By Kerri Bartlett, Assistant Editor
Photos by Kerri Bartlett
Betsy Adgent (left) Director of Williamson County Juvenile Court & Services, Courtney Williams, vice president and Kevin Hacker, president of the board of directors of My Friend’s House visited the house during study time this week. Williams is leading the planning of the Mardi Gras Ball fundraiser, Feb. 8 and Krewe Party, Feb. 6.
For a temporary period of time about eight at-risk boys from around Middle Tennessee call “My Friend’s House,” home —a cozy house with a large porch located on Eastview Drive off West Main in Franklin.
Katie Creighton, program manager, and teacher Julie Linton, educational support coordinator, spend their days and/or evenings at My Friend’s House supporting at-risk youth as part of their mission to help improve the lives of young people.
My Friend’s House Family and Children’s Services—a group home—provides a safe, nurturing, comprehensive therapeutic setting for at-risk boys caught in the state custody system due to neglect, delinquent behavior or other legal family issues.
The organization’s mission is to serve at-risk youth in need by offering a home-like environment with a balance of structure, support, nurturing and expectations.
“The house functions just like any other family,” said Katie Creighton, program manager, who holds a degree in social work.
Homework time, Italian family dinners, chores and counseling take place in the four-bedroom residence equipped with bunk beds, an oversized kitchen with a sprawling gathering table surrounded by about 12-chairs. To complete the setting, the home has a peaceful backyard with a basketball goal.
Creighton explained that the house – licensed by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services and accredited by the Council on Accreditation – resembles a “large foster home” rather than other typical group homes.
It is operated by Williamson Youth, Inc.
Resident stays at the home are typically a few months or as long as a year.
A list of rotating chores is visibly posted so the boys know what is expected of them and adults are always available to ask the teens, ages 12 to 18, about their school day.
“Some of the kids have told me that no one has ever asked them about their day or what they are feeling,” Creighton said.
The organization provides a comprehensive support staff of about a dozen employees day and night.
Staff coordinates doctor appointments and school meetings, holds family counseling sessions throughout the week and organizes activities for the teens such as dinner out, visiting the Nashville Zoo or Schermerhorn Center or planning birthday parties.
The board is also made up of about 12 community leaders who volunteer to help make organization decisions and raise funds.
Julie Linton, educational support coordinator, guides study time with the students with goals that include gaining academic and athletic scholarships to college.
An English teacher at Centennial High by day, Linton works evenings Monday through Thursday at the home “helping the boys understand the importance of education and staying on top of their grades.”
“One of my success stories last year was when one of my kids went from truant and failing, to making A’s and B’s,” Linton said. “He eventually earned a full-ride scholarship to a college in Indiana.”
Because many of the boys attend CHS, Linton serves as the boys’ advocate at school.
Williamson County Juvenile Services Director Betsy Adgent, who has served the court for 35 years and as a board member since the nonprofit’s commencement, said that Williamson County lacks services for troubled youth.
“We are missing facilities in the Mid-Cumberland region,” Adgent said. “We have a lack of resources for young people.”
The organization’s informational material states that they are one of the last stand-alone residential group-homes in Middle Tennessee.
The organization also provides a separate court-appointed out-patient program called the Evening Diversion Program (EDP), for teens, boys and girls, with drug and alcohol problems, operating independently of the group home.
Throughout the years, the home has helped over 2,000 boys and their families.
Adgent said that many times families need help to overcome tough times, especially a safe place where children can heal and learn life skills.
“If you say that your family is not dysfunctional, you probably don’t have a family,” Adgent said. “We all need help navigating through family.”
Resident Jorge, 17, said that he feels cared for at the home.
“Miss Katie shows love and respect to us,” he said during a group counseling session. He also told about a person he admired – his mother, who has taught him strength.
“My mom is strong. She has had to work for everything that she has and do it mostly by herself.”
This is the first of a two part series about the work of My Friend’s House as the organization embarks upon their annual fundraising activity, Mardi Gras Ball which raises money for the organization’s programs and operations aiding the county’s troubled youth.
Mardi Gras Ball set for Feb. 8
The 10th annual Mardi Gras Ball benefitting My Friend’s House will be Saturday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. at Embassy Suites Hotel. The cost is $125 per patron ticket. The preview Krewe Party will be Thursday, Feb. 6 from 6:30 to 10 p.m. at BrewHouse South in Cool Springs. Admission is $20 at the door.
Four couple-nominees for the Mardi Gras Ball Court will battle each other to see who can raise the most donations for My Friend’s House. The top male and female will be crowned King and Queen. Voting ends at the conclusion of the Krewe Party. For more information about the event, visit www.myfriendshousetn.org
Posted on: 1/22/2014