Empowering Youth Towards Brighter Futures

At the heart of every community lies its youth, budding with potential, hope, and dreams. Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS) profoundly understands this and has devoted significant resources to ensure our teenagers and young adults receive the tools and support they need to pave their path to success.

Building Foundations for Brighter Tomorrows

By partnering with several school systems across Northern Virginia, NVFS ensures every child receives a tailored experience. With the power of NVFS’s integrated service model, these programs effortlessly link youth and their families to many essential services, be it mental health counseling, immigration legal aid, or health care access.

The results? 93% of students under the Intervention, Prevention, and Education (IPE) program have maintained or improved their academic performance. Additionally, 82% of participants in the Family Reunification program have seen enhanced familial relationships and functions. The program enriches individual lives and strengthens our community’s fabric, one child at a time.

Violence Prevention & Intervention Program: Healing, Hope & Growth 

Operating in the high-need neighborhoods of Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, the Violence Prevention & Intervention Program’s (VPIP) primary mission is to curtail family and community violence. NVFS accomplishes this by offering a holistic, neighborhood-centric approach, ensuring that vulnerable immigrant youth and their families find stability and thrive in their chosen communities.

A standout feature of VPIP is its unparalleled accessibility. Understanding the unique challenges faced by families, especially those grappling with poverty, VPIP counselors prioritize flexibility. Be it in their homes, communities, or preferred locations, these counselors, proficient in both English and Spanish, ensure that services reach those in need without the barriers of language or location.

Help for Immigration Families in Northern Virginia

The transition to a new country can be fraught with challenges, with the added stressors of adjusting to unfamiliar norms and facing barriers of language, transportation, and cultural nuances. NVFS’s Violence Prevention and Intervention Program (VPIP) stands as a beacon of hope for such immigrant youth, offering them a safe haven to recover, grow, and flourish.

Moreover, VPIP’s meticulously curated workshops offer a goldmine of resources. For the youth, these cover a wide array of topics, from understanding one’s rights in various situations building healthy relationships to internet safety, and setting goals for the future. Similarly, for parents, workshops revolve around vital topics such as trauma understanding, internet safety, gang prevention, and effective communication.

NVFS’s VPIP acts as a sturdy bridge, guiding immigrant youth and their families from moments of trauma and uncertainty toward futures filled with promise, knowledge, and empowerment.

To hear first-hand accounts of the success of the NVFS VPIP program, we spoke to Leslie Salguero, NVFS Mental Health Counselor, Violence Prevention & Intervention Program, and asked five questions.

Can you tell us a story that shows NVFS and the community working together to create a positive outcome for a local family?

“I had the opportunity to work with a mother and son who experienced emotional, physical, sexual abuse, and trafficking in their home country and on their way to the US. In collaboration with Meg King, Therapeutic Case Manager, we worked directly with them over a few months. I provided mental health services, and Meg connected them with resources in their community. 

One of our goals as a team was for them to apply for a T-Visa, which they did. Our services are short-term, so we often don’t get to find out the outcome of applications. 

A few months after closing the case, I was asked to provide a letter for immigration stating the nature of the work I did with the family. This is pretty typical, and I assumed it would be the last I would hear about this particular case. However, thanks to their amazing attorney who thought of us and wanted to follow up, we found out that they were granted their Visa and now have one less thing to worry about and so many more opportunities in their futures.”

Tell us about the NVFS Intervention, Prevention & Intervention Program. And what is the link between the program and area schools/school counselors?

“The Violence Prevention and Intervention Program (VPIP) is a short-term mental health service provided to children, adolescents, and teens who have experienced trauma and are exhibiting symptoms as a result. This program exists to help those all over Northern Virginia, but most importantly, those who may not have otherwise been able to access services. Our team of counselors works with clients using evidence-based practices and regularly participates in continuous learning opportunities so that we can offer a wide range of modalities to our diverse populations.

Over the years, we’ve cultivated relationships with the schools and staff in the area to get these services to the right individuals. Without the help of the schools, we would find it much more difficult to connect with families and get buy-in on the importance of our services. Another advantage of working closely with schools is that we can work as a team/support system for the student and their family. Having first-hand information about daily strengths and struggles helps us as counselors develop more holistic and individualized treatment plans since we only see the client for a short period of time.” 

Tell us about the importance of a positive role model in a teen’s life. Are all the role models part of the NVFS staff, or do you use volunteers in your program?

“Positive role models give teens an alternative view of what their lives can look like presently and in the future. Many teens, even if their parents/guardians are positive influences, often find it easier to connect or receive guidance from individuals with whom they are not related. Our team does not use volunteers, but we provide information and resources for other providers who can be positive role models at the end of services.”

Importance of Positive Role Models:

  • Increased interest in going to school and maintaining good grades
  • Encourages the teen to change their worldview and their impact on others
  • Teens tend to create goals and actively work towards them when they see the outcome of someone who has already accomplished their goals
  • Reduction in risk-taking behaviors and socialization with negative peers

Tell us about the importance and the impact a positive experience or milestone has in a teen’s life. 

“Being a teenager is hard. As we often see, letting the negative eclipse the positive is easy. However, positive experiences boost self-esteem and encourage teens to push past their inhibitions and try new things.”  

Through the NVFS Youth Initiatives programs, our young community members find connections to healthy activities alongside learning to forge and nurture constructive relationships with their peers, family, and the world around them.