For more than 100 years, Directions for Youth & Families (DFYF) has carried out its mission to build and inspire hope, healing, and resilience for youth and families—one individual, one family at a time. DFYF serves thousands in central Ohio each year with counseling, education, and support programs.
Through resiliency-oriented, trauma-informed care, DFYF offers programming to parents and children—both individually and together—providing emotional, mental, and behavioral health services, as well as traditional case management support.
As Duane Casares, MSW, LISW-S, CEO of Directions for Youth & Families, explains, being part of and doing outreach in the communities that DFYF serves has allowed the organization to gain the trust needed to carry out its mission.
“We believe that communities can heal themselves. We believe in the people we serve,” said Casares. “We’ve taken the approach that you have to work with the community; they should have a say in the services and programming they receive. They should direct the process. This is the way we’re going to have a lasting impact.”
CEO Duane Casares, MSW, LISW-S, accepts The Columbus Foundation Award on behalf of Directions for Youth & Families. Pictured (l-r): Dan Sharpe, Vice President for Community Research and Grants Management at The Columbus Foundation; Duane Casares, MSW, LISW-S, CEO of Directions for Youth & Families; and Columbus Foundation Governing Committee member Marchelle E. Moore.
Programs at DFYF are offered in three main categories: clinical counseling programs, where individuals, families, and groups can receive counseling on a range of issues including trauma, depression, anxiety, and aggression; education programs, including early childhood education and parenting classes; and afterschool and summer programs, where youth can receive homework help, access to computer labs, leadership development, and more.
Over 95 percent of services are provided at no cost to individuals and families, allowing those who would not be able to afford it to receive the services they need.
In June 2022, DFYF broke ground on the new Crittenton Community Center, a 25,000-square-foot social services center in the Eastland area that will help the organization serve even more youth and families in the region. In partnership with more than 20 nonprofit organizations, the new Crittenton Community Center will offer services that address food insecurity, housing stability, workforce development, education, legal aid, mental health, support for seniors, youth programming, and more.
“When communities lack resources, it becomes an issue of social justice,” said Casares. “One of the biggest things about this project—and I’m just so grateful for this community—is that we have 23 social service agencies that are going to join us once we open the building. We’ll be working with these nonprofit partners to serve the community in a one-stop shop. We’re really looking forward to it.”
The new center, which is replacing the former Crittenton Center on Kimberly Parkway, is one of two community centers operated by DFYF. The other, the Ohio Avenue Youth Center, provides a safe, positive environment for young people to engage in creative thinking, try new experiences, develop tools for self-expression, and give back to their community through service projects and the arts.
Over the last 20 years, DFYF has received grants from The Columbus Foundation and Supporting Foundations ranging from $250 to $2 million.
“For generations, Directions for Youth & Families has provided safe spaces and expert care for those needing stable, positive influences in their lives,” said Dan A. Sharpe, Vice President for Community Research and Grants Management at The Columbus Foundation. “The Columbus Foundation is honored to support Directions for Youth & Families’ vision of building healthy individuals, strong families, and safe communities.”
Directions for Youth & Families Headquarters
In recognition of the important role this organization plays in bringing stability and opportunity to youth, families, and neighborhoods, Directions for Youth & Families has been selected as the 2022 honoree of The Columbus Foundation Award. As part of the award, DFYF will receive a $100,000 unrestricted grant from The Columbus Foundation.