Private, Faith-Based Organization Helps Troubled Youth

For over 50 Years, Boysville of Michigan Has Educated, Rehabilitated Wayward Teens

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The St. Vincent Home in Saginaw administers several of Boysville's programs for troubled youths, including campus residential services and foster care.

Many people think of "private education" as ivy-covered buildings full of elite students from wealthy families. Conversely, they believe that public schools are where one finds all other students, including the most troubled of youths.

But that view is an inaccurate one, as many privately funded educational organizations are showing by their commitment to helping troubled students get back on track.

One such organization is Boysville of Michigan, Inc., a child care and family preservation agency founded in 1948. A Catholic organization, Boysville seeks to rehabilitate troubled or adjudicated adolescents and provide them with a stable family life. Its official mission is "to provide for the social, emotional, educational, economic, and spiritual needs of its clients and staff with the goal of empowering children and families to function effectively in their community."

As a private, nonprofit organization, Boysville does not receive any tax funding, but it does receive compensation from the state for services rendered. About 90 percent of its $40 million annual budget comes from revenue from its services, and the remaining 10 percent comes from fundraising, according to David Jablonski, communications director for Boysville.

Boysville defines success according to three criteria: whether a child secures a legal home setting, whether he retains employment or remains in school, and whether he avoids any further trouble with the law. Under these standards, Boysville holds an 80-percent success rate after 12 months of treatment.

"Since 1990, Boysville has served over 12,000 youths, so an 80-percent success rate speaks for itself," Jablonski told MER. "We're striving to impact the remaining 20 percent."

Because most of the youths academically lag behind their peers, Boysville has made education "a key component" of its treatment, Jablonski indicated. The agency has a school on its main campus in Clinton and it has chartered the Charlotte Forten Academy in Detroit.

"We must ensure that education is not a deterrent to a child's self-esteem," Jablonski says.

The agency also provides spiritual guidance to the children, but they are not required to be Catholic.

"There must be a spiritual component in the lives of these kids," Jablonski explained, "but it is up to them to decide what that component is."

Serving over 1,000 boys-and girls-each day, Boysville's programs in 1998 reached 70 counties in Michigan and 27 counties in Ohio, including cities such as Detroit, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Saginaw, Traverse City, and Toledo. The programs have helped tens of thousands of children over Boysville's 52-year history.

Boysville's programs are divided into three major types: residential services, home and community-based services, and assessment and detention alternatives.

The residential services offer therapeutic and educational programs both in large campus settings and in smaller, more domestic atmospheres. Some residential programs help children who have abused substances or committed sexual offenses, and a special program addresses the needs of mentally impaired boys.

Boysville's home and community-based services provide foster care to youths who need the strong support of a family. The programs also offer outpatient drug counseling and support services for parents. The organization also has several secure and non-secure detention facilities, where delinquent youths can undergo comprehensive evaluations and rehabilitation.

Boysville maintains its Boysville Center for Policy and Practice Development, through which the staff cooperates with scholars to improve the agency's services and to provide information to other organizations. The agency's program evaluation department-a feature that most similar agencies lack-also focuses upon improving services.

Boysville originated over 50 years ago, when Edward Cardinal Mooney, the archbishop of Detroit, invited the Brothers of Holy Cross to run an orphanage in Clinton. The orphanage began to serve court-appointed youth in the 1960s. Today, about 70 percent of Boysville children have faced adjudication.