Guest blogger Hilsden House caseworker Josee Westerman

Hilsden House is the home of the agency’s youngest clients, boys aged eight to 12. With that age group comes some unique requirements. For younger children, moves can be especially difficult and anxiety provoking.

Knowing that, Hilsden has always done a great job of celebrating when our clients transition – whether it be going home or moving to a new program. In 2016, when I came to the program, I suggested the addition of the rock ceremony.

When a youth is scheduled to move, he gets to choose his own rock from a collection that I have purchased or found. All of the staff – many of who come in on their days off to participate – and youth gather in a circle, and the transitioning youth chooses who the rock will go to first.

Each participant speaks into the rock (and to the youth), sharing fond memories and expressing support, encouragement, and well wishes for the departing child’s future. When he goes, the youth gets to take the rock – and all the well-wishes – with him.

The idea behind the rock ceremony is that it gives a tangible reminder to each departing youth of how well he did and how loved he is. The youth that come here are an important part of our Hilsden family and always will be.

I have seen first-hand how our youth use the rocks as they transition. Earlier this year I visited a youth who had transitioned to a new program, and he was very eager to show me his rock – which he either carries with him or keeps on his desk.

It’s more than just a keepsake, though. The ceremony speaks to the strength and resiliency of each of Hilsden’s clients – it allows them to celebrate their successes with their peers and staff. It also speaks to the strength of the relationships developed at Hilsden House – no staff wants to miss a goodbye celebration for a client because we are all so invested in ensuring each client succeeds.

Ultimately, this ceremony allows our clients to know that this move is a good thing and they’re going to continue to grow, but we will always be here for them.

Through CARE principles, children, youth, adults, families, and employees work together to achieve their full potential.