That sounds like it’s been a struggle.” In Screen Shot 2015 05 22 at 1.05.36 PM 300x223 Justice is Empathyusing empathizing one-liners, I am opening the conversation to continue. I want my son to be reminded that I am for him, not against him. While I cannot condone his behavior, I can seek to understand and care about what is behind such behavior.

Empathy brings about change by listening to others, identifying with others, and caring about others. Seek empathy in your interactions with your teens as you go through the struggles of adolescence with them. In doing so, you will watch justice in action.

Serve the Community

IMG 2617 300x225 Serve the CommunityIn less than a month, a group of our students and staff will be traveling to Haiti to serve through the Global Orphan Project. Not only do we serve when we’re in Haiti, but also before hand, in our efforts to raise support.

Our most recent efforts to serve the community include some of our boys pulling shrubs at a local business for nearly four hours! Together, our boys really got into the work and service. They were excited to step back at the end and look at the efforts of their labor! Our girls were actively involved in serving dinner at a local church that hosted a fundraiser for our trip. Not only did they serve dinner, but they also had an opportunity to spend time getting to know families in our community.

Daniel Schlenker, Shelterwood’s Volunteer Coordinator, has planned these service project fundraisers. He noted, “It’s been really neat watching the students having fun while working so hard to serve”.

Maggie Grumieaux, Shelterwood’s Case Coordinator, has been on four Haiti trips, this will be her fifth. She states, “ Our students don’t expect to get out of the trip what they do. Many expect to just go and hang out with kids, but they end up coming home changed”.

When I follow up with students about their experience serving in Haiti, they are quick and eager to point out the love they felt in the midst of their service. One of the girls spoke of her trip and exclaimed, “Serving in Haiti made me experience pure love and it was awesome!”

In serving our community now, we are gaining experience and excitement for our service trip to Haiti. Serving locally has also been an awesome way for our school to watch our students to open their hearts to others and give back. Please join us in prayer as we quickly approach our service adventure to Haiti!

 

 

The Intake Day

%name The Intake DayThe intake day was challenging, as they often are, because Mom was on her own and without any additional support. Her daughter was pretty hard on her mom-in the customary ways.

But a Shelterwood student (Brooke) helped this family in an amazing and unprompted way. The new student had sneaked back into Mom’s rental car and staged a 90 minute sit-in unless Mom agreed to fly her home and deliver her to a Detroit jail (which, as you’re aware is better than Shelterwood). Brooke, shared her own story, speaking very highly of Shelterwood and sharing that the Shelterwood process offers “only the challenges that are needed for someone to heal, grow, and ultimately thrive.” Brooke single-handedly coaxed her out of the vehicle, gave mom a hug (making mom cry tears of gratitude). As Mom left, she shared “I can’t wait until my daughter becomes mature, loving, and wise beyond her years like Brooke; maybe, even someday, she will talk some other new student out of a rental car!” I told Mom I was confident this was possible for her and I chuckled knowing that few would have ever thought this possible for Brooke.

Yesterday reminded me of everything that’s great about Shelterwood. Namely, how we work so hard to love well and how on our hilltop, even a parent’s toughest-day-ever can end well. Lastly, I was reminded how Shelterwood’s culture of loving tenaciously can melt even the toughest of student hearts like it has Brooke’s to the point of creating Shelterwood loyalty so persuasive it can even pry a hostile teenage stranger from her mom’s rental car.

Bravo, team and thanks.

Jeremy Lotz, MA, LPC, NCC
Director of Training & Leadership

Is my teen ever going to change?

Screen Shot 2015 02 26 at 4.31.29 PM 247x300 Is my teen ever going to change?

A Difficult Winter – Is my teen ever going to change?

For the majority of the country, this has been a particularly difficult winter. Temperatures are plummeting and snow is accumulating at record rates. While our patience may be wearing thin, there are still some cool things we can learn from winter.

We may not see it on the surface, but winter offers a lot of growth. Above the ground the leaves have all fallen off the trees long ago, but below the ground, growth has only intensified.

So often we want growth to look exactly like we planned it. When we can’t see obvious progress, it’s easy to get frustrated. But, let’s look at what growth means to a tree. When the leaves die in autumn, the tree is able to devote its energy to the roots. When the frost comes, the roots must become resilient to the cold and push deeper into the earth.

It can be really difficult to wait for growth when it’s below the surface. It’s easy to become results-driven or to want proof that growth is happening. But, remember that growth often does not look the way we expect or want it to look. I can get so frustrated when I hear about my own son continuing in his anger. My immediate reaction is to jump in and fix things. I want him to grow and to show that he’s learning. It’s in these moments that I must remind myself that growth is continuing in his life as he processes through his difficult circumstances. Even when this growth is not easy for me to see and is happening below the surface, I remind myself that the deeper and stronger the roots, the more resilient and strong my son will become.Screen Shot 2015 02 26 at 4.27.29 PM Is my teen ever going to change?

Waiting for the spring takes patience, trust and hope that growth is happening below the surface. But, in these times, take heart. It is in the most difficult of situations that our roots are strengthened. Growth is still taking place, just below the surface.

I Hate Boundaries

Screen Shot 2014 12 11 at 11.15.36 AM 300x199 I Hate BoundariesAm I the only person that hates limits, expectations and boundaries? I know they are important, but if I was honest with myself, I hate it when others want to place limits on how I believe, think or behave. Sure, it sounds good when counselors tell you to apply boundaries to your kids. After all, you are the boss and applying boundaries to someone else seems appropriate and fair. I sure don’t mind telling those that work for me what I expect and I am quick to stand up for myself when I feel miss understood by my spouse. But it can be hard to embrace boundaries imposed by others. I hate it when bosses reprimand me for being late or highlight poorly done work, or if my spouse expects me to be home and clean when I would rather be out golfing with friends. Very few of us are thankful for these guardrails on our own behavior.

Boundaries are limits, borders or guardrails that are placed around our behaviors. We can place them ourselves or they can be placed by others. When they need to be placed by others, it is often a sign that we are living a risky lifestyle. As adults we often recognize our need to mitigate risk by putting up guardrails. Married guys try not to go out for drinks alone with single women. We try to watch what we eat to avoid future health issues. Boundaries are completely necessary and help us function in society in a healthy way. Teens, however, don’t have the necessary experience to put guardrails up for themselves. They believe that they are capable of handling complete freedom.

If we chafe against boundaries being placed on us as adults and look for ways to negotiate our way through them, we can’t expect our kids to react much differently. After all, we find ways to play golf or be late to work for appropriate reasons in exchange for working harder or staying later on other days. Well, our kids are no different and actually want to find ways to live with the boundaries that we set. Note that I didn’t say ‘within’ the boundaries. They want to live with, or survive, the boundaries that they are experiencing within the home, which means that teens don’t often want to give in too much and are usually only interested in expanding the boundary. But you’ve gotta love them for trying.

So Mom and Dad, recognize the completely normal battle that occurs over maintaining this line. Smile as your teens try to expand their freedoms. Try not to take it personally when they violate your boundaries, but also don’t ignore it and give way. Boundaries provide structure, support and safety in our lives. Evaluate the lines that you have established in the home. As your child gets older, some of these boundaries can and should be expanded while others need to be firmly maintained. Talk with your teen, negotiate, and remember boundaries are there to bump against. Guardrails keep us from careening over the cliff. Don’t remove them in your life or in the lives of your teens.

The Power of Words

Screen Shot 2015 02 19 at 11.03.39 AM 300x242 The Power of WordsHave you ever thought about the power that your words have? In one description, words are like seeds planted in the soil of one’s heart that have the potential to produce life or death. What we say to people has consequences that can affect them in the short- or the long-term. These effects can be detrimental to one’s development emotionally, physically and spiritually. Your words have power.

Can you recall a word or a phrase that was said to you that left an imprint that has affected your actions, the way you think, or who you are today? Some of those words were empowering, while others were disabling. Some of those words were so hurtful that they robbed you of your potential for greatness in your life to where every opportunity of success seemed distant. You missed that interview on purpose or decided to turn down that opportunity because those negative words from the past are still being played in your head. The reality is that people from all walks of life have experienced words and their powerful effects. The power of words can be toxic and can produce hurts and hang-ups that can be passed on from one generation to the next.

As a pastor and licensed counselor, I have seen the power of words produce emotional hurt and total discord in families. There’s a popular saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” The reality is that words DO hurt, and they can leave deep wounds that minimize peoples’ choices and devalue their self-worth. For example, I remember counseling a client who struggled with the hurt of being told by his ex-wife that he was a ‘loser’ and that he was ‘worthless.’ These words haunted him as he struggled with self-esteem and connection in other relationships. To diffuse his hurt, he turned to drinking alcohol. He finally lost his job and became very depressed. When he finally did get help, the affects of those words were set so deep that it took some time for him to expose the lies of those words. Words hurt, especially when someone you love speaks them, particularly when it comes to spouses or parents. Because you love them and value what they say, their words have more weight and can sink in deeper than words said by others that you don’t have an intimate relationship with.

Parents have a lot of power in how they influence their children. Children learn a lot through modeling and if we are modeling words of negativity, then we are teaching our children tools of destruction. When words are constantly spoken over our children, they learn to believe those words. Those words become ingrained in their minds, and then in their hearts, to where those words have set root and become automatic beliefs. For instance, a child can be called “stupid,” or “idiot,” or “incapable,” so many times that one day the belief is acted upon, and then parents act surprised when they see the power of their words acted out. I’m not placing blame, but pointing out a reality that happens in our homes. It is easy to create a culture that manifests a conditioning that can scar and trigger children to believe lies instead of the truth that everyone has potential for greatness. I know we as parents believe this and we want what’s best for our kids; yet, at times when we speak to them, we are not mindful enough of how our emotions, tone, and body language might communicate something that we don’t want our kids to internalize.

Screen Shot 2015 02 19 at 11.02.22 AM 266x300 The Power of WordsMany kids internalize words or ideas that have been said and will grow to believe them. Children from ages 1-5 years old are like sponges that soak up all that is modeled for them. If damaging behavior and speech towards them continues, those words can produce behavioral patterns that can later be devices leading to discord. I have seen this so many times in teenagers who devalue their parents thoughts and opinions because there were more words of destruction spoken in their homes than there were words of life. The outcome is that when these kids grow up, they can carry on the cycle to the next generation. How can we break this cycle? How can we use our words to bring life instead of destruction?

Consider this practice: speak LIFE. Speaking LIFE is a phrase to remember before speaking negatively. It takes some work because some us can be impulsive, but when rooted in love and a conscious effort to model success to your family and friends, the process becomes easier. Here are some practices to remember by using this acronym of L.O.V.E.:

L-ove – Speak out of Love, never out of hurt or negative emotions.

I-ll words – If you do speak hurtfully to someone, take ownership and commit to restore that relationship because you value that person.

F-orgive yourself – We make mistakes, but don’t stay there…break the cycle.

E-xemplify – Speak with control, love, and safety.

 

Watch — Students create their own video to express the change in their identity – watch the words change !!

 

Paul Po Ching,  MA
Admissions Counselor