August, 16 2018

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Sacramento Agency Helps Troubled Teens Through Holidays

While most teenagers were hanging out at the mall over the holidays, 13-year-old Kristal and 15-year-old Jenny were singing Christmas songs and handing out candy canes at a senior center in Carmichael.

The girls, however, are not like most teenagers. Kristal can't control her emotions and came close to being sent to a group home. Jenny suffers from hallucinations.

For the girls and 10 other troubled teenagers who also have emotional and psychological problems, the Christmas caroling was part of their therapy as clients of a mental health and foster care agency.

But to the seniors at Aegis Living Center at Walnut and Cypress avenues, the young people were nothing more than just plain teenagers.

Troubled Teens Bringing Music to The Ears

"I think it is great. I remember when I was that little," said 82-year-old Mary Seidlitz, a resident of Aegis who was enjoying the caroling.

John Hansen, 81, another resident who sat next to Seidlitz, said more teenagers should go out of their way to do something different.

"It is an opportunity for them to spread their wings," Hansen said.

Rebecca Pottenger, who works with EMQ Children & Family Services, said the visit to the senior center was a way for the teenagers to step away from their problems.

"Their behavioral problem creates a social gap with their peers. They have the inability to engage. It makes a world of difference when they are placed in an atmosphere that has no stigma," Pottenger said.

Lyn Farr, regional vice president for EMQ, which is based in San Jose and has an office of 70 employees in Sacramento, said her clients are referred by the county mental health department, Child Protective Services and the county Probation Department. The children range in age from 6 to 18.

Some are born with mental health problems, some are traumatized into having emotional problems and others who are arrested are later found to have psychological and emotional disabilities, she said.

Like the Stanford Home, Sacramento Children's Home and River Oak, EMQ provides mental health and foster care placement services for these children and their families.

Out of the 200 children receiving such services, about half are EMQ clients, Farr said of the agency that has been in Sacramento since 1999.

"These are the throwaway kids. These are kids who get trapped into special education. These are kids who end up at juvenile hall. These are kids who are substance abusers," Farr said.

"We can't afford to throw these kids away. They will turn into adult problems."

EMQ stands for Eastfield Ming Quong, which was formed in 1987, when Eastfield Children's Center and Ming Quong Children's Center merged.

Today, the organization, which has about 700 employees, provides services in 30 counties in the state. Recently, it expanded into Placer and Nevada counties.

"Our clients are children who have been living in group homes," Farr said. "Our job is to get them a home. If they don't have homes, we find their family through the Internet."

Though much of EMQ's work deals with foster placements, most of the clients are receiving mental health services.

Called wraparound services, EMQ works with mental health professionals, officials from Child Protective Services and family members to come up with a plan to deal with a child's behavior.

"Like any destination, there are many paths to get there. There are many ways to approach anger problems," Farr said.

Kristal said she was having anger problems at home, but with the help of her counselor, she is developing coping skills to control her emotions.

"I'm getting along better with my brother and mom," said Kristal, who lives in Antelope.

Jenny, who lives in Citrus Heights, said her counselor helps her to set goals and find ways to achieve them one step at a time.

"I see and hear things that aren't real," the teen said. "It never goes away. They haven't found a cure for it."

Related Articles:
Massachusetts Ranch for Troubled Teens Nearing Completion 1/1/08
Sacramento Creates Two Programs for Troubled Teens 12/31/07
Document's Show Nebraska Shooter Was a Troubled Teen 12/27/07
Treatment Center in Indiana Expands 12/27/07
Wardle Academy in Wyoming Loses Funding 12/25/07
Louisiana Boot Camp Offers School Alternative 12/25/07
STAR Academy in Florida Short on Funds 12/24/07
Maryland Police Try to Keep Troubled Teens from Becoming Statistics 12/7/07
Test Predicts Psychosis in Troubled Teens 1/7/08
California Cities Not to Limit Residential Treatment Centers 12/21/07

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