Youth Service Bureau Offers Resources for Families Navigating Substance Abuse, Bullying and More

Youth Service Bureau offers resources for families facing crises or navigating today’s complicated world.
Therapists like Stillwater’s Emily Johnson help local tweens and teens, and their families, through the Youth Service Bureau.

Parenting isn’t for the faint of heart. Luckily, there’s help.

Youth Service Bureau (YSB) is an independent nonprofit organization that has served families throughout Washington County and the St. Croix Valley since the 1970s. Its focus is on prevention and early intervention in the areas of mental health, chemical health and behavioral health.

“There are tons of early childhood resources out there, but not as many for elementary and teenage students,” says Sarah Holmboe, parent education coordinator at YSB. “But that’s when parents need the most support.” With this mission in mind, YSB offers youth-focused family counseling to manage stress, anxiety, depression, divorce and other family transitions. Licensed therapists, and pre-licensed therapists working toward licensure, can help families develop coping strategies for overcoming the stressors—big and small—of everyday life.

The group also offers “diversion” services, which were the basis on which YSB was formed decades ago. When local law enforcement noticed students being repeatedly picked up for petty offenses, they developed a partnership with YSB to offer referral-based educational opportunities—behavioral and chemical health support, community work and volunteering programs—to “help students know how to make better choices,” Holmboe says. But, she adds, the reputation of the organization is changing dramatically, and it has become more of a resource to families and businesses than just a last resort to keep kids out of juvenile detention. “You don’t need to get in trouble to come to YSB—we’re open to anyone who might need help.”

Recently, YSB administrative assistant Jeanine Olson received a call from the mother of a former client. “Her son, now in his 20s, took every class we had and saw a YSB therapist for three years,” Olson says. “He graduated from the alternative high school with a child on the way. Now he is a college graduate, and in December he [received] his doctoral degree.”

It’s success stories like his that illustrate the power of a little extra support during the formative teenage years and the importance of programs like those offered through YSB; a non-threatening first step for those with concerns can be found on YSB’s website, which is chock-full of articles, fact sheets and links to trusted online resources. All are vetted by the YSB staff and many are written or developed by the staff members. YSB also posts weekly tips on Facebook and Twitter (@YSBKnowsKids) along with info about upcoming community events.

YSB’s Lunch and Learn programs are designed for staff members of local businesses to find great resources and practical parenting tips without leaving the office. For example, participants could order in pizzas and schedule a YSB seminar on bullying or social media. The group’s experts also visit churches, clubs or scout troops, and can tailor content to fit specific needs and interests. The name of the game is to “equip people to be the best parents they can be,” Holmboe says.

Youth Service has locations in Cottage Grove, Stillwater and Woodbury, Minn., with regular weekday hours and evening availability by appointment. YSB is supported through a combination of municipal funding, grants, donors and program fees. Cost shouldn’t be a deterrent for families trying to get help; services are often covered by insurance and YSB also offers a sliding fee scale.