Meet Trini, Christmas Box House Therapy Dog

Authored By: Maria Drummond, Recreation Therapist at Salt Lake County Youth Services

Trini and her handler, Becca, are a certified Therapy animal team with Intermountain Therapy Animals.

Trini spends an hour each week with the children in emergency shelter at The Christmas Box House, participating in what’s called “Animal Assisted Activities”. Basically, Trini comes to hang out with the kids. They can hold an extra leash and guide her through the Christmas Box House and the outdoor playgrounds around it, or read to her, or just give her belly rubs and hugs.


Becca’s job is to be sure that Trini is enjoying herself and to teach the toddlers she visits about how to handle an animal safely and responsibly. She can educate the kids on basic pet care, and point out the soft touches that Trini loves to get. The children, in turn, benefit from practicing gentle and respectful contact with Trini. These lessons can be applied on a larger scale by reminding the kids about respect and being gentle with their peer interactions as well. They also benefit by being about to show off their living space to Trini, who is consistently interested in seeing what they have to show her. This helps to build a sense of pride in the kids about where they are staying, which helps to create a positive experience while they are staying at The Christmas Box House.

Having Trini and Becca as regular visitors to the Christmas Box House adds a beautifully stabilizing hour to the children’s week. They can look forward to her next visit, and count on Trini wagging her tail with unconditional positive regard as they approach her. Staff can work with Becca about any topics that they would like to build into her next visit. For example, if following instructions has been an issue among the kids, Becca might teach the kids some basic commands to give to Trini and help to point out how helpful it is, and how much can be accomplished when Trini follows the children’s commands to accomplish whatever task they have decided to tackle with her that evening.


We hope to find a volunteer therapy animal team match for our other shelter programs as well, as spending time with a well-trained and responsive animal can help to reduce stress and calm people of many different ages and experiences. If you are looking for a companion animal of your own, visit Salt Lake County Animal Services to see if your match is waiting for you to adopt them! If you’re interested in learning more about volunteering with your animal to be a therapy animal team, visit Intermountain Therapy Animals’ website for details!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Kearns Jr. High Afterschool Program wins Inclusion Champion Award

Authored by: Lisa Whitehead, Afterschool Program Assistant

The Utah Afterschool Network held their 12th annual Jump Start conference for Afterschool Programs throughout the state of Utah on October 7th and 8th. This conference contained breakout sessions packed with information and resources to help create and maintain high quality day-to-day afterschool programs by facilitating proper behavior management skills, engaging enrichment activities, and other techniques that foster effective programming.

Over 60 Youth Services Afterschool Program staff attended the conference, which greatly exceeded the attendance of any prior year. Our staff was also engaged in participating in the conference. Several site coordinators presented a breakout session about creating community within afterschool programs, and the Kearns Jr. High program had the exciting privilege of receiving the Inclusion Program Champion Award. Three years ago, Kearns Jr. High accepted an offer to be one of the state’s pilot sites for participating in the KIT Program, with the end goal of offering fully-inclusive programs to all students. The KIT Program offers targeted training and make critical changes to the program to ensure that all students and families feel welcome and fully engaged in activities and services.


Kearns Jr. High was awarded specifically regarding their efforts for including a young student during the most recent Kearns Jr. High Summer Blast program. Tristan–a student who, despite physical setbacks, ultimately succeeded in participating in essentially every activity of the program due to the care of the program’s staff, and their ultimate goal to include everyone. Tristan and his family were present at the conference. It was a huge honor for our Afterschool Programs to be recognized in this way, and meat even more to have Tristan there to help the staff from the Kearns Summer Blast program to help celebrate their recognition.

IMG_2324 (002).JPG

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Get Your Flu Vaccinations Today

Authored by Nick Rupp, PR and Communications Coordinator, SLCO Health Department

When it comes to health, teens and preteens often feel invincible. teen-age-mouse-comicThey’re too young to be concerned about most age-related ailments, and they’re old enough to not worry as much about childhood illnesses. But this sense of invincibility is—like so many things in youth—false. Teens and preteens still need to be current on recommended immunizations, and that includes a flu vaccine every year.

In addition to protecting yourself, getting a flu shot is people, over age 65, because our immune systems become less robust as we age; those groups are more susceptible to serious complications from the flu.npr_flu_shot

Contrary to popular belief, the “flu” is not a stomach illness and it does not generally cause nausea or vomiting. Influenza, the virus that causes the flu, infects the nose, throat, and lungs, making the “flu” actually like a really, really bad cold. It also makes you extremely weak, achy, and tired, so much that people with the flu often cannot physically get out of bed. These symptoms can last a couple weeks.

Now is the time to get your flu vaccine for this season; flu generally begins circulating in flu-shotour community in late October, and it can take a couple weeks after receiving it for the vaccine to become fully effective. You can get a flu vaccine from many places in Salt Lake County: your health care provider, most local pharmacies, or any Salt Lake County Health Department Clinic. To make an appointment at the health department, call 385-468-SHOT (7468). Most insurance companies cover the cost of the seasonal flu vaccine.

For more information about the flu vaccine, visit the CDC or the Salt Lake County Health Department immunization program.

Posted in Uncategorized, Success Stories, Safe Place, Volunteers and Boards, After School Program, Communication Tips, SLCO, Treatment | Leave a comment

Suicide…Signs and Resources to Help

Authored by Chris Berishnyi, Youth Services Crisis Counselor

Suicide…  It’s a word that’s been in the news much too often lately. suicide-preventionAlmost everyone has been impacted by it and or knows someone who has attempted it, whether it’s a family member, close friend, or a classmate. Many times there is guilt associated with it, as loved ones wonder if there was anything they could have said or done that could have prevented the tragedy.

There are signs to look for that may indicate someone is contemplating suicide. Any suicide-prevention-1change in a person’s behavior that makes you pause can be such a sign. Some examples of these types of behaviors are: withdrawing from friends and family, missing work and moodiness. Additionally, there are risk factors that increase the likelihood of suicidal thoughts and attempts, such as depression and drug use, and a build-up of stress may act as a trigger.

Approaching someone with these concerns may be difficult for a number of reasons. One such reason is the myth that asking someone if they are thinking about suicide may give them the idea to do it, if they are not already contemplating it. girl-suicide-signIn fact, talking to someone you are concerned about shows that you care and give them an opportunity to express their feelings, which they may have been holding in due to fears that nobody cares about them, or feeling that their situation is hopeless.If and when you do decide to approach someone with your concerns, be prepared to listen and not judge their feelings. On the surface, it may appear that the person has a lot to live for, but they may not see it that way due to suffering from major depression. Talk about what is important to them and worth living for. After talking to them, you can help them connected to those who can help, such as mental health professionals or clergy. There are numerous other resources as well. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention lists the following resources:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-488-TALK (8255)
  • LGBT Trevor Lifeline: 1-866-488-7386
  • Crisis Teen Text Line: text “LISTEN” to 741-741
  • There also apps, such as MY3 and SAFEUT.
  • The University Neuropsychiatric Institute’s Mobile Crisis Outreach Team (MCOT) has a warm line (801-585-0129) where you can call and talk to a State of Utah Certified Peer Specialist.

And call Salt Lake County Youth Services at 385-468-4500 and ask to speak with a crisis counselor.

Posted in Bully, Child Abuse, Communication Tips, Family Counseling, Mental Health, Mental Health, Parenting Tips, Safe Place, SLCO, Substance Abuse, Teen Counseling, therapist, Treatment, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Snapchat it’s here to stay

Authored by: Janae Briggs, Prevention and Outreach Case Manager

What is snapchat? Snapchat is an app that is basically like texting but with pictures. It has been said that snapchat was created to send very, very naughty pictures of you. 41% of teens in the world have downloaded snapchat from the Apple ITunes store.


A few years back before snapchat made new changes, and changed the privacy codes, it just use to work by sending pictures and no one could screenshot. There was no way of keeping the picture that someone sent you. People would send pictures and you could only look at it for 10 seconds at the max, and that was it. Now, people can replay your snapchats and also screenshot them. The new changes that have been made, allow people to do more things or take advantage of the app and people themselves.

Snapchat is a fun way of communication, but always very sketchy so be careful with what you send to people. You can also have a lot of fun with the new snapchat filters, and stickers, they’re really funny to mess around with. Like I said before, snapchat can be a good but also a bad thing. So just be careful with what you do with it and what you post on it.

A few interesting facts about Snapchat:

The forecast looks good for Snapchat according to eMarketer. It is forecasting explosive growth for Snapchat’s ad revenue by next year. This jump is said to be attributed to Snapchat’s ability to reach younger millennials, its wider ad portfolio, and targeting ad improvements.

Augmented Glasses are almost here

Snapchat augmented glasses are almost here. It has been reported that they have been staffing for a team to start work on the glasses.

Since Snapchat has recently joined the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) this leads to speculation that they are getting closer to a real product. This also leads people to believe that becoming part of the SIG they will produce a device that connects to smartphones through Bluetooth.
Despite having 150 million daily active users who are addictively engaged with the app and a valuation of almost $20 billion, Snapchat faces fierce competition, especially from Facebook-owned Instagram.

It is evident that Facebook is not afraid to outright copy Snapchat by their introduction of Instagram Stories. It is a complete clone of Snapchat but people don’t care as evidenced by its 300 million daily active users.

To not be brushed aside by Facebook, Snapchat will need to look beyond its app. Hardware could be one avenue.

Remember as first stated, have lots of fun with Snapchat but be careful! Once it is sent, there is no way to get it back. You never know others intentions or motives.

Melanie Aviles, Salt Lake County Peer Mentor
Report: Snapchat ad revenues to reach almost $1 billion in 2017; by Sarah Perez (@sarahintampa); September 6, 2016
Snapchat’s Rumored Augmented Glasses Could be One Step Closer to Reality; BY RAYMOND WONG; September 6, 2016

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Afterschool Programs from a Volunteer’s Perspective

Authored by: Alexa Hernandez, Teen Volunteer at Copper Hills Elementary

I started volunteering at the Afterschool Program at Copper Hills Elementary at the beginning of last year. When I first started going there, I saw all these little kids who were each so different but somehow alike. Slowly, each one of them won a place in my heart. I care about each and every one of these kids and I would be willing to do anything for them. I don’t really think we notice how such small things can have such a huge impact.

Homework Time

We started every day in the Afterschool Program with homework time, which is one of my favorite things to do with the kids. We have teachers who work one-on-one with, as well as youth leaders and an afterschool coordinator. As a volunteer, I’m responsible for helping kids with their homework. It really touches you to know you helped little kids understand their homework and helped expanding their knowledge.

summer programs for teens salt lake city

Snack Time

After homework we have snack. It gives a chance for all our kids get to socialize—and the snacks are pretty good if you ask me. After snack we have a variety of clubs and enrichment activities. Last year at Copper Hills, we had community service, martial arts, arts and crafts. Not only do the kids enjoy each and every one of these, but the classes also taught them important skills. They learned how to perform good deeds and care about our environment and the people. The community service club performed a variety of tasks, such as picking up the garbage around the school, making dog toys to donate to an animal shelter, and painting toys in order to give them to a preschool. Arts and crafts allowed them to use their imagination in new ways, and martial arts taught them safety and protection. Not only do we have homework help and enrichment activities, but we also have field trips that the kids, workers and volunteers really enjoy.

Before I started volunteering at the Afterschool Program, I didn’t realize how important it was. I really do think that it impacts the lives of our kids. I think we have to give credit to our lovely coordinators, who do everything they can to provide the best learning experience and make the children, workers and volunteers feel like a team. It’s a family where we all have each other’s back. The program has not only impacted me, but also the lives of the kids. I’m truly grateful to be able to be a part of it.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Youth Services Employee Relations Committee is improving our workplace

Authored by: David Christensen, Group Home Therapist

The Youth Services Employee Relations Committee (ERC) was started several years ago to improve employee morale.  The committee provides a means for giving feedback from staff to administration about concerns and areas for improvement in the Division.  The current committee is comprised of ten employees that work in various areas of the Division including Clinical, Milestone, After-school, Family Resource Facilitation, Shelter Care, Prevention and Fiscal.

The committee has been focusing on several issues related to employee morale, namely hiring and promoting practices and employee training.  The committee talks to employees in their respective areas, discusses concerns in the meetings and feedback is prepared for administration.   During the last year, the committee has given two proposals to administration regarding hiring and promoting and employee training.  Both of the proposals were well received by management and are in the beginning stages of implementation.  We encourage active staff to be active in making the Division a great place to work.  There are many ways that you can get involved including providing feedback to the committee, becoming a member or making your work environment a positive, engaging place.  If you are interested in becoming part of the committee please contact David Christensen at or 84522.

The committee members are as follows:

• Jack Burbidge – Christmas BoxIMG_0351
• Janae Briggs – Prevention
• Bel Villa – After-school
• Caitlin Adams – Milestone
• David Christensen – Clinical/shelter
• Jeanene Randall – Fiscal
• Margaret Laforett  – Reception
• Lauren Greco – Family Resource Facilitation
• Desiree Steadman-Gallegos – Clinical
• Erin Dixon – Shelter supervisor

We hope that more staff people joins the committee as it is a great opportunity to be engaged in the development and continuous improvement of our work place.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment