At-risk youth benefit from residential treatment program - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

At-risk youth benefit from residential treatment program

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

Emotional trauma and problems at home are just a couple of the issues experts say can lead children to a live a life of violence and crime. That's why a Richmond organization is working to reach at-risk young people by helping them work through those issues before it's too late.

Just this month, the United Methodist Family Services announced the expansion of its Child and Family Healing Center. It's a home away from home just for youngsters who need extra attention to avoid going down the wrong path.

"This is where we sit. We do not eat in here," 13-year-old Dontaie Compton shows off his home for the past year.

"We have a stereo system plugged up to the TV," he shows with pride.

It's a residential treatment program where he and his counterparts learn responsibility, doing their own laundry and chores and cooking meals. Dontaie's adopted mother says it's just what he needed.

"I think if he was treated as someone who did bad things or had bad things happen and he just needed to learn to stop doing bad things, that really wouldn't have helped him," Tammy Compton said.

Before coming here, he was suspended from school and even faced legal charges.

"I got into fights and stuff….I didn't trust anybody," he said.

The Child and Family Healing Center didn't write him off.

"Sometimes there's something behind that, some trauma or experience or problem that has caused them to be so filled with rage," said Jeannette Toscano with UMFS.

Turns out, Dontaie had to overcome some issues beyond his control including some issues he was born with. Once the center recognizes the root, on-site therapists address it early. Otherwise, an alternate path is often inevitable.

"They end up committing crimes, being unemployed, or homeless living on the street and we want to prevent that from happening," Toscano added.

His mom is already seeing progress.

"{He's} not making choices as impulsively as he has in the past. It's a great feeling," she said.

It's also a great feeling for Dontaie himself. To know, he can be better.

"As time moved on, I started to evolve….change my behavior, my ways, my actions and here I am today," the teen said with pride.

The children go to school on site and also participate in yoga, and art, even pet therapy to learn what it's like to take care of an animal and receive affection in return.

In 2012, the center served 20 more children than it did in 2009, helping them avoid jail time and become functional members of society.

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