Cascade Views Podcast

Stephanie Alvstad - Serving Central Oregon Youth

May 13, 2022 Michael Sipe - Central Oregon Leadership Discussions
Cascade Views Podcast
Stephanie Alvstad - Serving Central Oregon Youth
Show Notes Transcript

Stephanie Alvstad is the CEO and President of J Bar J Youth Services. She started with J Bar J in 1989 and began working with teens and families providing mediation, shelter, groups, and individual case management at Cascade Youth & Family Center. In 1997 she became CEO and over the past 30 years, Stephanie has developed the organization with the addition of multiple programs serving youth. These include the Academy at Sisters, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Oregon, Street Outreach, the LOFT Transitional Living Shelter for Homeless Youth, the at: project providing services for human and sex trafficking survivors, and J5 Parole and the Revocation program.

Stephanie’s focus has been on building the capacity of the organization through a continuum of services, to assure youth are prepared to be productive adults. She believes in the potential of young adults and has committed her career to support them. 

Stephanie has served on many Boards and is a state resource for legislation. She is at the table for important issues related to kids and families. She is currently a member of the Board of Directors for First Story, the Oregon Alliance for Children, a member of the Governor appointed Interstate Council for Juveniles, the Oregon Youth Authority Partner’s Advisory Council, and a member of the Rotary Club of Greater Bend.

Unknown Speaker  0:09  
Kids are looking for information. They're looking for connections. And they're pretty resilient. Adults become pretty habituated and some of their behaviors, whereas kids are open book and they're learning and they're changing and growing. And so what we try and do is provide a lot of information to them and make them choose to use it or not. But we want them to become healthy, happy adults, good partners, good employees and community members, good kids to parents, good parents themselves if they have kids. So that's, that's our goal. And it's really, it's really fun and rewarding. Welcome to cascade

Narrator  0:54  
views a discussion with Central Oregon leaders. Your host is Michael SIPE, local business and community leader Best Selling Author of the Nevada principle and candidate for Oregon State Representative for House District 53, which encompasses southern Redman sisters, Tom hello in northern bend. The purpose of these discussions is to share the views and insights of local leaders from a variety of community sectors on a range of timely and important regional and state issues. With that, now, here's your host, Michael SIPE.

Michael Sipe  1:29  
Thanks for joining us on cascade views. This is Michael SIPE, and I'm excited to welcome my friend Stephanie Altstadt. To the show today, Stephanie is the CEO and President of J bar j Youth Services. She started with J bar j in 1989, and began working with teens and families providing mediation, shelter groups and individual case management and cascade Youth and Family Center. In 1997, she became CEO. And over the past 30 years, Stephanie has developed organization with the addition of multiple programs serving youth. These include the academy and sisters, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Oregon, street outreach, a loft Transitional Living shelter for homeless youth, the app project providing services for human and sex trafficking survivors, and J five parole and the revocation program. Stephanie's focus has been on building the capacity of the organization through a continuum of services to assure youth are prepared to be productive adults. She believes in the potential of young adults and is committed her career to support them. Stephanie has served on many boards and is a state resource for legislation. She's at the table for important issues related to kids and families. He's currently a member of the Board of Directors for first story, the Oregon alliance for children, a member of the governor appointed interstate council for juveniles, the Oregon Youth Authority partners Advisory Council, and a member with me of the Rotary Club of Greater bend. Stephanie is joining us today to talk about youth here in Central Oregon, and how we can positively impact our upcoming leaders. So it's my pleasure to welcome to the show. Hi, Stephanie.

Unknown Speaker  3:04  
Hi, Mike, thank you so much for having me.

Michael Sipe  3:07  
Well, let's get started today with me asking you to tell us a bit about what sparked your passion to do what you do. What's the driving factor that led you to serve the youth of Central Oregon.

Unknown Speaker  3:20  
I really love working with kids, I have always really enjoyed it. Kids are looking for information. They're looking for connections. And they're pretty resilient. Adults become pretty habituated in some of their behaviors, whereas kids are open book and they're learning and they're changing and growing. And so what we try and do is provide a lot of information to them. And they can choose to use it or not. But we want them to become healthy, happy adults, good partners, good employees, good community members, good kids to their parents, good parents themselves if they have kids. So that's that's our goal. And it's really, it's really fun and rewarding.

Michael Sipe  4:11  
Thanks, Jay. Mark J has, as I alluded in the introduction to Mr. J's a huge program. Can you give us just a brief overview of each of the main aspects of the J bar j programs?

Unknown Speaker  4:22  
Sure. We did try and create a continuum of services. So we have prevention, intervention, treatment, and then education. And in prevention, we have we start out with Big Brothers Big Sisters. So mentoring, and then we go into kindred connections, which I like to call the Brothers Big Sisters kind of on steroids, because it's a whole family and kindred connections will say take a four and a seven year old into their home and raise them like their own if their mom, for example has to go in for six weeks per tree. May or two weeks into the hospital and doesn't have support. So that's Big Brothers Big Sisters included connections as a kind of our prevention programs. And then we go into intervention, which is cascade Youth and Family Center. The it's this whole suite of services from the loft, which is transitional living for homeless, the basic Center, which is mediation and short term shelter, trying to get parents and kids back together again, figure out what's going on street outreach, trying to get kids off the street, anti trafficking, again, we're running, we run into girls that are selling their selves for a place to live, or drugs or alcohol or food. And so that kind of ties in with that. And we provide the services. And then grandma's house for pregnant and parenting teens independent living program, which is foster kids coming out of Department of Human Services. So it's this whole array of services for kids. And then we get into treatment, which is J bar j Boys Ranch, J five, the academy at Sisters, and for those residential programs, kids live there and go to school there. So we are a registered school and can give credits because we have to educate the kids that are living in the residential programs. So it's a whole continuum of services.

Michael Sipe  6:32  
This is amazing. And from our friendship over the years, I've heard a variety of stories from from many of these different programs. I'd love to hear just a couple of stories anonymous, of course, so that we can understand at an individual level how people's lives are actually being transformed through the work that you're doing.

Unknown Speaker  6:53  
Yeah, you know, it's that's what makes it really fun. The longer you stay in this business, the more you see, kids come back. And like last summer cover a firefighter came by the Boys Ranch with his son and his wife. And he said, Yeah, I want to show my son where I grew up. And so they're living and working in the community. You go to get your car fixed. And the mechanic says, oh, yeah, I went to Dr. Dubois ranch. And it really helped me out or I'm at the hairdresser's getting my hair done. And the lady says, where you work, and I said, Gee, Vijay, and she said, Oh, my husband went there, but now he's an IT. big company, or works for the hospital or whatever. And, and we still use all the information that he learned. And so you know, if there's, there's people that are in the community, and you just don't know it. And then for I was at going to Starbucks, okay, I either get my hair done, or I'm going to start at Starbucks. And she said, Well, where do you work? And I said, Do you buy J and she said, Oh, I lived at the loft, and they really helped me get on my feet. So it's just inner, you know, when you start talking to people in the community, it's, it's really fun. That's the fun part of it. We had a young boy who was eight years old, that was crawling under his desk, and he was kind of being raised by his older brothers and sisters in. And the school counselor called and said, we need some help for this kid. And so we hooked him up with a big brother. And he was the first kid in his family to not end up in the juvenile justice system. And he went on to college, and he's still connected with his people. So those those are the super fun stories. Try to think of a few more. So one of the girls at the Academy wrote this beautiful letter to us. And she said, you know, she goes, Yeah, I I used to watch all the staff because I wanted to know what they were doing to have fun because my idea of having fun was to be going out and getting some weed and then getting some beer and then and then going on to get other stuff. And she said I suddenly realized I could go rock climbing or I could go skiing or I could go horseback riding or I could go out in nature and hike, Smith rocks and I didn't need all of those other things. And so that that was a really fun letter to get. And one other that sticks in my mind. That was huge was a young boy that was he was living out in the woods with his dad and they were in a tent or a camp trailer carrying the witch and they he would walk into town every day to get food For him, and he and his dad, and he would try and go to school. And so then his dad got really sick and ended up in the hospital. And so he ended up at the law. And he saved a bunch of money. And by the time his dad was better and able to come back, he had saved up enough money that he got his own apartment, and we have a picture of him with his key in front of his apartment. And so he got an apartment for he and his dad. I mean, it was just the greatest story. So it's just fun stuff like that, that keeps you kind of hooked in with all the kids to see them become successful and just become, you know, good solid members of the community.

Michael Sipe  10:42  
Wow, heartwarming stories got to be so fun to be you and just wander around the community and meet all these people. It's awesome. Let's take a minute, though, and focus specifically on homeless kids. So your website states that the number of unaccompanied homeless children under 18 has tripled from 2021 to I'm sorry, from 2020 to 2021. Why do you think there's been such a spike? And what do you see as the solution?

Unknown Speaker  11:11  
Yeah, you know, it's, it's, it's really tough. I mean, I am very concerned for our state and very concerned for our country. You know, I think we shut down a lot of businesses, we have rampant inflation, there's a lot of stuff that are there is really pushing people. And it was bad enough, and then to try and afford an apartment. Now it's even worse. And so we're trying to go upstream a little and work with the the adolescents, because if we can get kids, you know, during their teen years, we can prevent them from becoming adult homeless. And so Eliza Wilson is our community program manager, and she she works a lot with the city of she has done just a fabulous job in keeping us in the dialogue, because you want to keep kids in the dialogue, because again, that's your, you can prevent them from becoming the adult homeless. And so that's our goal. The other piece that I see with homeless is that I think a lot of the community doesn't have the understanding about you have to separate the populations. I mean, there are some real dangerous players out there. And if you want to read a really good book, it was called all God's children. And it was written about Courtland. And how a criminal kind of infiltrated homeless group and got kids to murder somebody. And so there's some real dangerous players out there. And so, you know, my, my advocacy is to say, look, there needs to be a place for kids, there needs to be a place for adult men, there needs to be a place for women, or women and children, but we shouldn't mix them. And this kind of all in one homeless camp is just not a good idea. There's a lot of drugs and alcohol and mental health issues. And so what is a good idea is things like the Baron's village where they have a social service center, and they have help for people and then the tiny homes, St. Denise place, same kind of model. Those are good ideas. You want support. And I'd be remiss if I didn't say in the homeless population and the homeless issue, you're gonna have 30 to 35%, that don't, even if you have services don't want to avail themselves as citizens. They're just, and it's not that they don't want to, it's that they're just not in a place to do that yet. And so we just need to be cognizant of that, that it's really hard. I mean, look at Seattle has tried to eliminate homelessness, and that was, you know, they were on their 10 year plan, and then there wasn't a 20 year plan, and it's not gotten any better. And so I'm an advocate of whatever you do, you need to be measuring success, and not just taking money and throwing it at people. There needs to be accountability. And there need to be the services available, but accountability. So I don't know, that will make sense. But those are some of my thoughts on the homeless system.

Michael Sipe  14:36  
You know, you triggered with with those comments, something that's really troubling to me, and that's sex trafficking. Do you think that there's any connection between the rise in homelessness and and sex trafficking?

Unknown Speaker  14:49  
Yeah. Sex trafficking. I think girls have always sold their bodies and in the 30 years I've been doing this I used to get calls and A there's a 16 year old girl living in a hotel room in Redmond with a 40 year old man. Um, so So I think that's been happening. I think sex traffickers got kind of smart over the years, and they realize that girls are a valuable commodity. And they can use them over and over and over again, unlike drugs, which you sell at once, and the shipments gone, and you have to take the risk again, whereas with girls, in any they get into the life, and the traffickers isolate them. And, and then take them wherever, and they're kind of stuck. We have a great advocate who speaks to that in bed, and she tells her story, she actually went to Mountain View, and ended up in Portland and got caught into the life and that traffic, and got out after three years. And it's a fascinating story. But yeah, there's just more and more kids that are susceptible to that. And I think it ties in with yes, there's not enough resources. But but also, it just ties in with where we're at in society, in terms of, you know, these kids feel a little lost and abandoned. And then you start getting into all the social media and the cell phone stuff. So if there is a huge issue, and people don't understand that it is, and oftentimes, the men will put everything in the victim's name. So therefore, when they get picked up, they can say, why was just giving her a ride. This is her car, her phone, although she doesn't have control of any event. And so they're really hard to prosecute. And so, you know, you have the prosecutor saying, yeah, there's, there's no sex trafficking. And then and it's like, yeah, but then we've had, you know, 50 to 70 girls that we've been working with, so we provide services, and there is a problem. And we try and work with all the other agencies and we we convene a group called the commercially sexually exploited children's Task Force or CSAT Task Force. And it involves the FBI, the sheriff, the Bend Police, the DHS office, kids center, saving grace, do you have RJ and, and really try and coordinate what's going on in the trafficking world like it, there was somebody that was coming across state lines, and he brought a traffic girl, and we ended up having her own shelter. But it's really tough, you know, and sometimes the girls want to run away, and they want to get back into it. Because guess what, they're making a lot of money. They're getting their hair done, they're getting a lot of clothes, they're getting drugs and alcohol. And so it's, it's a really tough, it's a tough situation.

Michael Sipe  18:10  
You know, it seems like, at least for some kids, that can be pretty depressing situation. And I see J, bar j and all the work that you're doing as as a kind of a center for hope, and a way that you can provide that to kids in the face of adversity. So how do you inspire them to keep moving forward, particularly if they've had, you know, a rough patch,

Unknown Speaker  18:34  
every child needs a caring adult in their lives. And we as adults have the experience, we've got some knowledge, some wisdom sometimes. And we need to, we need to share that with kids, I find kids just gravitate and, and they really they do want to hear and they do want structure. They fight you the whole way sometimes. But you know, we just try and provide them information of you know, who you were yesterday, you don't have to be that person tomorrow. And you have a you have control of how you think. And your thinking leads to your actions. And so we talk a lot about that about facts versus beliefs about thinking that will get them in trouble versus thinking that won't get them in trouble. Even buzzwords like you should do this or, or you always or you never and in in really trying to get kids to take ownership for themselves and their thinking and that leads them to be a happy healthy adults. Ultimately happy healthy adults have learned not to use victim stance not to use all those thinking years that get them in trouble. You know, the shows and always and we must do this. And again, I get back to we've become divided in our country. We've become I'm very judgmental, and everybody wants some soapbox. And I did mediation for eight years, good bringing parents and kids back together. And I think that's where we need to go, we need to listen to each other and be kind and have compassion and grace with one another instead of going, you know, whatever you say it was wrong. You know, no matter what you say, sometimes I feel as a leader, no matter what you say, it's, it could be wrong, according to who the audience is. And so you can never please all of the people, you have to love to be the best you can be and treat others the way that you want to be treated.

Michael Sipe  20:45  
That's some real truth. Well, as we move toward wrapping up here, would you share with us just a couple of key objectives that you have for J bar j over the next year or two.

Unknown Speaker  20:57  
Over the next year or two, we're working with Kindred connections. It's our partnership with a local churches through their fostering hope initiative they started two years ago. And they are intrigued and want to we have a house in Redmond. And they want to use it as a drop in shelter and a short term shelter for adolescents in Redmond. And so we're pretty excited to do that. I know the city and county is looking at the Oasis center for adults. And so we want to make sure that we're taking care of not only bend but Redmond as well, and getting those outlying communities. And so we're in the in the midst of remodeling that house right now for that. We're also working with the City of Bend on on homelessness. As I said, Eliza Wilson is working on that. And Jana Hill is the one working on Tinder connections along with Eileen. So they're doing a fabulous job. Yeah, so those are and then we'll also probably beef up our trafficking, we're looking at getting some more federal grants for that. So we're continuing to work with the specific task force, and shelters and services for traffic.

Michael Sipe  22:17  
Now, there's just so much here, we're gonna have to do another one or two of these just to dig into on Kinder connections and on a couple of other topics, but for today, how can our listeners get involved? And how can they learn more about J bar j.

Unknown Speaker  22:30  
If anybody ever wants to work with kids, we need staff, we need good staff, you could do part time, a couple shifts a week, if you want to work with kids, we train people. And so yeah, anybody that has been a parent or even not been a parent, that's kind of what we're trying to do. We're trying to be good parents to these kids provide structure and information and education and, and help them just become happy, healthy adults. So we can always be staff, volunteers, whatever.

Michael Sipe  23:03  
Awesome. Hey, I had one one last question that came to mind just now. So thinking about kids, what are some key warning signs that a child might be in danger, or maybe needs help?

Unknown Speaker  23:16  
We have seen over the last couple of years, lots of anxiety, depression, cutting suicidal thoughts, any isolation, you want to keep your kids close? And so the top risk factors are attitudes, values and beliefs and negative peer associations that are going to get them into into trouble. Those are the top risk factors. And so who they're hanging out with, and, and how they're thinking. And so just keeping your kids close. There's a lot of research out there, Dr. Jean 20, on the iGeneration how they're just more depressed when the more screen time they have cell phones. Yeah, monitor your cell phones, your kids don't let them have, you know, unlimited cell phones. I hate to say that, but we take cell phones away from kids for a bit, you know, kind of digital digital diet for a little bit. Thomas Kersting wrote a big book called disconnected. So there's lots of information on that too much screentime. So when they start to isolate, they don't want anything to do with you. Those are real triggers and warning signs.

Michael Sipe  24:28  
So just briefly, like if a parent just uh, you know, just a regular family regular parent out there begins to notice these warning signs. What would be your advice to the parents to I don't know if the right word is intervene, but you know, to care or to step in, to, to keep it from slipping away.

Unknown Speaker  24:48  
You know, I always come from the heart and I just go look to my own kids. I love you and I'm not trying to meddle in your life, but I want to spend time with you Because I care about you, and I love you. And so what's going on, you know, I mean, I would just say, spend more time with them, do something they want to do, and get them talking. You know, it was funny, one of the things is, when kids are getting in the car with us, even if it's just counselors to take them to an appointment, or job hunting or whatever, and the music's on and they're in the car, they start to tell you everything, because they feel comfortable. And so versus sitting in an office. So you know, I'd say get out and do stuff with your kids and spend time with them and ask them questions and ask them some of the hard questions and, and find out what's going on with them.

Michael Sipe  25:44  
That's just terrific advice. Definitely. It's been so good having you on the show. Thanks for the work you and your team does to serve our community. I think my main takeaway of our conversation today is just all of the amazing stories, how those are just so heartwarming, and encouraging. They've got to encourage you and your staff every day as you see the fruit of all the work that you do. Sure, appreciate your time. Really appreciate your message today.

Unknown Speaker  26:10  
Well, thank you and thank you for running for the challenge of serving as central Oregon's representative. I'm so excited. It's a hard job. So thank you for for running for a rep. We're excited to have you

Michael Sipe  26:24  
here comments about seeming that no matter what you say, always be in trouble. That's, that seems to be pretty much the story of my life right now. But, but it's fun, I'm meeting some great people and having a lot of fun and insurance. These podcasts have been a fantastic way for me to get to visit with leaders like you and to learn more and then to be able to share that with people all over the region and all over the state now actually. So thanks very much for being on the show. My guest today has been Stephanie l stands a leader of J bar j youth services. You can learn more about the organization at J bar That's J bar Thanks for tuning in.

Narrator  27:07  
Thanks for listening to cascade views with Michael SIPE. To find out more about Mike the upcoming election the key issues he's focused on in his campaign to represent Central Oregon and Salem as a state representative. visit w w w dot a voice for Central that's www dot a voice for Central You can get your own copy of Michael sites best selling book the Avada And finally, please vote in the upcoming election. Your Voice Matters

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