Formal education is a crucial key to future success. Miami Bridge Youth & Family Services, Inc. intercedes when Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) has exhausted its range of outreach activities to re-engage truant youth. Miami Bridge goes a step further by developing new strategies to assist youth in overcoming issues that impede school attendance and personal development. We offer an array of intervention services to assist families with troubled children ages 6-17 who are at-risk, chronic runaways, abused, abandoned or neglected and /or have a history of habitual truancy and related behaviors. Miami Bridge also offers community- based services such as “First Stop for Families,” our family crisis prevention/intervention program that assists families who feel overwhelmed due to youth who demonstrate ungovernable behaviors such as staying out late, difficulties in school , habitual truancy or conduct issues. Federal and state compliance offices provide assistance to schools that wish to refer truant students to a social service agency. Miami Bridge is one of two agencies serving M-DCPS that intercedes when M-DCPS’s Truancy Child Study Team meets and concludes that all efforts were made to re-engage the truant youth to no avail. There are approximately 1000 truant youth referred to Miami Bridge yearly that require new strategies to assist them in overcoming issues that impede school attendance, academic performance and /or prosocial skill development. Miami Bridge is serving all elementary, middle and postsecondary schools in the Central and South Region of Miami-Dade County. Through funding from the United Way and Florida Network, Miami Bridge is able to employ Master’s level counselors and case managers to address these critical issues.
RHY Basic Center Program provides a system of care for youth who are runaway, homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless outside the traditional child welfare, mental health, law enforcement, or juvenile justice systems, protecting them from exploitation and other dangers of life on the streets.The goal of the RHY Program is provide emergency shelter, food, clothing and supportive assistance in a trauma-informed, Positive Youth Development framework for homeless youth up to age 18. The program is meant to facilitate health and recovery, and promote the social and emotional well-being of children, youth and families.
Miami Bridge is the only designated National SafePlace in Miami for youth in need and has partners in the area. SafePlace is a community collaboration program that, day or night, makes it possible for any child or teenager in need to access help at specific locations which display the SafePlace sign. SafePlace connects youth to immediate help and safety while providing supportive services to both youth and their families. Youth may contact the Bridge by these other sites and may be transported to the shelter.
Each youth (and family), along with their counselor, develops a treatment or care plan which incorporates elements of on-site services, evidence-based treatment and programs and off-site service referrals to address assessed individual needs. Youth are involved in the development of their plans. Plans are monitored on a weekly basis during counseling sessions to ascertain progress towards goals and adjustments are made when needed. Prior to discharge, the youth, their family and the counselor develop an aftercare plan tailored to the progress and existing assessed needs of the youth. The aftercare plan will be monitored at 30 and 60 days at a minimum.
Miami Bridge provides individual and/or group counseling to each youth admitted to the project in observance of the following standards: a) Individual counseling is available to each youth three times per week admitted into the project on a temporary shelter basis and requesting such counseling; b) Group sessions and counseling are available to each youth admitted into the project on a daily basis; c) The individual and group counseling are provided by professional staff. Individual Counseling includes case plan development, case management, and exit counseling. Exit counseling includes, at a minimum, a discussion between staff and the youth of exit options, resources, and destinations appropriate for the well-being and continued progress of each youth.
Miami Bridge offers family counseling available to each parent or legal guardian and youth admitted to the agency. Family counseling is provided to each parent or legal guardian and youth admitted into the agency; resistant parents are re-approached on an ongoing basis to promote engagement in the counseling process. The family counseling is provided by qualified staff including professional licensed social work and mental health clinicians. Family counseling may extend after shelter exit via our First Stop for Families program, funded by other sources.
Miami Bridge maintains a close collaboration with Miami-Dade County Public Schools Educational Alternative Outreach Department and build upon our interagency agreement that provides credentialed teachers to staff our formal academic on-site school program for emergency shelter youth as well as other McKinney-Vento Act programming.
In 2015, Miami Bridge was awarded a grant by the Braman Foundation. This grant allowed Miami Bridge to create a tech lab and purchase computers for our shelters. Our youth now have computer and internet access in both shelter locations to assist with online assessments, homework, education and socialization.
Miami Bridge provides structured and supervised recreational/leisure time activities for youth admitted for shelter care. Recreational activities comprise a distinct block of time in the daily emergency shelter schedule and promote cooperative positive peer interaction and productive use of leisure time. Recreational/leisure time activities occur both on campus (arts and crafts, board games, basketball, volley ball, ping pong, pool, etc.) and off campus in the local community (movies, bowling skating, park activities etc.). Off-campus activities are frequently associated with the agency’s Positive Behavior Change Incentive Program, which promotes and rewards positive behaviors with special outings and activities based on a point-level system. Recreational activities and leisure time are ideal opportunities for youth to interact with our Youth Activity Workers, which provide the protective factor of positive adult role models and informal mentoring.
Miami Bridge provides weekly music therapy group and creative arts classes, both conducted by community volunteers. Miami Bridge Carnival, our signature arts program, is a collaborative arts intervention project between the Miami Bridge youth crisis shelter and local dancers, drummers, poets, playwrights, visual artists, and videographers. In a series of weekly workshops, Bridge residents age 10 through 17 learn the dance, drum, mask, and oral traditions of carnival around the world.
Youth at Miami Bridge are, themselves, going through their own crisis, yet they are eager to do more for others. In an effort to help heal, build confidence and restore hope, Miami Bridge has implemented a Pay it Forward program, encouraging children and teenagers within the organization to give back through volunteer work. Whether it’s serving in a soup kitchen on a Sunday or working at a horse ranch for children and adults with physical and cognitive disabilities, the range of community-focused projects is widespread. Giving back, especially with such purpose, gives youth a sense of pride and provides an opportunity to gain confidence while participating in a positive activity.
The Health Care Specialists at Miami Bridge are facilitators of all agency medical training and development. The medical team conducts Health Status Checklist assessments, assists with developing a plan for any needed health or dental care and addresses health-related emergencies. Facilitators create and maintain internal and community partnerships with key health and wellness agencies. Referrals are made to community partners.
Host homes are an entirely different concept from the foster care system. Firstly, being a host is a lower touch task than being a foster parent. Hosts are not expected to be actively involved in the young person’s case management and housing plan that they are hosting. Hosts (unlike foster parents) provide short-term housing (1 – 6 months only). Hosts are also paid a significantly lower stipend than foster parents. Hosts are not expected to create familial-like structures with the youth they’re hosting and act more like roommates than foster parents (especially since youth are ages 18-21).
Disagreements between hosts and youth can happen (as it does in any living situation of any kind). Case managers and Host Coordinators will work with youth and hosts to navigate conflict and make sure that both parties are equipped with conflict resolution skill sets and resources. Depending on the situation, case managers might mediate a dispute and help ensure a smooth resolution.
Hosts must understand that the youth they’re hosting are youth who have endured a great deal of trauma and obstacles in their lives and that to be trauma-informed, they need to understand that some things that are perceived as behavioral issues might be manifestations of trauma that can be navigated. Case Managers and Host Coordinators (depending on the situation) will work to navigate any problems that arise. Monthly meetings at the host’s home with the host and youth present will help mitigate any issues by ensuring that there is a consistent space to discuss how the living situation has been going and what resources or tools are needed to improve things.
Hosts set their own house rules, and these will look different for different hosts. When young people are reviewing the host applications, they’ll look at these different house rules, and from that, they’ll work with the host coordinator and case manager to identify the best fit. For example, if a young person is a smoker and a host application states they have a zero-tolerance policy for smoking of any kind, that’s probably not the best match on both ends. Both hosts and young people will meet together (with the case manager/host coordinator) and walk through their rules/expectations. Young people will also have expectations for what makes them feel safe at home, and those are equally as important as a hosts’ expectations.
In some instances, the young person and the host may feel comfortable with the young person being on their own while the host is out of town. Respite hosts are also essential to have in a host program. A respite host might be a host who isn’t able to do full-time hosting but can be a host to account for emergencies or a host going out of town, or they might be a host who has (more than one) room available, etc.
Typically at the beginning of the program, we ask that hosts be able to provide three meals daily to youth. Case managers will be working closely with youth throughout their stay to make sure they have groceries, access to food pantries and other community resources, and the relevant life skills to cook, etc. Hosts may contribute more if they have the means and the time to provide more meals or more grocery support. The same thing goes for transportation– case managers will work with youth to make sure they have bus passes or public transportation access to navigate independently. Hosts may provide as much or as little transportation as they’d like based on their schedules and comfort. What is most important is not to promote codependent relationships.