At Four Oaks, we believe that every child deserves the opportunity to succeed. We rely on our dedicated team of staff members to help carry out our mission of "assuring children become successful adults."
Our Youth Counselors play an integral role in caring for and encouraging the youth in our care. They serve as mentors, teachers, coaches, and confidants to youth who face unique mental and behavioral health challenges. We celebrate and thank our Youth Counselors who show up every day ready to support children and families on their journeys to success.
Check out this video of Chief Program Officer Kelli Malone discussing the integral role that Youth Counselors play at Four Oaks.
We would not be able to effectively serve and support the more than 27,000 children and families across Iowa that we work with without our dedicated team of staff members like the ones highlighted below.
A Reason to Stay
Like most people in life, the youth in Four Oaks' care can have their bad days. Youth Counselors like Lois Taylor, are there to support youth through these difficult days and to show them that someone cares. Lois works at Four Oaks Smith Center campus in Cedar Rapids.
“One day a girl I was working with was determined she was going to run away and I was just as determined she wasn’t going to,” Lois said. “We had a good relationship, so I sat and talked with her as often as I could and encouraged her throughout the morning.”
Before Lois punched out at the end of her shift, she checked in with the girl.
“She was in a better headspace, but when I was getting set to leave for the day I asked her if she would be there when I came in that night,” Lois said. “She said probably not because no one would care and she would be sitting alone at her desk all day.”
Lois then told the youth that she would be staying with her until she told her she would still be there when Lois returned for her next shift.
“I went and punched out and parked myself by her desk. We talked for the next couple of hours and she kept telling me to leave and wouldn’t promise me that she would be there that night,” Lois said. “So I stayed until she finally promised me she would stay. She told my supervisor that I was the only reason she did not run away that day. She later left the program and went on to college. That is one of the reasons why I love this job!”
A Lasting Impact
Four Oaks assures children become successful adults. It’s through the hard work and dedication of staff members like Dave Grobstich, a Youth Counselor at the Smith Center in Cedar Rapids, that Four Oaks is able to carry out this mission.
Dave was able to witness the success of a former client after he reconnected with them after 16 years.
After recognizing Dave, the former client shared with him what a lasting impact he had had on his life.
“He told me that he took what I told him very seriously,” Dave said. “He said, 'Because of you I am successful and have a great wife and a great family.'”
The former client expressed to Dave that the advice he had given him when he was a child was advice he had impressed upon his own kids “who turned out great.” The former client is now the vice president of his company.
“I walked away after talking to him with the biggest smile on my face,” Dave said. “This why we do what we do.”
Up For The Challenge
It takes a special kind of person to serve as a Youth Counselor. The work can be demanding and staff are often tasked with handling unique and challenging situations with the youth in Four Oaks care.
But individuals like Tiara Johnson step up to the challenge ready to make a difference in youth's lives.
Tiara serves as a Youth Counselor and Shift Leader in South Village, one of Four Oaks' psychiatric residential treatment programs for youth who have serious emotional and behavioral health problems.
"There are no words to describe the impact that Tiara has on the South Village unit," Julie Kurtz, Program Coordinator for South Village, said. "To say we would be lost without her is an understatement."
Tiara is known for bringing laughter, fun, and excitement to the unit but her true talent is her ability to relate to kids and staff in a manner that is needed most at that moment.
"When Tiara steps on the unit, everyone knows it is going to be a good day. Tiara is truly at her best with the most difficult children we serve," Julie said. "Not only is she up for the challenge, she asks for the challenge. All kids deserve a Tiara in their life."
Making A Difference
It is not every day that Four Oaks Youth Counselors are able to see the long-term impact that their care and support had on a client.
For Rodney Anderson, a Youth Counselor at Four Oaks’ Marion location, a chance encounter with a former client gave him the opportunity to see how the client had grown since being in Four Oaks’ care.
While Rodney was picking up snacks at a gas station before his next shift, the cashier asked him his name and if he still worked at Four Oaks. Rodney told the cashier that he was actually getting ready to clock in for his shift soon. The young man told Rodney his name and asked if Rodney remembered him.
“My memory recalled that name, only attached to someone who was much shorter and skinnier,” Rodney said.
Rodney commented on how the former client had grown and bulked up. The young man then talked with Rodney about how well he was doing and Rodney told him how proud of him he was.
“He then thanked me and Four Oaks for helping him. He apologized for some crazy days he had when I staffed his unit, but I never gave up on him,” Rodney said. “What we do matters and even when we feel like they are not listening to us or that we are insignificant, we cannot give up. The safety, consistency, and care we provide can make a world of difference. One child at a time, night after night, we push to make a difference.”
Every Unit Needs a Brianna
A leader. A caretaker. A supporter.
These are just a few of the roles that Brianna Schaefer fills as a Youth Counselor. Brianna serves as a Youth Counselor in South Village, one of Four Oaks' psychiatric residential treatment programs for children with serious emotional and behavioral problems.
She was recently promoted to Day Shift Leader and will serve as the lead Youth Counselor on call for the South Village unit. Her organizational skills and attention to detail make her the perfect person for the job.
"This alone would make her special but what makes Brianna really stand out is the positive attitude that she brings to those around her," Julie Kurtz, Program Coordinator for South Village, said. "Every unit needs a Brianna Schaefer and we here at South Village are very glad that she is a part of our team."
Brianna is committed to going above and beyond to support both the youth and her team in South Village. She recently create South Village t-shirts for staff that said "It really does 'Take a Village' to be successful."
An Influential Role Model
In the short amount of time that Timothy Jones has worked with Four Oaks, he has received a number of shoutouts from therapists, parents, and coworkers for the impact he has had on the youth served in South Village.
Timothy serves as a Youth Counselor in South Village, one of Four Oaks psychiatric residential treatment programs for children who have serious emotional and behavioral problems.
While the shoutouts he has received from therapists, parents, and coworkers are very complimentary, the most telling are the ones that he has received from the kids.
“Timothy has been the most influential male role model in my life. He has guided and encouraged me when I needed it the most," one youth said.
Timothy is dedicated to his role as a Youth Counselor and shows up every day ready to support the children and families Four Oaks serves on their journeys to success.
"South Village is truly blessed that Timothy is one of our own," Julie Kurtz, Program Coordinator for South Village, said.