Youth Emergency Services & Shelter (YESS): Caring for Kids & Families in Crisis in Des Moines

Youth Emergency Services & Shelter (YESS): Caring for Kids & Families in Crisis in Des Moines

Vulnerable children and youth can find refuge and a new beginning at Youth Emergency Services & Shelter (YESS). One of central Iowa’s most trusted child-service organizations, YESS makes sure that children feel safe and secure. At the same time, they’re giving parents and caregivers, foster families, and partnering agencies the support they need to care effectively for children.

dsm4kids reached out to YESS to find out how their organization and clients have been impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Sara Swansen, Chief Behavioral Health Officer, kindly answered a few of our questions and also shared a few tips for parents and care givers struggling at home to cope with balancing work, childcare and self-care while keeping anxieties under control during this unprecedented time.

Youth Emergency Services & Shelter (YESS): Caring for Kids and Families in Crisis in Des Moines –

What challenges is YESS currently facing?

We’re seeing an increase of stress levels in the household for both caregivers and children.  Parents are feeling a financial strain due to job loss or business loss and increased anxiety related to getting sick. Changes in routines, everybody in the home and constant change also adds to anxiety and stress, which result in increased tension in the home and can lead to domestic violence and other unhealthy means of coping.

Many families are also currently disconnected from social support and resources right now, like school and church, which is a really bad combo for kids. There are no extra eyes on the kids at home, one of the reasons you’re seeing declines in reported abuse cases. In addition, if families are isolated and have limited childcare services or have special needs, their stressors are even more compounded.

How is YESS adjusting to meet these new challenges?

We are trying to reach out to the community to provide information on how to support children. We’ve created a COVID-19 Resources Page on our website where we have posted a number of videos and pulled together trusted resources in one place to support kids, families, and individuals.

YESS is also offering teletherapy where people can either call us on the phone or connect online. You do not have to be referred to receive teletherapy, call (515) 557-2256 to access this FREE service.  We’re also still connecting with our regular clients, online, which is a little more challenging.  Instead of meeting with a client for an hour in person, we meet with them three times a week for 15 minutes virtually.  It’s just really challenging trying to engage kids online for a lengthier time.

In addition, we’ve added beds to Hope Hall Respite Care, where we provide families with a FREE safe place for children to spend up to 72 hours during a crisis situation or when parents need time to plan and connect with resources to ensure children stay safe in their own homes. This is a nurturing, secure, and supportive environment for children (newborn through age 17) who need a short-term place to stay.

Youth Emergency Services & Shelter (YESS): Caring for Kids and Families in Crisis in Des Moines –

Do you expect an uptick in need?

We are currently taking new clients and taking new referrals for therapy and respite care, meeting needs as they come in.  We have been able to absorb everybody, and do not have a wait for service at this point.

Do you rely on volunteers?

We do have a very strong volunteer support system, but we are not having them come into the shelter currently.

What will the long-term effect of the pandemic be for YESS?

There will be long term impacts on kids and families, residual effects, whether its financial, family dynamics…there will be an increased need for support.  A silver lining is that a lot of providers are now offering more teletherapy services, which is especially beneficial for families with limited transportation options.

We’ve seen an increase to utilize our respite services, which is also very beneficial. This section of the shelter has a lower level of acuity, so it’s great for the community to be aware of those services and to have access to them, as well.

Youth Emergency Services & Shelter (YESS): Caring for Kids and Families in Crisis in Des Moines –

Do you have any tips for families that are struggling at home?

  • Caregivers should prioritize self-care. Need to take a break. Of course, they need to attend to their children’s needs, but they also need to be aware of their own needs.
  • Get outside daily.
  • Limit social media and news.
  • Keep to a routine as best as they can. Schedule meals, sleep, exercise. This will help to increase predictability and structure for kids.
  • Connect with support virtually. Set some structure throughout the week.
  • Check out our video resources.  There are lots of things caregivers might not think about, like the grieving process is different at different stages.  We’ve put together a lot of information on a wide span of topics.

How can people help or donate to YESS?

We have several ways that people can donate to the organization.  The best thing to do is visit our Donations Page on the website.  We also typically host the popular YESS Duck Derby in May, which unfortunately has been cancelled this year.  However, you can still donate to our “Don’t Duck Out” campaign.

Youth Emergency Services & Shelter (YESS):

Address: 918 SE 11th Street; Des Moines, IA 50309
Phone: 515-282-YESS (515-282-9377)


All photos provided by YESS.

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