Stories of Recovery

Kai's Story

From a Youth in Crisis to a Thriving Adult

For Kai*, paying his bills on time and managing his medication independently is a huge achievement and a sign of how far he’s come. But it wasn’t always like that. When he was 16, Kai was in the foster care system at one of our youth residences because he needed a higher level of care than his caregivers had access to at the time. Through his dedication toward recovery and the unwavering support, patience, and care of The Jewish Board’s clinical team, Kai has made tremendous progress with the tools and resources he needs to succeed. This is his story.

Rapid Intervention for a Youth in Crisis

16-year-old Kai first came to The Jewish Board after being referred to us by the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS). He was facing challenges that included physical aggression, being absent from school, and difficulties with his family.

After our intake team assessed his needs, he was placed in our youth residential Rapid Intervention Center (RIC), which provided comprehensive diagnostic assessments, including an extensive family and environmental history, and offered recommendations for care – all within 60 days. During this time, Kai’s care team recommended a level of care for Kai that could meet his needs, which prepared him to be discharged to another one of our longer-term residential treatment programs.

From Setback to Recovery

With a stronger knowledge of Kai’s experiences and needs, he was invited to live at one of our youth residential programs specializing in child trauma and recovery. With the support of our professional and compassionate staff, Kai began to thrive: he learned his triggers and healthy coping skills, allowing him to make friends and build deep relationships with staff.

His progress graduated Kai to a less extensive level of care, and in 2016, Kai moved to Kaplan House, our residential treatment program for young men ages 17–21 who have significant trauma histories and need support working towards living more autonomously. By this time, Kai was 19 and enrolled in high school; both he and his care team were hopeful that Kai could graduate. During this time, Kai faced some setbacks: he struggled to accept his mental health diagnosis and substance dependency, causing him to disengage from school. These challenges escalated, and after several hospitalizations for acute psychiatric symptoms, Kai dropped out of school. Despite this setback, our staff did not give up on Kai, and Kai realized that there was still an opportunity for him to recover.

Through Kai’s rededication to his recovery and the continued care and support of the team at Kaplan House, Kai set a goal of getting and keeping a job and living more independently.

Building a Trusting Network

From here, Kai was on an upward trajectory. Kaplan House’s housework program helped him keep to a schedule and develop life skills, all while making money doing chores and tasks around the house. Our Preparing Youth for Adulthood workshops helped Kai develop independent living skills, like budgeting and household management. The team at Kaplan House also encouraged Kai to participate in and complete an internship with Workforce1, the NYC career center system, which led to a job working at Hudson Yards.

By 2019, a now 22-year-old Kai had progressed so much that he was accepted into our Duryea Young Adult Community Residence /Single-room Occupancy (SRO) Program, which provides transitional housing for young adults with mental illness and assists them on their recovery goals so they can successfully re-join the larger community. While Kai’s social worker at Duryea, Jeffrey, quickly picked up on his ongoing distrust for people and his guarded demeanor, he also realized how determined Kai was to reach his goals.

By supporting his new employment goals and love for nice clothes and accessories, the team at Duryea, including his vocational coach and therapist, helped keep him focused and build trust, and Kai eventually let his guard down. Jeffrey and the other outstanding male care workers were critical in providing Kai with warm, understanding male role models to look up to and share with.

Reaching a More Independent Level of Care

In the months that followed, Kai learned to cook and clean, began developing relationships with his peers, and became much more future-oriented. He got a steady job at the local Stop & Shop supermarket and continued to do well for himself. Ultimately, having a safe place to live with consistent staff support like the Brooklyn Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team was critical. ACT is an evidence-based practice that offers treatment, rehabilitation, and community integration services to individuals diagnosed with serious mental illness (SMI). ACT uses a person-centered, recovery-based approach to care. They kept showing up for Kai, even when he didn’t want them around, especially those positive male role models whom Kai continued to seek out daily to connect with.

After acquiring and reinforcing so many critical life skills, in May 2022, Kai was able to leave Duryea Young Adult Program and join Duryea Supported Housing, which helps residents as they transition to a more independent way of living. Today, Kai has been able to sustain the skills he’s learned. He is working to live even more independently, paying rent and his utilities on time each month, continuing to manage his medication with the help of the ACT Team, and learning to better advocate for himself and to communicate more openly. He’s maintaining his job with Stop & Shop and has even increased his work hours, relying less on public aid. It’s clear how triumphant he feels now that he has his own space and he’s able to host his family for Sunday Night football.

We applaud Kai for reaching his recovery goals with the support of the dozens of Jewish Board staff throughout our programs, and hope he continues to grow during his journey toward further independence and recovery!

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of our clients.

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From a Youth in Crisis to a Thriving Adult
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