As one of New Jersey’s oldest, largest, and most respected residential treatment centers for at-risk youth, the staff at Bonnie Brae is acutely aware of the problem of locating suitable residences for young people who have successfully completed treatment programs in the State. In response to the very real needs of our residents, who often decompensate when no favorable discharge option can be identified, Bonnie Brae has established two community-based transitional living residences, one in New Brunswick which opened in 2005 and one in Bound Brook, the Van Houten House, which opened in April of 2013. Both are achieving great success.
In 2015, Bonnie Brae was awarded the first contract by the State of New Jersey to open a community based transitional living home for young men, ages 18-21 – a first for Bonnie Brae and a first for the State! Bonnie Brae’s Brozowski Liberty House opened in March of 2015 and with this home Bonnie Brae can now do more. It allows us to expand our continuum of care and give our young men the chance to develop and hone their employment and their life skills. Bonnie Brae is forging partnerships that are helping our young men with education, vocational training and job placement.
The Bound Brook Van Houten House and New Brunswick residences are home to 16 young men at a time, ages 16-19. Residents stay for approximately one year, based on personal progress and circumstances, at which time individuals will move out on their own to appropriate independent living options such as an apartment, group home or college. The primary goals for the transitional living program are to provide our young men with exposure to and practice with the life and job skills they will need to live as independent adults. At New Brunswick and Bound Brook, residents actually put into practice what they have been taught, but in a less restrictive environment where more is expected of them. They learn how to independently manage their time, attending school and juggling jobs and activities. They also learn other essential life skills, including home maintenance, meal preparation, laundry, personal finance, and how to use public transportation. Perhaps most importantly, they work on healthy behavior and relationship building: communicating, managing conflict, and developing friendships with housemates, in school and in the community. This vital transition period will build and reinforce both competence and confidence in these vulnerable young men, dramatically improving the chances of a successful move to independent life.
Since opening in 2005, 57 young men have transitioned successfully through the New Brunswick program, progressing toward independence. Of the eight young men currently living at the New Brunswick residence, one is enrolled in college and working full-time; and seven are attending high school, of whom three are on sports teams, one is a member of the Civil Air Patrol, and one is on the Youth Advisory Board through Rutgers University. This positive trend is now continuing in our Van Houten House, where 24 young men have transitioned successfully through the program. Five of last year’s residents had jobs in addition to attending school and all have become very involved in the local community – receiving numerous accolades for their community service with partners such as Elijah’s Promise and Jersey Cares.
The New Brunswick, Bound Brook and Bridgewater Transitional Living Residences represent a positive next step in helping these young men progress successfully from adolescent dependency to independent adulthood, immersed in real life activities, but still supervised by caring, trained Bonnie Brae staff-mentors. The program strengthens the fragile progress achieved on-campus; completes the cycle of treatment; promotes the prevention of regression; and provides a greater chance for ultimate success in the transition to independent life. With this valuable addition to our continuum of services, Bonnie Brae is better able to fulfill its mission to provide the highest quality of care possible to New Jersey’s youth in need.