North Shore Nonprofit Spotlight: Haven Youth and Family Services | Chicago North Shore Moms

Featured art from the Annual Youth Art Show


Welcome to Chicago North Shore Moms Local Nonprofit Spotlight, where we highlight and introduce a local nonprofit’s inception and mission. First we’d like to extend heartfelt gratitude to our Local Nonprofit Spotlight Sponsor, the lovely, bright and colorful Katie Ford, founder of Flowers By Katie.**

This month we are spotlighting the local nonprofit, Haven Youth and Family Services, whose mission is promote mental health and community wellness to support people in leading their best lives. Chicago North Shore Moms had the pleasure of hearing from Executive Director, Charley Smith, about how the nonprofit began in 1976, who it serves and how you can reach out for help… or even get involved in helping. Welcome, Charley!


Hi Charley! Please introduce yourself and Haven Youth and Family Services

Hello, my name is Charley Smith, and I am the Executive Director at Haven Youth and Family Services.
I grew up on the North Shore and currently work inside many of the same schools I attended. I also live in the community with my wife and our four children, ages 7, 11, 14, and 17.


What Haven Youth’s mission and vision?

The mission of Haven Youth and Family Services (HFYS) is to foster the mental health of youth and their families in the community through prevention, intervention & therapy programs. HYFS began in 1976 as a community agency dedicated to supporting youth in the community through school outreach programming. The agency was incorporated in 1978 and soon after began offering 24-hour crisis intervention and emergency housing programs for area adolescents and crisis stabilization for families.


Who does Haven serve? 

Haven serves individuals and families living in the surrounding areas who need psychosocial support.

Primarily, HYFS serves adolescents and families but is not limited to this specific population. Haven offers adolescents access to critical mental health supports, identity-affirming spaces, and caring adults—key supports that make up the foundation for young people’s mental health. HYFS is confident in its ability to continue to provide these trusted, long-standing preventive and wrap-around services that provide a safe experience and enhance youth wellbeing.

As a result of the need for mental health services, Haven now receives referrals from elementary, middle school, and junior high schools. Haven will provide free safety assessments and therapy to meet younger children referred to Haven for crisis intervention.

HYFS programs aim to bring new awareness about mental health, risky behavior trends, and intervention suggestions for community members by initiating opportunities for individuals to connect and build community with their peers and so much more.


Featured art from the Annual Youth Art Show


Can you tell us more about Haven’s accessibility to those in need therapy support and intervention?

HYFS is the only agency in the area that provides 24-hour housing support for families and youth facing an immediate, significant crisis. These issues include prolonged family conflict, abuse, runaway youth, lockouts (i.e., parents locking a minor child out of the home), and other forms of relational distress. It is also required that the family engage in family therapy at HYFS to manage a long-term crisis.


What about financial obligations?

No one has ever been turned away from therapy due to financial constraints.


What are a few of your key programs of Haven Youth and Family Services?

HYFS’s school outreach program has historically targeted middle, junior, and high schools in the New Trier Township. The program is in place to educate students on mental health and to support school staff. Haven’s outreach program has interacted with hundreds of students through psycho-educational presentations, therapeutic groups, and aiding school social workers, teachers, and administrators.

Safety Assessments:
After the adolescent has been referred from their school, HYFS ensures that students can be seen for an assessment that same day. After harm reduction practices are put in place, the therapist will make a recommendation, whether that is weekly therapy or hospitalization, to ensure the adolescent’s safety. Safety assessments also include follow up with the parents, school social workers, staff, or any other professionals to ensure the wellbeing and quality of care.

LGBTQ+ Support Services:
In recent years, HYFS has been moved to strengthen the LGBTQ+ affirming services available in our communities. The agency has mobilized resources in response to startling nationwide statistics demonstrating that LGBTQ+ youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide as heterosexual youth.
Parents in HYFS’ service area have approached the agency for guidance around feeling disconnected and under-resourced in attempting to help their children “come out” or self-disclose their sexual orientation/gender identity. To help these families, HYFS has established an LGBTQ+ youth support and creative arts therapy group and a support group for parents.

The Illinois Youth Investment Program (IYIP):
Haven’s most recent initiative is a multi-faceted approach to youth employment that invests in the future of Illinois’ at-risk transition-age youth (16-24). This approach to youth employment accounts for the youth’s employment barriers and the physical, emotional, social, and mental health needs while helping them secure and sustain long-term and/or career employment, thereby ensuring a greater likelihood of success and self-sufficiency.

Youth Board:
The Haven Youth Board is a program sponsored by HYFS that provides service-learning opportunities for youth in the community. It comprises kids 11-17, and their most current project is “The Safe Haven Podcast.” Available on both Apple Podcasts and Spotify, the podcast covers topics ranging from what it is like to be a high schooler during a pandemic, social media, current events, and more.



How did Haven start in 1976?

Haven started as an outreach program, and as the needs of the community evolved, Haven evolved too. We now are a clinical program with licensed staff who provide mental health therapy.

Haven continues to recognize the importance of outreach and provides education, training and workshops to the community.


Featured art from the Annual Youth Art Show


Charley, how did you personally get involved with Haven

I have always worked with youth and families. I have over 20 years of experience as an administrator and therapist, including working as the Director of Outpatient Services in a large nonprofit for adolescents in Chicago’s juvenile justice system.

I want to help youth navigate the challenges of adolescence and provide a safe environment for families to access mental health services.


What is the most rewarding aspect of being involved with Haven?

Reaching youth experiencing incredibly high rates of loneliness and other mental health concerns and have lost many of the crucial ways they connect with others. The pandemic has built upon the existing mental health crisis among young people; experts predict we will likely see increasing and lasting effects on their distress and demand for services beyond the epidemic. HYFS staff have also observed that especially during the COVID-19 epidemic, families who are facing a crisis with adolescents are also dealing with more complex, overlapping challenges—including staying mindful of health and safety measures that prevent the spread of COVID—which have, at times, prevented them from seeking outside help.

Here is an example of the wrap-around mental health services Haven provides:

I was contacted by the school social worker to work with a teen experiencing housing and family insecurity; she was referred to Haven for a safety assessment. She had experience with therapy in the past but was never able to form a relationship that felt safe enough for her to share her struggles and start to heal. Through Haven, she has a team providing wrap-around support to her and her family. Over the past six months, she has been able to connect with her therapist and the crisis team, develop a sense of security and safety, attend therapy regularly, and begin the journey towards healing.


Featured art from the Annual Youth Art Show


How do people who need these services learn about Haven?

HYFS offers display tables at community events to ensure that the public is familiar with HYFS so that in a crisis, they can access support immediately. Haven also provides an opportunity to raise awareness about warning signs for mental health or risky behavior in youth. Haven is a sponsor of the Family Action Network (FAN) and promotes Haven’s programs at several FAN events throughout the year.

We have partnered with other community agencies to tackle mental health concerns impacting our individuals and families. Some of these groups include School administrators, law enforcement, mental health agencies, social service agencies, faith-based organizations and others.


And what’s on the horizon for Haven?

Quite a few innitiatives:

  • Develop/Expand Youth Investment Program – possible corporate sponsor connections/expanding LGBTQ/racial outreach and mentoring.
  • Develop Internship Program – develop relationships with programs like UIC or Loyola.
  • Increase social media presence through youth-centric programs and create a podcast that would involve Youth Board/clients to educate the community on mental health concerns.
  • Develop/strengthen relationships with art departments at local middle and high schools, Evanston Art Center, etc., to work on art-centered, youth-driven projects – like the Art Show.


Who would you like to thank for making the formation and success of this non-profit possible and why?

We want to thank our volunteers, sponsors, and donors. We get a tremendous amount of support from our sponsors and donors and the community, who recognize the importance of Haven and the services Haven provides. We would not be able to exist without their support.

Also, Haven’s Board of Directors. We have ten members who establish the organization’s vision, develop the strategic plan needed to meet long-term goals, raise awareness of the agency throughout the community and raise funds for program services. Haven’s Board members organize and develop fundraisers, provide governance and oversight for practice and policy, and administer financial management.


For those who wish to get involved, how do our readers contribute or volunteer their time?

We invite everyone to visit our website or can call us directly at 847.251.6630

Get in touch with Haven for Youth. Call 847-251-6630 or email [email protected]. Haven Youth and Family Services. is conveniently located in Wilmette and Lake Bluff. Thank you for taking the time to learn more about Haven Youth and Family Services.


Thank you to CNSMoms’ Local Nonprofit Sponsor, Katie Ford of Flowers by Katie Ford!

Flowers by Katie Ford was started after Katie experienced a debilitating mental illness. She found peace working with flowers during her darkest days. Now Katie and her team create floral designs for wedding, events, and workshops hoping it brings joy to each occasion. Book Katie for your next special event! Learn more at

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