Description: Veterans Empowering Teens Through Support (VETTS) connects gang involved youth or youth who are at-risk for gang involvement to an individual they can trust and work with to change the trajectory of their life. The goal is to reduce recidivism to Juvenile Detention among youth that are gang involved or are at risk for gang involvement. The program also deters youth from re-engaging with the gang after release from detention. Additional objectives are to find positive ways for youth to channel their anger and frustration in a socially acceptable manner and to increase family involvement with the youth through motivational interviewing and re-framing techniques.
VETTS is a Therapeutic Support model. The Veterans engage in individual meetings and activities up to 10 hours per week/per child. The Veterans provide: recreational activities & sporting events, exposure to new social outlets in the community, assistance with homework, anger management techniques, exposure to college and/or career opportunities and foster family involvement. By working with the youth 2-3 times per week (face to face) and calling 2 x per week, they provide a consistency in the life of the youth and the Veteran becomes a trusted person that will follow them in the community after their discharge from incarceration.
Population of focus: Youth
Setting: Community center
Level of focus: Individual, Family, Community
Background: Veterans Empowering Teens Through Support began as a conceptual collaboration with New Connections, Inc. and The Department of Children and Families in 2012. Upon several focus groups with the youth, they identified a strong interest in the military and Veterans, our nation’s heroes, to be the ones to help make that change.
Issues addressed: VETTS addresses several key issues as identified by the focus groups: fatherlessness, the need for a role model that has channeled a difficult past into something positive, disproportionate minority contact, and the lack of someone to bond to in the community that can help the make better/different decisions in the moment. The program also addresses the consistency that is needed prior to discharge by providing a Veteran mentor that goes to the detention centers to visit with the youth 2-3 times a week. The Veteran mentor works on forming a relationship with the youth and developing their sense of responsibility prior to release to the community.
Dawn Renaud, MACP, MFT, LPC
Director, New Connections, Inc.
446A Blake Street, Suite 200
New Haven, CT 06515