The importance of Forgiving :)

Authored by: Chris Bereshnyi, Family Therapist

As July 7th is Global Forgiveness Day, I would like to talk about the benefits of forgiving. Along with other acts, forgiveness definitely falls into the category of “easier said than done.” However, there are many benefits associated with the act.

According to the Mayo Clinic, forgiving can lead to healthier relationships, greater spiritual and psychological well-being, less anxiety/stress/hostility, lower blood pressure, fewer symptoms of depression, stronger immune system, improved heart health, and higher self-esteem.


Furthermore, letting go of resentment and thoughts of revenge can lead to understanding, and having empathy for the one who hurt you. Most people don’t set out to intentionally hurt others, but everyone has hurt someone at some point during their lifetime.When we think about the times we have hurt others, it can help us to understand those who hurt us. This can decrease the pain, and make forgiveness easier.

According to an article found at John Hopkins Medicine, “engaging in the act of forgiveness can be easier if you let go expectations and empathize with the other person”. So consider forgiving those who have wronged you, as your health and emotional well-being may depend on it.

Posted in Family Counseling, Mental Health, Mental Health | Leave a comment

Happy 4th of July!

flag4th-of-july.jpgShare some good history reminders and fun facts about why we celebrate the 4th. Let’s make sure kids know why and see it as much more than a great outdoor BBQ … and of course we all love that too! There are a myriad of ways Americans commonly choose to celebrate this holiday – from family-friendly festivals, fireworks and parades to feasting on traditional foods like hot dogs and barbecue. Feel free to share of few of these background tidbits.

The Fourth of July marks our country’s birthday. On this day in 1776, the members of the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia, adopting the final draft of the Declaration of Independence, proclaiming our sovereignty from Great Britain.

Why did this holiday come about? The American colonists had been upset with British rule for a long time — most famously because the British government taxed them without giving them any sort of democratic representation. That conflict escalated into open fighting between colonial militias and the British army at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, in April 1775. It was another year before the shadow government formed by the colonies — called the Continental Congress — decided that the colonies and Britain were never, ever, ever getting back together again.

Since the 1770s, the Fourth of July has grown from a commemoration of America’s independence from Great Britain to a general celebration of America as a country — a day for Americans to show their national pride and patriotism.


Here are 20 interesting things you may or may not already know about the 4th of July.

1. Initially adopted by Congress on July 2, 1776, the revised version of the Declaration of Independence was not adopted until two days later.

2. The oldest, continuous Independence Day celebration in the United States is the 4th of July Parade in Bristol, Rhode Island; it began in 1785.

3. The Declaration of Independence was penned by Thomas Jefferson and signed by 56 men representing 13 colonies.

4. One of the United States’ patriotic songs, “Yankee Doodle” was originally sung by British military officers prior to the Revolution as a means to mock the disorganized American colonists who fought alongside them during the French and Indian Wars.

5. France, Greece, Poland, Russia and several countries in South America used the Declaration of Independence as a beacon in their own struggles for freedom.

6. The “Star Spangled Banner” was written by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812 and not decreed the official national anthem of the United States until 1931.

7. Three U.S. Presidents, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe, died on July 4th; Adams and Jefferson died within hours of each other in 1826 while Monroe died in 1831.

8. In July 1776, the estimated number of people living in the newly independent nation was 2.5 million. According to the U.S. and World Population Clock, the nation’s estimated population in July 2013 will be 316.2 million.

9. The Pennsylvania Evening Post was the first newspaper to print the Declaration of Independence.

10. Both the Philippines and Rwanda celebrate July 4th as a day of liberation. In Southeast Asia, it is known as “Republic Day” and Rwandans celebrate “Liberation Day.”

11. The country’s 30th president, Calvin Coolidge, was born on Independence Day in 1872.

12. Americans consume about 155 million hot dogs on Independence Day alone; it is the biggest hot dog holiday of the year.

13. In 1870 Congress made Independence Day an official unpaid holiday; in 1938, it was changed to a paid federal holiday.

14. Americans began observing the Fourth of July as early as 1777, when the first-ever major celebration in Philadelphia included a parade and a thirteen-shot cannon salute and fireworks.

15. To avoid cracking it, the Liberty Bell has not been rung since 1846. To mark the quintessential day, every fourth of July it is symbolically tapped 13 times.

16. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson are responsible for the bald eagle as the national bird; Benjamin Franklin wanted it to be the turkey.

17. Eight of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were born in Britain.

18. The American Pyrotechnics Association (APA) estimates that more than 14,000 professional firework displays light up the skies in the United States each 4th of July.

19. Two of our nation’s great national symbols were made overseas. The Liberty Bell was cast in England, and the Statue of Liberty in France.

20. The average age of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence was 45. Benjamin Franklin was the oldest at age 70, and Edward Rutledge was the youngest at age 26.

kidsafetyEnjoy your 4th of July celebration and remember a few other safety tips. Keep kids and pets safe around fireworks. Be mindful of your neighbors who are sensitive to the loud noises and veterans with PTSD whom fireworks may trigger anxiety. Check the Unified Fire Department website for other safety tips and to see what areas of the county and your july-4-dog.jpgneighborhood might have restrictions. Be aware of rules and regulations in your area as fines can be very steep. And we all know how many fires are burning in our state so please be aware of that there are many high grasses and trees that are so dry that it won’t take much to ignite them with fireworks. Be safe out there! #youthslco

Posted in Communication Tips, Family Activities, History, read, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Supporting LGBTQ Youth at Salt Lake County Youth Services

LGBTQ Banner BlogAuthored by Maria Drummond, Youth Services Rec Therapist

Salt Lake County Youth Services strives to provide an affirmative experience for the youth and families that access our services, regardless of race, economic status, religion, documentation status, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

As we wrap up June, which is National Pride Month, we’d like to take a moment to highlight the specific efforts we have made to support the LGBTQ youth and families we serve. About 5 years ago, the LGBTQ Advocates committee was created by some staff at Youth Services for the purpose of increasing Youth Services’ accessibility to LGBTQ youth and families.

Over the last 5 years, Youth Services has been providing LGBTQ Cultural Competency trainings to our staff, and have hosted influential members of the LGBTQ Community at our annual Staff Training Retreats to speak on the subject for 3 years running now.

We’ve transformed our gendered bathroom stalls for public use into single user, gender neutral bathrooms, and also have single user, gender neutral bathrooms available throughout the campus for use by staff and in our residential spaces for use by the kids and teens in emergency shelter with us.

If you were to walk through our campus, you’d find rainbow flag banners and affirmative posters advising youth that they are not alone, and providing information about where to access support in time of crisis.

We have been participating in Utah Pride Center’s annual Pride Festival and/or parade for about 5 years as well, which is always a fun time and a great opportunity to reach out to the broader community to show our support.Jessica May 2017 Pride Fest Outreach Table

Just over a year ago, our director signed a new operating procedure into place called: LGBTQI/GNC Youth. This operating procedure was approved by The Division of Child and Family Services, Office of Licensing, and the District Attorney’s office. It states, among other things, that “Staff may assign a client to a facility or a [bed] room consistent with the client’s stated gender identity.” This policy brings us into compliance with the Child Welfare League of America’s Best Practice Guidelines for Serving LGBT Youth in Out-Of-Home Care.  (Wilber, Shannon, Ryan, Caitlin, and Marksamer, Jody. CWLA Best Practice Guidelines: Serving LGBT Youth in Out-Of-Home Care. Child Welfare League of America. 2006). T Salazar.2 2017 Pride Fest Outreach Table

Here at Youth Services, we are proud to be able to offer affirmative care to LGBTQ youth and families. If you or someone you know needs some extra support as they move through a coming out process, or have experienced housing instability as a result of coming out, contact Youth Services at 385-468-4500 for immediate safety, shelter and support.

Posted in After School Program, Bully, Family Activities, Family Counseling, Homeless Youth, LGBTQ, Mental Health, Mental Health, Safe Place, Uncategorized, Youth Groups | Leave a comment


Authored by: Erin Dixon, Group Home Supervisor

If you ask my 6 year old son, he will tell you that his daddy can do ANYTHING! He will often report that his father is stronger than whomever he is talking to, or that he is faster than everyone in the room. From using the nail gun, to setting up the computer on the television to watch a movie online, my son is convinced that his dad is the best at everything!

When my son walks in the house he will often mimic the way his father enters the room by opening the door. He cracks it at first, and then announces his arrival by saying “Hello, hello? Hello!” as he walks in.

Over the years my son has had a lot of questions about his father because he doesn’t live with us. Actually he has been challenged many  times about his father, since he is not biologically linked to him. He has had grown adults making comments such as, “where is your REAL dad?” To which both of us would argue, what is a “REAL dad?” You see, my son has chosen a neighbor as his dad. It happened four years ago when he actually offered since he knew my son’s biological father is not in his life.

Since that time we call him “REAL dad”. He has truly been a father. He has been to performances, birthday parties, family events. As well, he has shown my son how to wash dishes, use power tools, cook meals, start fires, set up tents, tie knots, heal dogs, fold laundry, and how to choose new words when he has said something that sounds “sassy” and disrespectful.


My son knows that his dad is a safe person to go to with questions and fears. Fortunately, every time he has said an “I love you” to his dad, his father has replied in return with an “I love you too son!” His dad has never left without a hug, a kiss, and words of encouragement. My son hears that his father is proud of him, and that he loves him. I cannot think of anything that could make a dad more REAL.


I remind my son that families come in all types. Some families live in one house, some live in two. Some have a mom, some have a dad, some have two moms, or two dads; there can be one parent in one house and two in another, and all of these variations are just as REAL and right and good and valid as any another.

Your family is your tribe. It is the people that stick with you regardless of your behaviors, choices, or distance. My son has a father who is not biologically related to him and who lives four houses away from us, but you know what? He does have the best dad ever!
I hope, especially at this time, that each of us will take time to reflect on who has served that role in our lives, whether it is a biological father, a step – father, a neighbor, a mom, or a character from a story. Take time to appreciate the “REAL dad” in your world and honor yourself by accepting the amazing goodness he, she or it has brought to your growth.

Love the village that has raised you, and be the tribe for the next generation to come 🙂

Posted in Family Activities, SLCO, Success Stories, Youth Groups | Leave a comment

How to Avoid the Summer Slide

Authored By: Ricky Vigil, After-school Program Coordinator

Summer is every kid’s favorite time of the year. Warmer days mean more time spent outdoors or in a pool, more time with their friends, and maybe sometime at a summer camp or on a family vacation.

Of course,  the most important part of summer for kids is having NO SCHOOL! While it is necessary to take a break from the sometimes strenuous schedule of daily academics, it is even more essential to keep children and their brains active during the summer months so they don’t begin next school year at a disadvantage.


According to, low-income youth loose about 2-3 months of math knowledge and reading proficiency over the summer. By the time students reach fifth grade, they can be 2 ½-3 years behind their peers in math and reading skills.

In Salt Lake County, we’re lucky to have a great library system which made summer reading a huge priority. Actually, at, library patrons can download reading records with activity ideas, bite-size readings (poems, etc), arts, crafts and more. For each activity completed, participants can record their process and be rewarded with a free book and/or with a ticket for a drawing that will get them into the Natural History Museum. The really cool thing about this challenge is there are separate trackers for adults, teens and kids, so the whole family can join  and work towards their goals. Kids who read at a young age are more likely to continue reading as adults, and parents who lead by example will often see their kids engaging in reading as well.


Actually, the library is also hosting a variety of STEM Camps at various branches over the summer ( and is offering ZAP Summer Passports ( where kids and families can enjoy some of Salt Lake’s Zoos, Arts and Parks at a free or discounted rate. The goal is to fill the passport and attend an end-of-summer party at the planetarium.

While every kid deserves a break, it’s crucial that they are still engaging in learning throughout the summer. Luckily, there are many great resources within our communities that can help them to fulfill that purpose.


Posted in After School Program, Library, Parenting Tips, read, Safe Place, Youth Groups | Leave a comment

Today is Flag Day!

Authored by: Sarafina Shukuru, Intern from the Refugee Program

This is the home of the brave! How many times do we sing the national anthem before an event? I think at school, at any sporting event, or even when we are at work. However, there is a lot to talk about when it comes to the Flag and its special day.

The flag was adopted by Woodrow Wilson, twenty-eighth president of the United States, in 1916. It consists of 13 blue and white stripes representing 13 colonies.


Flag Day was established as a congress celebration on June 14th, 1777.  Although its not a federal holiday, it has been established as a state holiday in New York and Pennsylvania. However, in the rest of the country, businesses, federal and government offices are open.

Why do we celebrate Flag Day? We celebrate Flag Day in remembrance of what the flag represents and also those who fought to protect it. The flag represents hardiness, purity, and justice.  It is also represent a free country.

What to do on Flag Day? The best idea is probably to display the flag. According to the Veteran Affairs, the flag should be on top to pay respect to those who are in the military.

Posted in History | Leave a comment

Me, as a Refugee and an Intern

Authored by: Sarafina Shukuru, Intern from the Refugee Program

When I heard about an internship at the Refugee Center, a place that helps families from third world countries, I was excited about it. The internship implied working and the possibility of earning a grant. I took the offer without even knowing where they were going to hire me, but I am glad Salt Lake County Youth Services did!

A little about me. I’m from East Africa. I come from a small, but not so small country called Tanzania. I was a child, but I still remember my family and I going through many trials. We were in danger, so we had to move to a refugee camp. That’s when we met the United Nations (U.N). We needed to leave, it was a tough time for my nation.

We decided to go through a long process and finally came to America. I was 10 years old. It took three years to move to the United States, after going through questions and examinations. We were thankful, but the process continued as soon as we moved. They had more questions and exams to take when came in.


Fortunately, my dad could find a job within a month and my siblings started to go to school. I got lucky and actually graduated from High School in 2015. However, the relationship with my family was not the best and it got to a point in which they decided to kick me out.


Luckily, I got a friend who only wanted me to pay her 500 a month to stay at her place. I took the offer and everything went great until I started working. Things got intense. Since I wasn’t on the lease, I wasn’t able to get a key from my friend. I would come home late from work and she would be sleeping or sometimes not even home. One day I decided to give her most of my paycheck with the hope that she would give me a copy of the key. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

I decided to go Utah’s Department of Workforce Services, talked to a counselor and connected with a Transition Home Caseworker. I moved in. Things got easier, but after three months of working, they decided to let me go. I moved back home and started thinking about what I wanted to do. Maybe school? I didn’t have enough savings for that. I went back to work. While employed, I applied to a few scholarships but didn’t hear anything back.

Things at home were just getting worse, so I decided to leave. I went from couch to couch until Summer, when a Transition Home Manager told me about Volunteers of America (VOA). I used to think that homelessness was only for old people, but that was a myth. At VOA, I found out that there are many youths who like me, were going through all kinds of issues. I met a person that was going to school but didn’t have enough funds to pay for a room, some others were dealing with drugs, many were undocumented, and there was at least two people who aged out of foster care.


It was difficult to watch. It was hard because some of the youth didn’t want the help that was offered to them. VOA provides food, clothes, hygiene, and school items. I stayed there for about four months while attending school. The staff helped me with homework, advised me and provided the schools supplies that I needed for my classes. I passed the majority of my courses and failed only one. Without VOA, I know that my situation would have been worse and probably I would have been one of those sleeping outside.

I just think that poverty is a huge issue in today’s world. You never know when, but it could come to you. Any person could get evicted or fired at any minute, and all of the sudden a tent is all you have. Where do you turn to afterwards? Drugs. Many people sell them to earn a living. But once they are caught, they will be going to jail or a rehab center. Most of them can pay the fine, but then they try to get a job and they don’t get a call back because of the charges on file. It’s harsh what homeless people must go through.

How do you end homelessness? Experts says that homelessness in the state has been reduced by 91%. But how did it work? I think housing, transportation, support, and job connections. There is still a lot to be done, but Utah is heading in the right direction of getting people off the streets.

Posted in Homeless Youth, SLCO, Youth Groups | Leave a comment