By Jackie James —
Rachel*, at age 17, had been a product of foster homes for much of her life, at which time she was enrolled in Jewish Family and Children’s Service for help. She had been hospitalized, and her lack of a stable home resulted in her inability to care for herself or others, and simple tasks were challenging. She never felt wholly safe at one of her foster homes, mainly because she felt no one really wanted her, and she would act out. At age 18, Rachel would be an adult and she would no longer be in the care of the foster system, and she would be out on her own without any discernable skills to maintain herself as an adult. Working with the Department of Child Safety which had placed Rachel in the foster family, Jewish Family and Children’s Service supported the foster family by educating the family on skills needed to support Rachel. By the time she turned 18, Rachel was cooking for her foster family and had made great strides in learning to live independently. While it may seem like a nice story wrapped up in a bow, the struggle to help Rachel thrive was real, and it’s one that Jewish Family and Children’s Service faces every day.
Founded in 1935, Jewish Family and Children’s Service, also known as JFCS, has been helping Phoenix families with a variety of social services programs, including behavioral health and substance abuse counseling, medical care, and programs designed just for teens. With four clinic locations in the metro Phoenix area designed to strengthen families by providing necessary services, the JFCS team lives by the motto, “Healing Lives. Whatever it Takes”.
Tara Perdue, Clinical Trainer at JFCS in Phoenix, offered some insight into the history, the services offered, and the future of JFCS.
Q: Many people might jump to the conclusion that since your name is Jewish Family and Children’s Service that you have to be Jewish to receive assistance.
A: While we do offer services specifically for the Jewish community, the majority of our services are open to everyone, regardless of religion, race, gender, or background.
Q: How long has Jewish Family and Children’s Service been helping people in Arizona?
A: We were established by a group of Jewish women in 1935 who sought to provide necessary social services and assistance to members of the Jewish community, who, during the Great Depression, were often overlooked or actively discriminated against. Since that time, JFCS has evolved and expanded to offer services and programming to all demographics, from babies to seniors.
Q: Do you have any other sites other than your clinic sites?
A: We have four main clinic sites across the valley: the Michael R. Zent Healthcare Center at 3001 N 33rd Avenue in Phoenix; Glendale Healthcare Center, at 5701 W. Talavi Boulevard, Suite 180 in Glendale; our West Valley facility at 1840 N. 95th Avenue, suite 146, in Phoenix, and our Mesa location at 1255 W. Baseline Road, Suite B258 in Mesa. We also have satellite facilities, which house our Home Base Services, our Older Adult and Jewish Community Services, and our Shelter without Walls domestic violence program. We also offer a Real World Job Development Program, which helps prepare adolescents aging out of the foster care system to live independent, successful lives.
Q: What can teens learn through the JFCS Real World Job Development Program?
A: This program supports those kids that don’t have enough (school) credits, due to trauma or an unstable home life, to be able to complete their GED or graduate high school by offering classes in the morning and in the afternoon. We provide assistance to help them gain the skills to find employment. We offer a safe place to learn and develop social skills, and then assist them with job training and internships, as well as guidance and mentorship.
Q: How do you make members of all walks of life feel welcomed at your clinics?
A: We feature great diversity in our staff, to help everyone feel comfortable, including the LGBTQ community. We like to ‘meet them where they’re at’ in terms of making them feel comfortable. We do a really good job of trying to meet special requests, as well, and as our motto states, ‘do whatever it takes’ to assist. Each of our clinic sites have on-site translators for those whose first language isn’t English, and we always ensure we can accommodate each client, regardless of the language they speak. If plans A, B, and C don’t work, we will keep trying plans until we find something that does work!
Q: What if someone needs a service you don’t provide at JFCS?
A: We partner with as many as sixty agencies across the valley, including Mercy Care. If we can’t assist with a particular service, we can easily refer them to a qualified partnering agency to help. For instance, if a child would benefit from equine therapy, we don’t offer that service, but we can direct the family to a facility that offers this special care.
Q: What is your favorite aspect of your job?
A: I love seeing a family or child get the help that they have been looking for and how happy and appreciative they are after they have utilized our services. It’s amazing to witness the progress that is made and to think that we have helped so many in our community.
Q: What plans does JFCS have for the future?
A: Two of our sites have already been set up to offer both behavioral health care and primary health care under the same roof; a one-stop shop. Our plan is to have all four sites integrated to this model by 2020.
JFCS offers a variety of other services for adults and teens; more information can be found at www.jfcsaz.org. If you or someone you know is seeking counseling or psychiatry, suffering from domestic abuse, substance abuse or just need help transitioning to adulthood, contact us on our main line at 602.279.7655. Opportunities are available for individuals looking to volunteer, as well. If you are interested in serving your community through one of the volunteer programs at JFCS, contact Jody Goldman, Volunteer Coordinator, at email@example.com.
*Client name has been changed to protect privacy.