Bill Ryland, and his wife Camilla, have spent over 30 years providing a family life for foster youth. Today their own children are grown, and they operate the Koinonia Home for Teens in Loomis. Last week, the Ryland’s were interviewed by Three Moms and A Mike for a segment on addressing "fatherlessness" in our community (Season II broadcast is forthcoming).
A Level 12 dual diagnosis residential treatment program, Koinonia accommodates twelve girls and eighteen boys in separate single family homes,and a six-bed emergency center for teens in crisis. Each residence is staffed with a “house parent”. The foster youth in addition to coming from very troubled families, are also in recovery from chemical dependency. Many of the youth I spoke with had absent fathers due to drug addiction.
“One of the first things we get across to these young people is that parenting is something that is done ‘for’ them, not ‘to’ them,” Ryland said. “The teenagers are absolutely brilliant when it comes to things like Facebook, but their life experience is extremely narrow.”
Camillia observes that these youth have grown up without expectations to contribute to family or society, and they have not learned the healthy coping skills to handle the stresses of life. “We have expectations of these teens, and we believe in them,” she said. “Eventually they also believe in themselves - and there is hope.”
In conversations with the extraordinary youth at Koinonia, it is clear that the heartbreaking injury of absent parents, regardless of the reason, is that the lack of attention signals to the child “you don’t matter”.
One of the foster youth, Danielle R., grew up with a dad who was addicted to drugs and today struggles to connect with her as a “friend”. She expresses the pain of this disconnect so eloquently. “Sometimes I wonder what I did wrong? Why did he choose the drugs over me?”
The experience of the foster youth offers a dramatic example of the impact our modern lifestyles on youth. Attention, not money, is the scarcity of the modern, networked world. With mobile-phone enabled population, are we giving kids the attention they require, or are we virtually absent?
The Ryland’s approach to building a functional family environment offers a great model for the modern family, subject to the attention-deficit syndrome of distracted living.
Some of the key concepts of their family lifestyle include:
- A focus on the future of their own family and the quality of life; keep in mind you are not raising compliant teenagers, but competent adults
- Set the expectation to be treated like adults and think like adults
- Experience doing something well and getting better at it
- Hold individuals and one another accountable in a safe and secure environment
The Winter edition of Banana Moments: Family Business Quarterly features the presence of drugs and absence of fathers in modern American life, and the impact on youth. To receive Banana Moments features via email, sign up here.
- Banana Moments: Help for Parenting in the Network Culture
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- The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture
- Koinonia Homes for Teens
- CASA (advocates for youth in the court system)
- Coalition For Placer Youth
- Full Circle Treatment Center
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