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Bend Nest » Culture

Support for a Better Community

J Bar J's programs lift up families and youth in Central Oregon

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In 1968, Lyle Jarvis and Bill Jones realized there was a need in the Central Oregon community for a rehabilitation center specifically for boys. They got together and founded J Bar J, a live-in ranch for teenage boys who were considered troubled or on the road to jail. Since then, J Bar J Boys Ranch has expanded to J Bar J Youth Services and is the umbrella for nine different organizations that provide services to children and adults in the Central Oregon area.

COURTESY J BAR J
  • Courtesy J Bar J

"The biggest misconception is that J Bar J is just the Boys Ranch, but we offer a lot more," says Stephanie Alvstad, the CEO and president of J Bar J Youth Services. "We want to be a resource so that people can become good partners, good kids, good parents, good community members and all around become self-sufficient."

A program related to the Boys Ranch is J5, which is a shorter-term rehabilitation service to help youth reset their thinking and behavior.

The Boys Ranch recently expanded and opened up the J Bar J Learning Center too, which is an alternative program that focuses on vocational education.

"We found that a lot of the boys didn't necessarily want to go to college, but they really wanted to work with their hands," Alvstad says. "We had a couple of construction guys come in and the boys were really, really interested in that."

Beyond the Boys Ranch, J Bar J Youth services manages the Academy at Sisters, a residential center for teenage girls. Unlike the Boys Ranch, many of the young women have not become subject to the juvenile justice system.

J Bar J runs the Academy at Sisters, a residential program for teen girls. - COURTESY J BAR J
  • Courtesy J Bar J
  • J Bar J runs the Academy at Sisters, a residential program for teen girls.

"Teenage boys tend to hurt other people or property, often times through drugs, sex, stealing or vandalism," Alvstad explains. "Teenage girls usually do things that hurt themselves—failing school, promiscuity, eating disorders or other forms of self-harm."

Another live-in facility J Bar J Youth Services runs is Cascade Youth and Family Center. Homeless, runaway and unaccompanied teens can live here, either short term or long term, while they get the resources and skills to live independently. This is also where Avstad first started with J Bar J Youth Services in 1989.

Green thumbs rule at the Academy at Sisters. - COURTESY J BAR J
  • Courtesy J Bar J
  • Green thumbs rule at the Academy at Sisters.

"We had a 17-year-old boy whose mom ended up in the hospital, and he told us 'I just really want to go to school,'" Alvstad says. "We helped him graduate, and then he connected with Heart of Oregon Corps and went to culinary school."

Grandma's House offers support for teens who are pregnant or parenting. - COURTESY J BAR J
  • Courtesy J Bar J
  • Grandma's House offers support for teens who are pregnant or parenting.

His story is similar to those of many teenagers who have been a part of Cascade Youth and Family Center. Some teenagers have been disowned by their families, others have lost their families or some have had extenuating circumstances remove the stability from their lives. These teens are welcome at Cascade Youth and Family Center, where they can find stability and deal with trauma they may have experienced, as well as receive support while moving forward with schooling or vocational opportunities, says Alvstad.

Grandma's House, another of J Bar J's programs, works with pregnant or parenting mothers who need more support. Young women can take parenting, pre-natal or other types of classes, they can receive help finishing school and develop skills they need to be self-sufficient while also supporting their child. Pregnant women who decide they want to give up their child for adoption can also find support here.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Oregon is a mentor program for youth in Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook counties. Alvstad says usually Big Brothers Big Sisters of America doesn't like to open a program in an area with less than 100,000 people, but they were more willing to do so because of the partnership with J Bar J Youth Services.

Kids spend valuable one-on-one time with their "Bigs" in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. - COURTESY J BAR J
  • Courtesy J Bar J
  • Kids spend valuable one-on-one time with their "Bigs" in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

Kindred Connections is an organization that partners with 10 Central Oregon churches along with volunteer families to give support to families that need some kind of short-term stability.

"We worked with a young mother who had to spend eight days in detention, so through Kindred Connections we paired her with a family to take care of her baby while she served her time," Alvstad says. "They took care of her baby like it was their own child, she got her baby back after she finished the detention, and her child didn't have to be put into the foster system."

The newest program to be part of J Bar J is At: Project, which works with human trafficking victims to rebuild their lives. At: Project partners with several other agencies in Central Oregon, and pairs survivors with case managers to help facilitate counseling, medical care and anything else they might need.

Although these programs may seem very different in nature, there is a common thread that ties them all together. Rather than focusing on punishment or blame, each organization focuses on giving support, guidance and teaching self-sufficiency and independence.

"Each program came from the needs of the community," Alvstad says. "We all want to break that multi-generational cycle, so the question is how can we do that? We want to give our teens and families a hand-up, so they can be self-sufficient, through a long term problem-solving method."

For more information about J Bar J Youth Services, visit jbarj.org. You'll find links to each program mentioned above, and ways to get involved.

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