So you know how we invest your sales tax dollars, we’re proud to put the spotlight on some of the many Jackson County organizations we fund.
JJ had never had his own dresser, let alone his own room. At age 12, JJ moved with his mom and 2 year-old brother into their very own apartment at Amethyst Place. And although the apartment offered stability they’d never previously shared, it took some getting used to. For several weeks, JJ slept on the couch by the front door. He was now the “man of the house,” feeling a sense of protectiveness over his mom and brother.
But in his own time, he grew to feel safe — assured his family was also safe — and transitioned to sleeping in his own room. A clear sign that living at Amethyst Place, surrounded by supportive staff, his mom, and other kids facing similar challenges, gave him the mental, social and emotional strength he needed to enjoy childhood like he was always meant to.
Childrens’ Need for Amethyst Place
Housing to Reunite Families and Create Stability
Twenty-one years ago, a community group of partners recognized a gap in housing needs for single moms coming out of substance use treatment. Rather than returning to the same environment that influenced their substance use, they needed housing to support them personally and reunite them with their children. A place where they — and their kids — could continue to receive therapy and guidance while they made new, healthier bonds and established stability for their future.
Starting with seven short-term units, Amethyst Place was born. Today, they’ve expanded to 37 apartments, housing nearly 80 children and 37 moms. With a more long-term, comprehensive, program, most choose to stay at Amethyst Place for 20-24 months.
Recovery Coaches — a Unique Distinctive
What makes Amethyst Place unique is their three recovery coaches. Each having a unique focus and specialty, every mom receives support from every coach throughout her time in the program — in education, finances and relationship with money, and health and wellness.
What makes these recovery coaches unique? They all went through the Amethyst Place program themselves. Not only do they have the education and certification to support moms and children, but they also offer peer support from the lens of lived experiences. Through the AP Sisterhood, these coaches are able to mentor and stay connected with families long after they’ve left residence at Amethyst Place.
In addition to recovery coaches, partner organizations like Start at Zero, Greenworks, and Big Bothers Big Sisters of Kansas City come alongside, offering supportive programing, case management work, court advocacy and educational programs for parenting, cooking and more. In some cases, these partner organizations provide free programming — thanks to funding from Children’s Services Fund (CSF).
Amethyst Place inspires transformational healing to empower generations of women and children to achieve recovery, reunification, and resilience.
Supporting Children’s Mental Health Needs in Jackson County
Most (if not all) of the children at Amethyst Place have had adverse childhood experiences. They need therapy to help them process:
- Previous out-of-home placements
- Separation from parents who were incarcerated
- Grief, loss, and trauma
- Challenges related to living with a parent who has struggled with substance use
- Lack of stability — in a permanent, safe home and education
Much like JJ, children feel safe and secure at Amethyst Place. At move-in, they begin forming new friendships with children who’ve had similar adverse experiences. In other environments, substance use is a hidden secret, but here, it’s in the forefront of discussion. Residents are proud to be in recovery. Children are not embarrassed, but rather feel accepted and loved (even through the security of a dresser and a physical space they can call their own).
While every child’s situation is unique, these kids thrive:
- Their healing process is accelerated through the social and therapeutic aspects of the Amethyst Place program.
- They’re able to reunite and begin developing a healthy relationship with a more stable mom who’s also receiving care, support and parenting guidance.
- They feel safe, settled — stable.
A Holistic Program to Address Many Needs from Many Angles
Understanding the interrelated challenges recovering families face, the Amethyst Place program is a holistic approach that focuses on stabilization and empowerment. It’s built to deal with poverty, generational aspects, education and mental, social and emotional health with the goals of increasing income in the home and resilience in the family.
“We’re not happy placing a mom at a fastfood restaurant. We want her on a career path, in a place where she can advance and be the role model her kids need.”Starla Brennan, Executive Director
Stabilization — Specific situations (like homelessness, trauma, or legal system implications for example) determine a family’s needs. Plus, needs during recovery are different than during treatment. After conducting an initial assessment, Amethyst Place offers moms and kids a variety of therapy models such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), DBT (Dialectical behavioral therapy), trauma-focused cognitive therapy and play therapy for children. This stage can last one year or even longer.
Empowerment — For moms, this stage focuses on developing aspirations, achieving educational goals, and starting a career path while continuing to grow in their parenting skills. Research shows the importance of building positive experiences and intervening early in order to prevent second generation substance use in children. Kids benefit from the therapy their mothers receive and are able to participate in extracurricular activities, enjoying a more typical childhood.
Funding for Now and The Future
The staff at Amethyst Place feel fortunate to be in Jackson County where residents value the wellbeing of children by supporting the ⅛ cent tax that funds CSF. The two technology awards they received in 2021 were critical to providing families in-home education during COVID-19 through the purchase of laptops and headphones, as well as iPads for therapy, and office equipment for virtual meetings. The doubled award size in 2022 provides a new level of stability for their program and staff.
In the fall of 2021, Amethyst Place received certification through the Missouri Department of Mental Health, which offers funding support for the needs of mothers. With a consistent waitlist of 30–40 families averaging 9 to 12 months out, CSF funding fills the budget gaps for children’s initiatives and future projects in the home and community based service area, including:
- Land development and construction for an additional 22 apartments and 12 townhomes
- Empowerment coaching for children
- Incorporating fathers by adding a family living level
The support kids like JJ receive at Amethyst Place prepares them for a good future. Today, JJ can be found drawing anime, cooking, or baking the staff a fresh batch of cookies. He has dreams. And who knows, one day, you may just find him planning the menu and preparing your meal in a local restaurant.
To learn more about Amethyst Place, participating in their capital campaign, or volunteering to influence a young person’s life in Jackson County, visit amethystplace.org.