DCF Youth

  • Chalk the Walk: Spirits remain high among consumers despite COVID-19 pandemic

    Hearts, rainbows, and well-wishes decorate the sidewalks and driveways of Willingboro, New Jersey.

    Like footprints, these colorful drawings and positive messages were left behind by the children in SERV’s DCF program. As the country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve ventured out into the community to participate in Chalk the Walk—a national movement focused on spreading joy, optimism, and inspiration.

    “Since we’ve all been practicing social distancing, we have to find new ways to connect with friends, family, and the community,” said Kristina Escobar, SERV’s Director of Behavior Support Services.

    “Chalk the Walk is the perfect way to bring people together during this trying time,” she said. “With each sketch or note we leave on the sidewalk, we are spreading happiness and hope, and we are reminding our neighbors that we are in this together.”

    But chalking the walk isn’t the only way the children in DCF homes are keeping their spirits up. While some prefer the outdoors, others have found solace in the kitchen, baking their favorite treats such as chocolate chip cookies and red velvet cupcakes.

    On Friday, March 27, several of them came together to throw a surprise birthday party for Program Manager Juliana Ike.

    The party was a “huge hit,” according to Ike, who said she was "overwhelmed with joy" when the children suprised her.

    "I feel very appreciated and valued working at SERV," Ike added.

    The pandemic has not distracted consumers from their personal fitness goals, either. In fact, many participate in an hour-long workout class every day, wherein they perform push-ups, sit-ups, and various bodyweight exercises. They’ve also gravitated towards playing sports and going for long walks.

    In a recent email to staff, SERV’s CEO Regina Widdows wrote, “To say I’m proud of our staff would be a tremendous understatement. While this situation continues to rapidly change, what remains the same is [their] focus on our organization’s mission and [their] desire to provide the best possible care to our consumers. Despite all the challenges [they] face in [their] personal life—and I’m sure there are many right now—[they] arrive to work each day with passion and enthusiasm. For that, I am extremely thankful.”

    Escobar echoed Widdows’ sentiment when describing the actions of staff. “Everyone has really stepped up,” she said. “The staff has been truly amazing, and they are all working non-stop to make sure the consumers are happy and to keep the chaos of the outside world at bay.”

  • SERV opens new home for youth with intellectual disabilities

    SERV Achievement Centers, a division of SERV Behavioral Health System (SERV BHS), celebrated the grand opening of a group home for youth ages 14 to 17 with intellectual and development disabilities on July 23. 

    The 5-bedroom home is one of three homes in Willingboro that came to fruition through an award from the N.J. Division of Children and Families to provide services for children and their families.

    During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Regina Widdows, President/CEO of SERV BHS, and Bob Bacon, Chief Operating Officer of SERV Achievement Centers, addressed more than 40 guests, including representatives from youth organizations, area corporations, SERV board members, and staff. “I am so thankful to so many of you who have been with us every step of the way so that this day would come,” Widdows said.  

    The homes are dedicated to providing youth with a safe, nurturing and therapeutically supportive environment. The program includes a comprehensive array of services to assist the youth in acquiring skills needed to successfully return to their family home. Under the direction of Kristina Escobar, a board-certified behavior analyst, SERV’s highly trained staff will develop individual support plans and identify goals for each youth to foster personal growth, development and independence in a supportive environment. Staff also will work jointly with the youth’s parent/guardian to ameliorate any challenges before the child returns home.

    For access to care, call 1-833-CAN-SERV.

  • SERV welcomes 'Flat Stanley'

    Meet Stanley, SERV’s newest resident. He stands approximately 7 ½ inches tall, wearing red and yellow shoes, with his green button-down shirt tucked into orange slacks, his polka dot tie done up in a Windsor knot, and his brown hair parted in a neat style.

    This colorful paper cut-out is based on Stanley Lambchop, a character in the popular children's book series  “Flat Stanley” by author Jeff Brown. In the stories, Stanley is pancaked by a falling bulletin board and then goes on many adventures. He sneaks under doors, sails like a kite on the breeze, and is mailed in an envelope to far-off destinations.

    Now, Stanley has found his way to SERV, and the children in the DCF program are sending him on new adventures.

    “After reading the books together, the children and staff in SERV’s DCF program decided to participate in the Flat Stanley Project,” said Kristina Escobar, SERV’s Director of Behavior Support Services.

    “Right now, with everything that’s going on in the world, it’s important to stay positive and find creative projects to occupy our free time. This hands-on activity is a great way for the children to connect with other consumers and stay busy during this crisis.”

    On Monday, the children in SERV’s DCF program mailed Flat Stanley to another group home. They are asking the consumers who receive him to take pictures and then write a positive letter before sending him to the next home. 

    “The children are so excited to discuss, track, and write about their flat character's journey and adventures,” Escobar said. “We will keep the project going until Stanley visits every SERV location, and we hope everyone welcomes this opportunity to connect with us.”