Connections | YMCA of San Diego County

The Connections Project is a 5 year federal research demonstration project which uses a relationship focused approach to improve the well-being of foster, runaway, homeless and exploited youth. We use one-on-one coaching and wellness classes based in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Motivational Interviewing (MI), and Harm Reduction (HR).

Research shows that youth who are subjected to trauma are more susceptible to high-risk behaviors and experience unhealthy social bonds in adulthood. Through this project, we have found that a focus on building relational competencies can reduce high-risk activities and improve social connections, resiliency and emotion regulation. This leads to a greater sense of well-being, increased contribution to family and community, and decreased reliance on public resources

Project Components

  • We serve current and former foster youth, ages 17-21
  • We train staff to work with youth to increase relational competencies and manage crisis
  • Current and former foster youth advise staff in development and implementation of project
  • Foster youth co-facilitate wellness classes centered on mindfulness, distress tolerance and emotion regulation
  • We assist youth in navigating complex relationships through one-on-one coaching

Our Approach: C.A.V.E.

  • Compassion
  • Awareness
  • Validation
  • Empowerment

C.A.V.E. is an evidence-informed approach to working with transition age youth (TAY) to increase well-being and engagement in services. It is relationally-focused and helps those involved with TAY to connect and align with youth while facilitating healthy brain development.

Our Impact

  • Increased number of positive relationships
  • Decreased number of negative relationships
  • Improvement in healthy development and resiliency
  • Reduction in high-risk behaviors

For more information about the Connections Project, contact:

Krysta Esquivel
Associate Executive Director
[email protected]

Kristina Halmai
Clinical Supervisor
[email protected]