Mary's Center's Teen Program
Founded on the core belief that “teens will respond positively if they are treated with honesty and respect,” the Mary's Center Teen Program in Washington DC offers a unique mix of general health, nutrition, sexual health, and counseling services, as well as educational, vocational, and community-oriented support services. The program, open to youth ages 13 to 21, helps young people develop responsibility for their physical and emotional health and to make wise lifestyle choices. It also supports them in developing healthy interpersonal relationships, improving their educational activities and economic circumstances, and thriving in a diverse community.
The Teen Program was launched in 1990, soon after Mary's Center, a federally qualified health center, opened its doors. The program operates in a separate space with its own staff but arranges for certain medical and mental health services available through the Center. There are also special Teen Health Clinics on Saturdays. Depending on individual needs, teens may see their case managers, known as Family Support Workers, weekly or multiple times a week. Unlike many adolescent programs that find it challenging to attract young men, the Mary's Center Teen Program has successfully involved both male and female teens in its activities. Approximately half of the adolescents it serves are male. This is due in part to the fact that many boys previously seen in the Center's pediatric program make a natural transition to the teen program.
The program's commitment to youth development is visible from the teen's first contact. As part of the orientation process, the staff makes clear that the program is committed to giving the teen respectful and confidential care in a safe environment. After talking about their health needs and completing a thorough questionnaire on their educational and medical history, adolescents are paired with a Family Support Worker who actively engages them in their care. The emphasis on youth development is also apparent in the exposure given to the young people through trips to colleges, and the Summer Youth Employment Program, which provides job preparation. In addition, there is an after-school peer health educator program that trains adolescents to present health education information to local schools and community organizations.
Parent involvement is another important component of the program. Seen as positive assets to teens, parents are provided with valuable information on what to expect as adolescents move through different phases of development and are taught healthy ways to handle this sometimes challenging period of family life. Referrals to mental health services and other programs are also available to parents.
For more information, please visit http://www.maryscenter.org/course/after-school-program.