* These stories are real. The names have been changed for the protection of minors.
To the faculty at Marathon High School, "Caitlin" was just another troublemaker passing through. She skipped class, used foul language and picked fights in the hallways. Her grades were low, and her attitude was poor. So the school asked The Florida Keys Children's Shelter to step in. Anthony—a Florida Keys Children's Shelter community-based counselor at Marathon High School—was determined to get to the root of Caitlin's behavior and find a solution.
"As we started counseling I learned that she was being influenced by her friends," remembers Anthony. "They were always getting in trouble by skipping class and fighting in the hallways."
Caitlin and Anthony worked together to build her self-esteem and to transform her into a leader. She responded very quickly to counseling by showing teachers and peers respect, being on time to class, and even improving her grades. Caitlin chose new friends that supported her right to say "no" and graduated high school. She is now taking higher education classes and working toward a life of independence and success.
Tom, who had moved to Key West with his mother and sisters, felt like he'd lost his way. He had always been cheerful and done well in school, but suddenly he was skipping school and failing his classes. Tom felt sad, unmotivated and unenergetic. He pushed friends and family away and sunk further into loneliness.
Tom's mother, deeply concerned because of these sudden changes, contacted the Florida Keys Children's Shelter for guidance. Soon, Tom and his mother began weekly individual and monthly family counseling sessions.
Within a few sessions, Tom realized his unhappiness stemmed from a broken promise his father made. Tom was expecting his father to move to Key West to be with the family, but three years later he was still working up to it. Tom wasn't ready to be the "man of the house." He needed his father to be there as a role model for him and to help him through his tough teenage years.
Eventually Tom worked up the courage to confront his father with his issues and his honesty opened the door to a closer relationship with him, despite the distance. They began communicating more and more and Tom was soon ready to make changes in his behavior. He resumed his attendance at school and structured his time to include homework, family and friends. He was able to graduate from counseling and get his life back on track.
When Tom came back to the Florida Keys Children's shelter to visit, he announced that his father had even come to visit and they had spent quality time together. Tom's father even helped him start a business, which was up and running within months.
Chloe had been missing for a solid week. She had run away from home and her teacher reported her missing to the Florida Keys Children's Shelter. A counselor contacted her mother, who suspected she was still in the Florida Keys. She believed Chloe's friends were helping to hide her. Chloe's mother passed out flyers and reported her missing to the police, but she wasn't able to find her.
The counselor enlisted the help of the Project Lighthouse staff to search the streets of Key West every night and eventually the group spotted her. Through word of mouth, Chloe learned within a week that she was missed. Project Lighthouse sent a message asking her to simply contact her mother to let her know she was safe. Because of the unthreatening strategy, Chloe did call her mother. With the help of Project Lighthouse, the mother and daughter met at the Children's Shelter in Tavernier where they were able to talk out their problems and receive ongoing services.