Helping At-Risk Youth Avoid the Prison Pipeline

05/06/13 0

A large part of the Lionheart Foundation’s mission focuses on highly at-risk youth. We are committed to helping adolescents succeed by providing tools to help them skillfully manage obstacles that are pervasive in their lives and often at the center of their high-risk and criminal behavior.  The need for support and services for these youth is great, and yet, in many instances, youth are incarcerated, often in the adult system, instead of being offered the services and support important to their success.

According to a survey conducted in 40 states by the Vera Institute, the cost of incarceration for America’s prisoners was $39 billion in 2010 alone. This cost is on the rise partly due to the incarceration of minors sentenced as adults.  Thankfully, there has been increasing focus from the media on the destructive impact of the school-to-prison pipeline that funnels at risk youth, some as young as 16, into our nation’s prisons.  A report by Tavis Smiley, “Education Under Arrest,” shines a light on this horrendous situation: 

On a brighter note, last week, the Massachusetts Houses of Representatives unanimously passed a bill that, if signed, will move all 17-year-old offenders from the adult system into the juvenile system, opening up possible opportunities for rehabilitation they might not otherwise have.

Helping at-risk youth avoid the prison pipeline was one of the many reasons the Lionheart Foundation launched The National Emotional Literacy Project for Youth-At-Risk in 2003. Lionheart is part of the solution to the problem and our new initiative to bring a classroom-based social-emotional literacy program to at-risk youth will provide needed support. This program is being piloted at Berkshire Farms, a residential treatment center and school in Canaan, NY. The current Power Source Program is geared to delivery by clinicians while the new curriculum will be geared to the classroom teacher. After piloting the program, Lionheart will work with school-based curriculum specialists to bring this pilot curriculum to another level, one that can be utilized in schools nationally.

Change doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t solely depend on what happens in schools and at the state capitols of our nation. It starts in communities and families. It starts with us.

Please let us know what you think about this topic by sharing this blog, or with a comment on our Facebook Page.  Thanks!


Copyright 2013  The Lionheart Foundation. Unlimited reproduction of this article is granted for non-commercial use.  Link to Lionheart Blog must be included with reprint.



15/05/13 0

Throughout the year we hear from facilitators across the country who offer Lionheart’s prison program, Houses of Healing, to incarcerated adults. The feedback they offer is typically outstanding and most valuable to us as we continue to develop our curricula for prisoners and youth.  Sometimes included are letters from the participants of the program, stories of struggle and change.  Just this afternoon we heard from a female inmate from South Carolina.   We were moved by what she had to say, and hope you are too. (J. Perry, COO, Lionheart)

          “When I started Houses of Healing I had high expectations. I’ve done that with every book I’ve read or class I’ve taken. I enter in thinking this will be the one that will make the difference—and I’m continually disappointed until now. Nine years worth of self-help books, courses and Bible studies and I finally found “the one.”  I can honestly say this book has transformed me. We all want to say that after taking a good course, but in this circumstance I know there is truth in the statement as my family has noticed measurable change in our interactions.

There are a number of ways Houses of Healing has positively impacted me. I used to be a very emotional person. I never realized how much until now. Not emotional as in overly reactive in an outward manner but inwardly my emotions would fly off the charts. I am now able to rationalize rather than emotionalize. I have found inner peace. When I encounter a situation that would have previously sent me in to an emotional tail-spin, I am able to stop. I can catch myself and in that moment I ask “what is the issue here?” that very question slows me down to the point where I am able to gather facts, look at my motivation, question the feelings and motivation of others and get to the root of the issues. Things are rarely as they first appear. I am able to remove myself from the situation emotionally and it gives me a different vantage point. It’s much like sitting back and watching a movie rather than being caught in the middle of the drama as a main character. The change in perspective makes all the difference. It’s amazing how much can happen in that brief moment prior to flipping that emotional switch. My inner calm and peace is maintained and huge issues seem to shrink before my eyes.

I have created a condensed version of the Daily Emotional Weather Report that I can mentally refer to on a situational level. This helps me clear away the emotional fog  and see a situation in the clear light of day. I am able to respond rather than react. For this alone I am grateful.

          Meditation has become a daily necessity. If I skip over it—I muddle through the day in a knot of tension. No matter what the day has held or what is to follow—taking a moment for meditation makes it all seem manageable.  I also welcome the time to literally “tune out” the buzz of prison.

Finally—Forgiveness…Houses of Healing has helped me see forgiveness as the gift it is. As with anything in life—the more you do it, the better you become. I’ve become quite proficient in giving it to others—with myself, not so much. I still struggle with self-forgiveness and have days when the guilt and shame swallow me whole. That being said, Houses of Healing has equipped me with the tools necessary to begin digging my way out of the pit. I’m just not there yet. Some days I welcome the darkness and pain. I feel deserving of it. But Houses of Healing has given me hope that perhaps one day I won’t feel like I need it any longer. For now I will just be grateful for the hope.

Thank you from the depths of my heart—for this opportunity to transform and grow emotionally and spiritually.”


Supporting Teen Parents To Change a Baby’s Life

24/04/13 0

Every ten minutes, another baby is born to a teen mother.  Even though statistics show a drop in Teen Pregnancy, the circumstances of babies born into the duress of poverty have been endemic for many years. For instance the state of Nevada recently announced they will spend an estimated 84 billion dollars addressing support for Teen Parents in 2013 and that figure will “barely help make a dent” according to state officials., The CDC just released a report highlighting the dire situation of repeat births among teen mothers. 183 teens give birth every day in the US, and 86% (1 in 5) are repeat births. The importance of educating and empowering these young women should not be underestimated. Teen parents who have the support system they need to become great mothers, are much more likely to give their babies the loving start they deserve.

 That is why in 2008, The Lionheart Foundation created a program for Teen Parents as part of our National Emotional Literacy Project for Youth at Risk. Power Source Parenting is a cutting edge program designed to give at risk teen parents the guidance and skills they need to be loving, effective parents and raise healthy children. The centerpiece of the program is the book, Power Source Parenting: Growing Up Strong and Raising Healthy Kids and The Power Source Parenting Facilitator’s Manual written by Dr. Bethany Casarjian, Clinical Director of Lionheart’s youth projects and co-author of Power Source. This theory-driven intervention provides the opportunity to impact the lives of thousands of teen parents as well as their children and future generations.

Our work with teen parents is an integral part of mission. In the past year, we received two “permission to use” requests from major national initiatives in Canada and the U.S., whereby our teen parenting program will gain exponential exposure. The first is “Parents as Teachers” (PAT), a national evidence-based maternal, infant, early childhood home visiting program with more than 5,600 full-time and 3,100 part-time parent educators serving 255,000 children. They wrote, “The Power Source Parenting book and Facilitator’s Manual are an impressive contribution to the field. The writing team from the National Office of PAT is revising our Teen Curriculum… We would like to place a sample of your ideas into the curriculum and frequently refer to the Power Source Parenting text.”

The other request came from a national project in Canada. Dr. J. MacDonald, wrote, “I am the Clinical Leader and senior psychiatrist of a maternal mental health program in Canada. We have been searching for resources that will speak in a language our young at risk mothers can relate to and have been very impressed with the clinical frontline relevance and helpfulness of your materials. We are leading a Canadian national project to develop the Mothers’ Mental Health Toolkit, a government funded resource for community-based family support workers to give to these young mothers. We would like to add Power Source Parenting to our resource list in the Toolkit. It is heartening to discover colleagues in developing healthy families and resilient communities.”

To learn more about the Lionheart Foundation, click here.


Help for At-Risk Youth

03/04/13 0

As the divide between the “haves” and the “have nots” widens, there is little doubt that the United States is failing some of its most vulnerable people in need of care and support. At-Risk Teens are imperiled on a daily basis at home, at school and in their communities. According to Bureau of Justice Statistics, the pattern of violent crimes against adolescents is rising at an alarming rate; while at the same time, the drop-out rate escalates at a record high. This comes on the heels of a CDC report that directly tied academic performance to various indicators of future success and well-being of our nation’s youth. Not surprisingly, the inability to maintain good academic standing very often has more to do with poor attendance based on outside factors, such as family and home life, gang activity, poverty, pregnancy, bullying, and drugs. Unfortunately, these ongoing challenges thwart many of our nation’s at-risk youth as they try to break the cycles of inequity that bar them from mainstream avenues leading toward success and stability.

That’s why in 2003, The Lionheart Foundation launched The National Emotional Literacy Project for Youth-At-Risk. This project consists of two major programs: Power Source and Power Source Parenting. Looking at Power Source, it is a unique book/curriculum/program that helps highly at-risk youth and young adults discover the best in themselves.  The program is both preventative and rehabilitative.  Power Source can be read by youth on their own, or the concepts, exercises and numerous firsthand stories by youth can be introduced and explored in facilitated groups or during individual counseling.

The centerpiece of the Power Source Program is the book/curriculum Power Source: Taking Charge of Your Life written by psychologist Bethany Casarjian, Ph.D.  and Houses of Healing author Robin Casarjian, M.A.  It is augmented by the Power Source Facilitator’s Manual and the Power Source Video Series.

Many front line professionals have given us glowing feedback about the program.  Jane Guttman, who has worked extensively in support of highly at risk youth for more than four decades, most recently in the juvenile justice system, has this to say about Power Source:

“I read Power Source: Taking Charge of Your Life. It’s a really good book. Im in youth detention. I got locked up because I thought no one had loved me but I learned from the book how to deal with that because I was going to become a crip but the book taught me a lot about not getting in a gang. Ever since I read the book I learned how to meditation. I didn’t like it at 1st but I got use to it so when I get mad I go move away from the problem and start to meditate. If I didn’t read this book I wouldn’t have known how to take charge of my life. I also had things that was said in the book happen to me a lot of it but I hope for a good future. When I leave detention I’m going to finish high school and get a job then go to college for automotive. I had fixed a lot of my problems I had with my friends and family members. Thanks for writing the book.”
Michael 18 years old Nashville, TN

Power Source can be read individually or used in facilitator-led groups. The material is appropriate for virtually any organization serving the needs of highly at-risk adolescents, including juvenile institutions, detention centers, drug treatment programs, private and public schools, and a variety of community-based programs.

For more information about Lionheart’s Youth Program Click Here



21/03/13 0

The U.S. has the highest per capita rate of incarceration in the "civilized" world.

You are not alone.  Almost everyone today knows someone, or of someone, who is incarcerated or involved with the criminal justice system – probation or parole. The rate of incarceration has accelerated at an  astounding pace in the U.S. with approximately 7,000,000 Americans under correctional supervision.  The United States has the highest per capita rate of incarceration in the “civilized” world.  One in every 100 Americans is behind bars.  It is no wonder that most of us know of someone in these unfortunate circumstances. We at the Lionheart Foundation hear from concerned friends and relatives of inmates every day looking for help.

Circumstances are as varied as there are inmates.  Some are incarcerated for the first time, while some have long histories of incarceration and recidivism.  Some are in for a short time, while others are coming out after a very long sentence.  No matter the situation, there are also commonalities, one of the most pressing being how men and women will learn and grow while incarcerated so that they are prepared to live a successful crime-free, drug free life after release.

Lionheart’s social emotional literacy program for prisoners, Houses of Healing, helps incarcerated men and women take stock of their lives, change destructive behavior patterns while giving them support to alter the course of their lives.  This program has supported tens of thousands of prisoners through self-help, one-on-one counseling and facilitated groups in prisons across the country.

Many prison budgets have been slashed, and support for programming is often the first to be eliminated.  In response, the Lionheart Foundation conducted an outreach and free distribution initiative (6/11—12/12) supporting more than 2000 prison libraries, prison chaplaincies and substance abuse and recovery programs in prisons and jails across the country with 11,000+ Houses of Healing books for FREE.

Most people in prisons will come back into our communities, and it is critical for everyone that they come back with greater understanding and compassion and committed to a positive lifestyle. In fact, we hope that everyone will do their part: families and friends with loving support, communities with reentry programs, employers with job opportunities, etc., to help those returning to the community unmask their potential and live productive lives.

Judith Perry, Chief Operating Officer, The Lionheart Foundation

For more information about Lionheart’s Prison Program Click Here


Welcome to Lionheart’s first blog!

14/12/12 0

Welcome to The Lionheart Foundation blog! We hope to use this space as a platform to open up a dialogue with our donors, professional peers, volunteers and supporters, to share information about Lionheart programs and resources, and highlight important issues related to our mission. Feel free to join the conversation, share our posts with your networks, and leave us your feedback.

2012 was Lionheart’s 20th Anniversary.  My heart is filled with gratitude as I reflect on our past work and look forward to implementing the projects planned for the  future. In 1992, the book Houses of Healing was just an idea. With hard work and generous help from our supporters, we have come a very, very long way.

Lionheart has created three acclaimed social-emotional literacy curricula comprised of 18 resources (books, facilitator manuals, and videos). We have distributed more than 340,000 of these resources, conducted trainings for more than 2800 professionals, and tens of thousands of lives have been redirected and transformed.

Incarcerated men and women have discovered that prison can be a place to heal from violence and addiction; highly at-risk youth are taking charge of their lives and discovering a more hopeful future; and a new generation of babies, those most at risk for being abused, are being given a gentler, more loving and promising start.

With a stable and dedicated staff and our generous supporters, Lionheart has become a beacon of light in many very dark places for the past 20 years – and I can’t help but think that this is still just the beginning in the overall impact our work will ultimately have for hundreds of thousands of individuals.

Thanks for your interest in Lionheart!

Robin Casarjian

 Page 11 of 11  « First  ... « 7  8  9  10  11