BAXTER -- After being assaulted again by her 17-year-old daughter Christine, Eva Hoaglund of Deerwood had enough. Her daughter, she told a judge, was not coming back into her home.
One year later, Hoaglund credits the Baxter Youth Shelter's Lakes Area Runaway program for not only helping her daughter become a happier and more productive person, but also for repairing the strained relationship between mother and daughter.
Hoaglund and her family moved to Deerwood about three years ago from the Twin Cities. Each time her daughter got in trouble there, a judge would require Hoaglund to take her daughter home. The problems continued. When Christine got into trouble again in Crow Wing County she was given the opportunity to enter the Lakes Area Runaway program, a program for youths up to 17 years who need a place of safety and shelter who are in a runaway or homeless situation.
Youths in the program can live at the shelter for up to 15 days with access to trained counselors. A runaway teen can call at anytime, day or night, and a shelter worker will provide a ride to the shelter. Within 24 hours, the parents or guardians are called and told where the teen is. The teens in the program then meet with John Redding, the shelter's youth coordinator, who assesses what their needs are and connects them with community resources.
Up to three therapeutic counseling sessions are offered through Lutheran Social Service for the teen and the family at no cost. Of the 33 young people who have been involved with the program in the past three years, 25 teens have returned home. The others developed independent living plans with help from shelter staff and were found jobs and apartments, through the generosity of area businesses. Shelter staff members, like Redding, then continue to check on the former runaway teens to make sure their living situations are safe and they stay out of trouble.
When Christine arrived at the shelter last year, she was defiant, said Redding. She wanted to live on her own and Hoaglund said she didn't want her daughter back in her home. Within the 15 days at the shelter, she got a job and a place to live at an area apartment.
"Chris' problem was rules and regulations," explained Redding.
For two months, she lived on her own but continued to stay in contact with shelter staffers, especially Redding, who would stop by unannounced at her apartment and find beer bottles strewn everywhere and lots of other teens camped out in her apartment. Then Christine was evicted.
"People took advantage of her," said Redding. "Her friends started getting her into trouble. Then she started to appreciate her home."
"I saw a very big transformation in her," said Hoaglund. "She was doing more listening to what I had to say. She'd come home to visit and complain about her roommates, her job and her friends."
And in an unusual move that Hoaglund herself never expected, she allowed Christine to return home. Living on her own had changed Christine. She started going to school again and graduated from Crosby-Ironton High School in May. She became an advocate for the runaway program and traveled to area schools to discuss her experiences during the past year. She enlisted in the U.S. Navy, a dream of hers for five years, and shipped out June 6. She graduates from boot camp Aug. 4, an event that has made her mother proud. Mother and daughter write daily to each other now.
"Never have I had as much success with Chris as when Chris came here," said Hoaglund. "She talked a lot about John and she respected what he had to say. It was something that had never happened before. If she hadn't been here, she wouldn't have lasted at bootcamp. There was no way."
Redding said Christine developed self-esteem through the program. The shelter is planning to send Christine a card and some money for her upcoming bootcamp graduation. Christine plans to go into naval intelligence with the dream of working for the CIA one day.
Hoaglund doesn't consider Christine's attempt at living on her own as a failure. Her daughter learned a valuable lesson that made her even more determined to succeed.
"We're here to support the parents and the kids," explained Tami Lueck, director of the Baxter Youth Shelter.
"I talk to them at their level," said Redding, who grew up in the inner city in San Diego and Minneapolis. "I don't judge the kids."
The Lakes Area Runaway Program has been around for three years and is available because of a federal grant. The shelter will learn it has qualified for a three-year grant extension in September so it can continue with the program.
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