Changing kids for the better

Deb Brown has been with the Substance Abuse Treatment for Adolescent Recovery and Success since its doors opened in 2004.

Brown is a treatment tech supervisor for the program, which is designed to meet the needs of males and females ages 12 to 18 with substance abuse problems.

“I primarily supervise and work with the treatment techs who are on the floor with the kids,” Brown said. “But also, a couple of days a week, I am on the floor with the kids. I haven’t really totally given that up yet, because that’s the part I really enjoy, working with the kids.”

At STARS, Brown leads treatment groups and teaches the youths life skills.

“They help me cook lunch. They do community service projects,” she said. “We have several of those coming up over Christmas break. They’re going to be helping at the Salvation Army, serving lunch. They’ve make Christmas cards, and we’re going to bake cookies for the nursing home (Fort Dodge Health and Rehabilitation).”

Prior, Brown spent six years at Youth Shelter Care, which began and managed the STARS program until it moved to Community and Family Resources in 2008.

“I worked with the kids. And when they opened a substance abuse treatment program they asked who would like to go help with that, and I was one of the ones who volunteered,” she said. “Altogether, I’ve worked with teenagers for 15 years.”

Brown had spent 14 years working as an administrative assistant when she decided she wanted a change, and first pursued working with youths.

“I applied at the youth shelter and got hired, and I’ve been with it ever since,” she said. “I just can’t imagine doing anything else at this point. I enjoy helping the kids. I enjoy watching them change, watching them make progress. If I could make a difference in their future, that’s what it’s all about.”

In the nine years since the program started, STARS has helped more than 500 teens, Brown said.

“We’ve seen a lot of success. We’ve seen a lot of not so great stories,” she said. “We’ve lost some kids along the way. Some kids come back a second time. And so we kind of hope they gain something different out of treatment that they didn’t get the first time.”

Of all the youths she has helped, Brown remembers in particular a teen from the Des Moines area.

“He was set in his mind that he was going to move to Amsterdam and smoke pot the rest of his life. We recently heard from him. And he is now in the Marine Corps., and was in the process of going overseas,” she said. “To see that change in him, I know it is possible.”