6 reasons to visit the town's youth advocate

By Angie Hilsman | Aug 22, 2017
Photo by: Angie Hilsman Youth Advocate Jen Cabral can be found in her office at Town Hall, Room 118.

Jen Cabral has been working as the town's youth advocate for the past two years, and with the start of a new school year fast approaching, is ready to help students and families on a 24-hour, seven days per week basis.

Cabral's main role as youth advocate is to provide support services — especially during crisis or increased stress — that are complimentary to those of social workers and guidance councilors.

Her office leads both teen and adult advocacy groups, and has experience working with students who struggle with depression and self-harm, bullying, and family conflict.

"The taxpayers pay our salary, so it's a service that every resident in the town is entitled to," said Cabral.

Here are the top six reasons to visit Cabral's office, located in Town Hall (400 Slocum Road), Room 118.

1. Everything is confidential.

"We don't share their information with anyone unless they sign a release to give us permission [to share with other providers]. The only reason we would break confidentiality is if there was a danger to themselves or others, and we have that conversation," said Cabral. "It's a safe and comfortable environment."

2. Youth have a voice.

In the middle school, Cabral supervises Students Taking Action Against Real-life Situations (STAARS), a student group that led the kindness campaign, which included putting positive sticky notes on students' lockers; organized an anti-drinking and driving video with the town; and presented on bullying at the school.

At the high school level, a student group focused on empowering others to rise up against stressors (RISE) has taken root. The group brings awareness about mental issues, social media and bullying, and substance abuse, said Cabral.

3. Guardians are also supported.

Parents struggling with social or emotional issues can find help with the support group REAL. The group formed with the help of parents whose kids were being bullied, and they were at a loss for what to do, but now serves any parents struggling with such issues themselves or with their children, said Cabral. The group meets the last Monday of every month.

Senior-aged guardians who are taking care of children also have a place to turn. Run in collaboration with the Council on Aging and Health Department, the group will include speakers and support group sessions.

"It doesn't necessarily have to be grandparents. It can be anyone who feels that there's a generational gap between them and their children," said Cabral. The first meeting is on October 24 at 6 p.m. at the CoA's 628 Dartmouth Street location.

4. Drug prevention is a priority.

Cabral works with individuals and families who are struggling with substance abuse, as well as offers prevention education such as the "Hidden in Plain Sight" exhibit. The interactive display (which travels between schools) allows parents and legal guardians a closer look at where teens hide drugs and other dangers.

5. Food and holiday help is available.

Last year, Cabral and her team helped secure "food, clothes, and gifts" for about 10 families, which included a total of 23 children.

"Each family got a food basket. Each kid got an outfit, and then each kid got a toy [via the police toy drive]. The presents were wrapped, and families came and picked them up," said Cabral. Families can reach out year-round for help with basic necessities, she added.

6. Get help coping with a crisis.

Cabral herself has experience responding to trauma, including crisis, death or loss, and natural disaster. She is ready to assist schools in developing an action plan, and helping families in need. Cabral is available 24/7.

Cabral can be reached both in her office by phone (508-910-1855), by cell (508-951-9551), and by email (jcabral@town.dartmouth.ma.us).

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