AMI Kids equips Butler youth and families to overcome barriers toward more positive future
Published 6:10 pm Tuesday, November 1, 2022
The national nonprofit AMI Kids recognizes there is potential born into every child, even the troubled ones.
Since 2018, AMI counselors have helped kids involved with eight Alabama juvenile courts including those in Butler, Crenshaw, and Lowndes counties.
Tankiya Morris, supervisor of Alabama family services, works with Butler County youth, many of whom are challenged by circumstances where one or both parents are absent from the home.
“Most of the children that I’ve seen in Butler County are being raised by grandparents rather than their actual biological parents,” Morris said. “Some face issues with truancy, crime, harassment, and fights at school.”
According to regional director and licensed clinical social worker, Korah Skuce, AMI offers comprehensive services nationwide, from preventative to residential programs.
AMI partners with the Alabama Department of Youth Services to offer family services like Functional Family Therapy, a nationally recognized, family- and community-based model designed to reduce recidivism rates and provide a return on the community’s investment.
The interconnected approach, Skuce noted, serves both the youth and their families.
“The entire family is involved in every session,” she described. “We work with the family members to address the family dynamics that may be impacting poor decision-making and/or delinquent behaviors.”
AMI counselors identify creative and individualized ways to connect with and motivate families, teaching them skills needed to manage their own crises, problem solve, and communicate more effectively.
Butler County’s Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Chris Taylor encounters youth impacted by issues at home, like drug use, poverty, divorce, lack of supervision, social media abuse, peer pressure, and bullying.
Taylor has referred roughly 10 youths to AMI this year. Some have committed a crime, and others are what’s called a CHINS case — a child in need of supervision.
“We know there’s definitely issues going on in the home between the parents and the children,” Taylor said. “AMI Kids and FFT help get some common ground between the parent and the child and work through their issues.”
Morris works with families, teaching them life skills to make and maintain progress.
“We teach them the soft skills, where they stop and think about their actions before they make a decision to act on it,” Morris explained. “We also raise their confidence through affirmations and try to build relationships with those who are closest to them and just also teach them skills on how to help the youth.”
In 2020, 76% of families referred to AMI completed FFT. Of those, 77% remained crime-free a year later.
“By utilizing FFT, there’s less reliance on state emergency services like 911, law enforcement, psychiatric hospitals, and detention centers,” Skuce explained. “Youth and families that complete the FFT model show improvement in academic attendance and graduation rates. We get reduction of out of home placements, substance use, and mental health symptoms, and so [we see] less re-offenses once [youths] complete the program.”
For more than 50 years, counselors have helped more than 150,000 kids overcome barriers. AMI and court officials work together as advocates for youth and their families, connecting families with resources that meet tangible needs and guiding families toward a more positive future.
“We’re here to try and keep the children out of the court system,” Taylor exclaimed. “We have an open-door policy and we’re happy to help any parent or family that needs help.”
To learn about available youth services or become a community partner, contact the Butler County Juvenile Court at (334) 382-6125 or AMI Kids at (334) 312-2302, or visit amikids.org.