I recently came across a reference to the Island Wide Youth Collaborative (IWYC), and immediately visited their site, which piqued my interest, sending me to discover what they are all about. As I learned from administrative assistant Victoria Rolanti, it turns out IWYC is about many wonderful things for Island youth and families.
The center was formed in 2013 as a partnership between Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, the Youth Task Force, the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard, Martha’s Vineyard schools, and the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. IWYC is funded by the Department of Children and Families (DCF), and helps families with youth from 0 to 18 years old.
Working with approximately 50 families, with more coming in each day, IWYC helps parents, children, and families find emotional support and practical assistance with everything from mental health services and parent education programs to playgroups, affordable childcare, and teen support groups.
“When a family comes, there are a lot of avenues they can go down,” Rolanti says. “We are a full family resource center. We will have everything from financial to clinical to familial and educational support … literally, anything having to do with families.”
The first stop for people, whether through referral or those who discover IWYC on their own, is an intake with a caseworker, who then follows up on a regular basis. Assistance is tailored on a case-to-case basis. It might be financial assistance, for instance, for anything from groceries to car payments to membership for soccer. But there is so much more.
There are support groups for families touched by adoption, and grandparents who care for children. Nurturing Families through Recovery meets weekly, and includes dinner. There are parent consultations, and Out at Home, LGBTQ therapy appointments for youth and adults. You can find dental clinics, and IWYC provides regular immigration clinics, along with Portuguese speakers on staff, and offers its materials and calendar in English and Portuguese.
Its educational assistance is robust. “A school liaison will go to all of the Island schools bi-weekly or monthly, and speak to the guidance counselors about the families we are working with. It breaches the gap between the school, teacher, and director, and they get to know the support we’re offering the family,‘’ Rolanti tells me.
She also explains, “Our caseworkers work closely with DCF. A lot of what we do is preventive, before DCF steps in and takes a child or does anything. We are a buffer to try and work on things before they get to a state level. We stand up for the children and the families. Sometimes, people don’t know the resources they can get. We want the community to know that we are here, the doors are open, and you can come ask us anything … even if we aren’t able to help … they will get you to someone who does.”
IWYC has diverse offerings, as well. For its Youth Pride MV program in November, there was an herbalism workshop for LGBTQ youth. Eat the Rainbow is a healthy teens food series for youth 12 and up who take a food journey filled with colors and healthy eating, where they co-create with local, seasonal foods, and become more empowered with self-care. There was a family portraits event where they could get their photograph taken by Endless Memories by Adriana. At the end of the month, there is an interactive social skills workshop at Misty Meadows for 8- to 12-year-olds.
“It’s all about getting people on their feet in the community for the needs that we see or hear,” Rolanti sums up the work of the IWYC.