This message was paid for by Teton Youth and Family Services

JACKSON, Wyo. — From his perspective at the helm of the Teton Youth & Family Services Board, Jim Hesser holds unique insight into the diversity of ways in which the nonprofit serves the community. He understands better than many how the constellation of programs have saved lives, strengthened families, and forged hopeful futures for thousands of young people. 

Jim Hessler is a board member for Teton Youth & Family Services. Photo: TYFS

“TYFS is an essential and free service for Teton County,” Hesser reflects. “We have been here for 45 years serving kids and families in crisis and will be here for another 45 years if our staff, facilities, and funding don’t disappear. Over the past 10 years, we have experienced significant declines in State funding: it provided 80% of our budget 10 years ago, now providing only 30%. Fortunately, through private philanthropy, grants and modest funding increases from the Town and County, we have been able to keep our doors open.” 

“To continue to provide direct services we need to raise $1.4 million this fiscal year. Our 50 employee salaries comprise 85% of our $3.4 million budget. All funds we have raised this past year and for the past 10 years have gone solely towards the annual budget and — primarily — to the cost of providing direct services,” Hesser explains. Retaining exceptional and compassionate staff members is critical to offering around-the-clock services to children in crisis, as is ensuring that they’re able to pursue continuing training and education to stay on the forefront of best practices. 

Mirroring the need for staff to offer state-of-the-art therapeutic services and support, TYFS requires facilities that are not only safe and secure, but also offer welcoming spaces to facilitate healing. “Over the same period that we lost state funding, our buildings have increasingly become outdated and unsafe for the children under our care. These original structures — some dating back to the 1930’s — have electrical and mechanical systems that no longer function as intended. Our kids require ‘eyes on’ attention 24 hours a day. Hallways with blind corners and bathrooms with private room access are unsafe challenges for our staff. Sadly, self-harming has been increasing with kids in crisis, and we are committed to preventing it.”

To this effort, Hesser explains, the board has undertaken a Comprehensive Campaign to raise $15 million that will fund the renovation and rejuvenation of outdated and potentially-unsafe spaces as well as provide funding towards a maintenance fund, employee housing stipends, and programmatic enhancements. While the overwhelming majority of these funds will come from private philanthropy, TYFS is seeking $2 million in support via Proposition #2 on the current SPET ballot. “As with our annual budget, we feel our campaign should mirror this model as well. To date, we have raised $6.5 million through private philanthropy and have begun the remodeling of the Van Vleck House Group Home. We have grant requests submitted to the State for $3 million, and for the remainder, we’re asking our community to support Proposition #2 on the SPET ballot in November.”

View of the interior courtyard at the Van Fleck House. Photo: TYFS

“Voting YES to SPET Proposition #2 — Teton Youth & Family Services Facility Improvements — will give every member of this community an opportunity to participate in our campaign. Meeting our goal of $15 million will go a long way toward ensuring that future children in crisis have a safe, therapeutic facility for their recovery,” says Hesser, encouraging community members to support the measure.

“No community is immune from families and kids in crisis, even Jackson Hole. We see well over 100 cases every year in which a child is the victim of physical or sexual abuse and requires support from our programs. Adolescent children can become entwined in negative social media, withdraw from their family, and start exhibiting reckless behavior. The Van Vleck House provides a safe and therapeutic setting to get the child and the family functioning as they were prior to the breakdown of their family unit,” says Hesser, citing examples of how the community relies on TYFS. “Unfortunately, sometimes the parents, school system and community haven’t supported a child in the ways they need, and they need support in finding an entirely new path forward. These kids require the care and therapeutic setting our residential treatment Red Top Meadows provides. At TYFS, we view our programs as a continuum of care with the goal that no child progresses to a higher level of care after completing their time with us. Our schools, law enforcement, hospitals, and judicial system rely heavily on the services of TYFS, thereby improving the quality of life for everyone in our community.”

View of the courtyard at Red Top Meadows. Photo: TYFS

“Ultimately, it comes down to this: we have successful therapeutic programs that work for kids in crisis. These programs restore the child’s self-esteem, help them better understand the consequences of their behavior, and teach them skills to function better in their family, school, and among their friends. To continue serving young people and families in these critically important capacities, we need the community’s support. Voting YES on Proposition #2 is the perfect way to do so.”

Voting for SPET Proposition #2 — Teton Youth & Family Services Facility Improvements will ensure that these renovation projects will be completed on schedule, and the organization can seamlessly continue providing a critically-necessary service to the community.

Teton Youth & Family Services urges all community members to vote for SPET Proposition #2 — Teton Youth & Family Services Facility Improvements. Vote on or before November 8th, and cast your ballot to support critical programming and facilities that keep children and families healthy, thriving, and safe.