Since he first joined the team at Juneau Youth Services in 2009, Forrest Clough has worked with kids and young adults in a number of capacities. And in each role he’s held, he has been impressed and inspired.
“I just found this population and these kids so fun and fascinating to work with,” Clough said. “They’re just the coolest kids who haven’t had the best chances in life.”
Today, Clough oversees two very different programs: Therapeutic Foster Care and Intensive Case Management.
“We get this opportunity to help kids who there’s really not a lot out there for and who desperately need that help and need that resource.”
When it comes to case management, Clough works with JYS clients- cooperatively with kids and their families- to support struggling youth. JYS’ approach is unique in that it’s very individualized based on the needs of the entire family.
“Nothing is concrete or the same day-to-day. We tailor our services to the specific needs of the people we work with and it really takes a team-based approach,” Clough said.
And that approach also extends to the foster care programs he manages. While JYS plays a major role in connecting youth to foster care parents, the organization is in fact a temporary fixture in the lives of its clients.
Whether it’s through case management or foster care, the goal remains the same: to provide one of the state’s most vulnerable youth populations with reliable caregivers and stability. Employees strive to obtain permanency, or simply put, a forever home for their youth clients.
“Ideally that’s with their parents but in situations where that can’t happen, it can be another family so they’re not bouncing from place to place,” he said. “We’ve had kids who have been adopted by our foster parents, taken guardianship, etc. I think those times when we’ve been able to help foster kids get permanency has just been huge.”
Knowing that he’s making a difference in children’s lives and helping his community are just two reasons why Clough has been with JYS for over a decade. Another is the massive need for what JYS provides, and the greater need of what they can’t provide, at least for now.
“There’s a huge need for what we do and there’s always more need, we can’t fill every gap. I see so many holes we fill already that if we weren’t here, I don’t know what would happen,” Clough said.
Therapeutic Foster Care is one program JYS is looking to develop further and grow. Alaska has a massive, ongoing need for mental health services and foster care which has increased significantly since the onset of the opioid epidemic and the coronavirus pandemic .
Clough encourages others to look into becoming a foster care parent through JYS. The nonprofit provides all of the training, resources and support needed and will help work through barriers that potential foster care parents might have.
It’s an experience that Clough hopes Alaskans consider. Because even though it comes with challenges ahead, the reward is remarkable.
“We always try to keep in mind that we have a great privilege of getting to work with these kids and families,” he said. “They work with us when they’re vulnerable and it’s a huge trust they place in us.”