by Polly Taylor-Gerken

A group of interested community members and practitioners learn about the Step Up curriculum.

In Sylvania, as in many communities throughout the country, adolescent violence and abuse toward parents and other family members is a serious and growing problem. Sophia Counseling Center is offering one solution.
These violent behaviors pose a considerable threat to the stability of families, to the development of teens and strain the criminal justice system. Lucas County Juvenile Court reports about 280 arrests of youth in Sylvania for family violence in the home in the last five years. So far in 2019 there have been 34 children arrested. Upwards of fifteen percent of them were under 13 years old at the time of the incident. Almost 40 percent were under 15. The role of early intervention cannot be overstated.
Sophia Counseling Center, a sponsored ministry of the Sylvania Franciscans—with a grant from Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) – has teamed up with Sylvania Area Family Services (SAFS) to offer a multi-tiered prevention program designed to to help build and restore respectful family relationships and reduce violence in the home. Additional partners include Lucas County Juvenile Court (LCJC), Sylvania Schools, Sylvania law-enforcement and Lourdes University.
The program offers multiple ways families can benefit. Positive Solutions for Families (PSF), a research-based six-week parenting series is available to Sylvania area families. The first group launched June 12 at SAFS, with four additional PSF groups planned.
The Step-Up model curriculum, a research-based intervention to address youth violence and abuse toward family members, will be used with referred families in weekly groups held at SAFS. A training was recently held at the Franciscan Center featuring the developers and authors of Step-Up, Lily Anderson and Greg Routt. The Step-Up model curriculum originated in King County, Washington and has been used for a decade with teens and families in a Lucas County Juvenile Court diversion program.
Sophia Center’s project includes efforts to share the Step-Up curriculum with other organizations working with families. Over 60 people attended the training for an overview of the issue of adolescent family violence, with 20 staying for the full three days to learn to implement the curriculum in their work.
The staff of the Sylvania Community Action Team was in attendance. Deb Chaney, SCAT executive director said, “Family violence is not a topic that families are willing to talk about but it happens. Like many other safety and health issues, we need to talk about it to help families and decrease the stigma. Step Up is a great resource for us and we look forward to partnering with Sophia and SAFS.”
Affected families may also have access to licensed mental health practitioners for clinical services at the Sophia Center. Grant funds may be used to help offset insurance related barriers.
Dr. Rachel Nijakowski, OSF, executive director of Sophia Center said “Sophia staff is thrilled to help families learn better ways to deal with anger, rage, and the stressors of life. May we together effect change in our society that brings a more peace-filled world.”
For more information, Contact Sophia Center Program Director, Polly Taylor-Gerken at
Polly Taylor-Gerken is a licensed school psychologist and Sophia Center program director.