Cathy Coonan, insurance professional at The Richards Group, recently assumed the role of President of the Youth Services Board of Directors, taking the reins from Rachel Selsky whose four-year term has just ended. Coonan has been on the agency’s Board of Directors for the past five years in a number of leadership positions.
During her tenure on the Youth Services board to date, Coonan has held the position of Vice President and has served on the Executive, Development, Events and Golf Tournament committees. Last month she co-chaired a successful Youth Services Annual Golf Tournament and Helicopter Golf Ball Drop with Craig Miskovich.
Coonan has served before in similar capacities in the region, as board chair of Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and as a founding member of Building a Better Brattleboro. She is active in the Brattleboro Rotary Club and serves on the Board of Directors of Garden Path Elder Living.
A commercial insurance agent for The Richards Group for the past 35 years, Coonan is a Certified Insurance Councilor specializing in health care and human service organizations. Coonan’s many contributions to the community were recognized by the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce when they named her 2004 Person of the Year.
“Cathy’s organizational skills and her deep community roots, having spent her entire life as a resident of Windham County, will be a tremendous asset to everyone at Youth Services,” said Russell Bradbury-Carlin, Youth Services’ executive director. “Cathy’s analytical abilities and her calming and sensible problem-solving makes her an excellent leader and role model for the board,” Bradbury-Carlin explained.
“I’m looking forward to continuing the legacy of strong leadership at Youth Services and supporting the critical work that the agency does for the young people, adults and families in our community,” Coonan said.
Ana Saavedra of Edward Jones Investments assumed the role of Vice-President of Youth Services’ Board.
Youth Services was founded forty-eight years ago to help young people and families in Windham County thrive. In that time they have helped countless numbers of young people discover their own path to adulthood to become a contributing member of our communities through runaway and homeless youth programs, Court Diversion, our mentoring programs, substance abuse counseling and DemoGraphix- a youth-led screen printing business.
Ben Underhill, owner of Putnam Insurance of Brattleboro, was voted Board Emeritus by Youth Services’ board of directors at the June board meeting on which Underhill “served with distinction” for over three decades. Two other board members have received the board emeritus status in Youth Services’ 46-year history: the late attorney Jesse Corum IV and Larry Cassidy, who continues to be a key advisor. Continue reading Ben Underhill voted board emeritus at Youth Services→
Human rights in Brattleboro got a special nod on Sunday, Dec. 10, thanks to a Youth Services staff member, Justin Bibee.
“I figured if there ever was a time for serious reflection in our state and community, it’s now,” Justin Bibee, formerly a student at SIT Graduate Institute who brought the proposal to recognize Human Rights Day to the Select Board, told the Reformer.
The Select Board received applause after members voted unanimously to approve the proclamation, which recognizes Dec. 10 as Human Rights Day. That day in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Bibee is finishing up his master’s degree in peace building and conflict transformation, with plans to graduate in May. He is currently working as a case manager for homeless youth and youth at risk for homelessness at Youth Services. He grew up in Rhode Island but hopes to continue living in Windham County and work at Youth Services once he completes school.
The political divisiveness in the United States right now and his job inspired him to bring the proclamation to the board.
“Every day I feel I’m on the front line fighting for my clients’ right to food, right to health, their human rights,” he told the Reformer. “I’m just fighting for an adequate standard of living, right to non-discrimination. It kills me. The people I work with every day, they have anxiety and pessimism. And that usually prevails over optimism.”
Bibee hopes the recognition of Human Rights Day locally will inspire activities and greater awareness around related issues through events and advocacy. The proclamation encourages citizens in town to take part in these things and “to strive to actualize a greater awareness of the importance of human rights.” It also mentions the United Nations Association of Vermont, which is a new chapter Bibee just started after a recent trip to Washington, D.C.
Bibee had spent time in Tanzanian refugee camps from January to June before taking the job at Youth Services. His goal there was to connect refugees to formal financial institutions in their country.
This story by Chris Mays appeared Dec. 7, 2017 in the Brattleboro Reformer. Reach staff writer Chris Mays at email@example.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter
and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.
Learn more about Restorative Justice and its place in our local justice system on Wednesday, November 29 at 6:30 p.m. at the Putney Library with a presentation by members of Youth Services and the Brattleboro Community Justice Center.
Restorative Justice is an approach to harm that focuses not on broken rules or laws but on how people are affected by wrongdoing and how to repair harm that was caused. People across the United States and the world use restorative justice to respond to conflicts in schools, community groups, neighborhoods, families, workplaces, and more. And restorative justice is happening right here in our communities, with youth and adults, in schools and in the legal system.
Rosie Nevins-Alderfer, director of Restorative Justice programs at Youth Services and Mel Motel, director of the Brattleboro Community Justice Center will be leading a conversation about what Restorative Justice is, why it matters, and what it looks like in our local area today.
Rosie Nevins-Alderfer joined Youth Services as the director of Restorative Justice Programs in 2015, after graduating from Northeastern University School of Law. At Youth Services her work encompasses court diversion, support for access to substance abuse and mental health treatment, victim advocacy, social and economic justice. The programs serve a variety of ages, and receive roughly 400 referrals per year from Windham County.
Mel Motel joined the Brattleboro Community Justice Center as director in August 2017. Prior to that she was founder and director of the Just Schools Project, where she worked with hundreds of youth and adults throughout New England to bring restorative practices to K-12 schools.
Putney Public Library is located at 55 Main St. This event is free and open to the public.
Brattleboro—Youth Services has officially hired Jocelyn York as its Balanced and Restorative Justice (BARJ) Coordinator for the organization, a position she has fulfilled on a temporary basis since last year. In this program, Youth Services works with youth ages 13 through 22 who have been adjudicated in Family Court, are on probation, are at risk of a truancy filing, have Youthful Offender Status, or require additional support.
According to Youth Services’ Executive Director, Russell Bradbury-Carlin, the agency’s BARJ program recognizes that many young people entering the criminal justice system have underlying factors that might lead to the criminal misconduct.
“Early intervention is key to addressing the reasons that kids aren’t showing up for school or have started to get in trouble with the law. With early intervention we can reduce the likelihood of future involvement in the justice system. Sometimes, by offering individual or group coaching in conflict resolution, anger management, and other skills, we can help the young person and their parents turn around the situation,” Bradbury-Carlin explained.
York is an integral part of the School Success Program, a collaboration between Youth Services and Windham Southeast Supervisory Union. The program focuses on truancy intervention for students age 13-18. The program works primarily one-on-one with students, but also includes work with families and other involved community providers.
“Jocelyn works from a different stance that the traditional “Truancy Officer”, Bradbury-Carlin stressed, “acting instead as a supportive helper with a positive, proactive and less punitive approach that builds the necessary skills and understanding needed for student and families to make a long-term commitment to education. She looks at all areas of a student and family’s life that contribute to or can help solve the problem.”
York’s supportive case management focuses on reducing stresses at home that might be related to money or work problems, housing issues, health needs, and/or transportation. She works to identify and develop the skills and interests of the young person.
York explains, “We link youth and their families with other community providers that can meet their needs. By getting my clients involved with other established community supports and activities outside of the school, I can help them reduce their life stressors and focus more clearly on what they need to do to get through school. When necessary, I also may help a student switch to another school or academic program that may better fit their needs than the traditional K-12 system.”
According to Bradbury-Carlin, the outcomes of this collaboration are increased school attendance, improved relationships in family and school, improved life satisfaction and self-esteem, increased parent involvement, and improved access and use of resources.
Before joining Youth Services, York had been a mental health worker on the Brattleboro Retreat’s Adolescent Inpatient Unit, a behavioral interventionist in Barre, Vermont for Washington County Mental Health’s early childhood autism program, and a pre-school teacher in Windsor County. York has bachelor’s degrees in Women’s Studies and Liberal Studies from Sonoma State University in California.
To find out more about Youth Services Restorative Justice programs, call Youth Services at (802) 257-0361 or visit www.youthservicesinc.org
Tammy Bischof, Vice President of Operations at Brattleboro Savings & Loan recently joined 18 other community members in serving on Youth Services’ board of directors. Through many programs ranging from Therapeutic Case Management, Court Diversion to mentoring, the nonprofit agency helps Windham County young people and families thrive.
Bischof has served before in similar capacities in the region, on the board of American Red Cross in Keene, NH from 2001-2003; as Vice Chair of the Keene, NH Chamber of Commerce Executive Committee from 2001-2004 and on the West Springfield, MA Chamber of Commerce from 2004-2006.
In banking for over 25 years, Bischof has held positions at New-Alliance Bank in Springfield, MA and Granite Bank in Keene prior to her five years at Brattleboro Savings & Loan.
“Tammy’s organizational, project management, and marketing skills will be extremely helpful to the Youth Services board,” said Rachel Selsky, Youth Services’ board president. “Already serving as the co-chair of Youth Services golf tournament committee, Tammy brings valued expertise with her marketing background and as an avid golfer and tournament participant,” Selsky said.
To learn how you can get involved with Youth Services or to refer a youth for assistance, visit www.youthservicesinc.org or call 802-257-0361.
Rosie Nevins-Alderfer, Director of Youth Services’ Restorative Justice programs, spoke passionately earlier this week at a Montpelier news conference releasing the new Governor’s Poverty Council report, which offers specific recommendations on reducing poverty. One recommendation to the legislators was giving more support to programs which ensure that “low resource” Vermonters are able to travel to employment by addressing the challenged faced by the state-wide Driver’s License Suspension program that Youth Services administers in Windham County.
Making a compelling argument for the audience of legislators, socials service agencies and journalists, Nevins-Alderfer outlined how having one’s license suspended can create a downward spiral where it is difficult to get to work to earn the money to pay the fines which quickly accumulate.
“Do I stay at home because my license was suspended for nonpayment or do I drive my sick child to the doctor in Boston?” Nevins-Alderfer asked, quoting her clients. “Do I drive to work because I am the sole income earner of my family? Do I drive to stay connected with my recovery community? Or risk relapsing into addiction?” she said, outlining some of the impossible choices her clients are making around their suspended licenses.
According to the Youth Services manager, Vermont has some of the highest number of non-traffic related offenses that can result in license suspension for non-pay: littering, illegal trash burning, underage possession of tobacco… “When a person with resources receives a ticket—for any violation, they pay it before suspension can occur, Nevins-Alderfer argued. “When a person with low or no resources receives a ticket they are faced with another impossible choice: rent or my license? Medical care or my license?” she said.
The license is suspended— Nevins-Alderfer explained, —but they often keep driving to access employment or essential services which may result in receiving more tickets for operating under suspension. “We’ve worked with individuals that have over 15 ticket violations—one of which was an actual substantive violation, maybe speeding, the rest are operating with suspended license,” Nevins-Alderfer elaborated.
Vermont’s establishment of the Driving with License Suspended program within Court Diversion has literally changed lives, according to Nevins-Alderfer. “Sometimes our case manager is the first point of contact someone has upon reentering the community from incarceration. Sometimes she is merely a port in the storm of other chaotic events,” she said.
The Youth Services Justice director went on to say that their clients, as a result of the program, are getting new jobs, better jobs, going to school, staying sober by staying connected to their recovery communities, bringing sick family to the doctor, attending their kids school or sports event for the first time.
The program reinstates a person’s license upon completion of a contract with the Vermont Judicial Bureau to pay all fines at an income sensitive rate. The person keeps their license so long as timely payments are made each month.
In order to make the program sustainable—the Judicial Bureau needs more resources and support, emphasized Nevins-Alderfer. “Although a person may have their license reinstated immediately once their contract is signed by a judge, the wait time has increased over the past months from about a week to more than three months,” she said. “For a person with limited means, three months is an eternity. It might mean losing their job, falling deeper into homelessness because they can’t get a job or reach essential services,” she stressed. Nevins-Alderfer advocates that more resources are vital to the success of this important program.
Nevins-Alderfer applauded The Pathways from Poverty Report as providing innovative and essential solutions to the significant challenges many Vermonters face. But she pointed out that the rental housing initiatives, employment initiatives such as work for pay or ban the box support for individuals leaving institutions: all of these programs have the essential prerequisite that people are able to get to work, get to service agencies, get to school—and not have to choose between paying citations or keeping food on the table and roof over their heads. “Access to driver’s licenses in the rural state of Vermont is an economic justice issue and a social justice issue,” Nevins-Alderfer concluded.
Nevins-Alderfer explains,” It’s important in our approach as a community to hold individuals accountable, but equally important to hold each other accountable for the structural harms that cause crime in the first place: poverty, lack of resources, structural racism, homophobia, and sexism, addiction, and lack of mental health support.”
Although diverse in their interventions, Youth Services’ Justice programs share the common goal of holding individuals accountable, but equally important holding each other accountable for the structural harms that cause crime in the first place: poverty, lack of resources, structural racism, homophobia, and sexism, addiction, and lack of mental health support.
Programs include Adult and Juvenile Court Diversion; Youth Substance Abuse Safety Program (YSASP); Driving with License Suspended Program (DLS); Supervised Visitation (SVP); Pre-Trial Services (PTS) and the Balanced and Restorative Justice Program (BARJ).
Seeking Volunteers for Diversion Panels in January