Youth program saving troubled kids

by Becky GINOS

BOUNTIFUL—There’s a group of dedicated people who are quietly working to save troubled youth in Davis County. Not many residents are aware of the Youth Health Associates (YHA), but owner and Clinical Director Brian Garlock and his team are making miracles happen.

“We have seven group homes in Utah, three in Clearfield,” said Garlock. “We work with adjudicated kids, those who’ve been court ordered to us or through DCFS (Division of Child and Family Services). The kids are here 24/7 usually for a year. We’ve had about 2,500 kids go through the programs in the last 18 years.”

Garlock said YHA’s program is different than many others. “There are the boot camp type, scared straight kind,” he said. “Ours is opposite of that. Those create compliance so parents think ‘oh it only took a day.’ But the kid is probably getting worse. Once they get out of therapy they’ll probably sever the relationship.”

We treat them like the kids they are, he said. “Not like criminals. We get to the bottom of what’s going on. You can’t cage up a kid and then expect to send them back into society. We don’t need to add to the punishment.”

YHA’s method involves experimental therapy where they get the kids out into the community and show them social skills. “We take them camping and to the grocery store so they can learn how to shop and interact with the cashier,” said Garlock. “You think they’re born with that but they’re not.”

The staff helps them get ready to where they can take the next step. “It took them 16 years to get to the point they’re at so it takes a lot of time to undo that,” Garlock said. “People freak out about a group home near them, but the kids have someone watching them more than regular kids.”

Garlock said kids nowadays have never gone through harder times. “Pioneers went through hardships but they did it as a family,” he said. “Kids now have so much pressure with social media and easy access to porn – they’ve never felt more alone. We make fun of this generation but they’re not supported.”

It’s a perfect storm, he said. “Parents don’t understand social media. Phones aren’t going anywhere. They need to connect with their kids in their world,” said Garlock. “Learn how to play Fortnite and join them sometimes. Show them love rather than criticism. One parent sent a text saying ‘I’m proud of you.’ The kid fell apart in tears.”

Sometimes parents overact because they’re so worried their child has committed a sin, he said. “It causes them to lose their relationship instead of sitting down and talking to them to find out what is so painful the kid needed to do that. The power of parents can influence their kids.”

It’s tough work but Garlock has had some amazing success stories. “I was walking into the megaplex the other day and ran into a kid who was in the program 16 years ago,” he said. “He had a wife and kids. It was cool to find out what the secret was and what made it all click. He said he wanted to be like the staff and now he’s pulling it off. Four kids and a wife, it’s cool to see stuff like that.”

Another young man who went through the program had similar success. “The kid came to us with an IQ of 52,” said Garlock. “We taught him everything. I looked at it as all we’re doing is keeping him safe for a year or two. Progress was slow but he started mirroring the staff and other kids. Then about a year ago I saw him on Facebook live and he started yelling, ‘Brian you’ve go to meet my wife.’ I could not believe it. If you’d told me he’d have any kind of life on the outside I would have never believed it.”

It’s moments like those that keep the staff going, he said. “It’s satisfying, hard work but I couldn’t ask for a better job,” said Garlock. “There’s drama every day with these kids – but I love it.”


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