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Florence Crittenton Agency’s Crittenton Youth Services Program

Recently, Held Law Firm was privileged to do something special for a unique population of our community – the children at the Florence Crittenton Agency in Knoxville.

HLF and the Knoxville community collected numerous boxes of clothes for FCA through a two-week long clothing drive in January 2022. The clothing went directly to the girls who live at the facility.

These girls are part of the Crittenton Youth Services program, a structured group home that houses and treats young girls ranging from ages 13 to 18 with moderate to severe behavioral, emotional or substance abuse concerns.

“We have 16 youth in that department, and they are here for approximately 90 days but that depends on if they can get foster placement or another placement after that,” FCAK President and CEO Nancy Christian says. “They’re here for a variety of reasons. They could be in the juvenile justice system. They could have truancy, mental health and substance abuse issues.”

The CYS program’s goal is to provide holistic treatment through a structured seven days-a-week environment, designed to help adolescent girls recover from trauma while building stability for when they leave care. Each child receives a formal assessment and an individually tailored treatment plan that utilizes trauma-informed care and a host of therapeutic services. These services emphasize anger management, stress management, coping skills, conflict resolution, positive decision-making and independent living skills.

CYS also has an on-campus educational program facilitated by New Pathways Academy, a category one licensed school. Through NPA, children in the program can access middle and high-school level curriculum while receiving credits toward graduation and encouraging the pursuit of higher education.

Florence Crittenton staff work hard to make sure the girls have everything they need, including a home placement when they exit care; however, staffing shortages can sometimes make this difficult. According to Christian, workforce development is FCA’s greatest obstacle.

“Staffing is hard to get, and we’re 24/7, so we need a lot of frontline staff because we must have two people awake on the floor at all times,” Christian says. “I must give credit to the staff that we have. They have stepped up and made sure to provide the services needed for our youth and have been what I call heroes.”

Meanwhile, the children have challenges of their own to overcome. For the girls, adjusting to being away from their families is often the most difficult part of the process; however, Christian says that this hardship has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID-19 was difficult for the youth because we weren’t allowed to have visitors on campus,” Christian says. “That meant they had to Facetime their families, but we used Facetime often so they could do that. It was just really hard; if any person had COVID, then that was just one more person [facing] the quarantine issue. It was complicated, but we made it through to this point.”

While the clothing drive organized by Held Law Firm helped immensely, Christian says that many of the youth come without clothing and the biggest way the community can continue to support these girls is to keep sending clothes. The need is ongoing and donations from the community make a big impact.

The Florence Crittenton Agency is a 501(c)(3) organization that is dedicated to strengthening communities through effective prevention and treatment services to children and families.

If you would like to donate to the Florence Crittenton Agency in Knoxville, please contact them at (865) 602-2021. Held Law Firm is happy to accept and deliver donations as well.

This article was written and produced by Brad Blackwelder.