WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Gus Rozycki helped form Bosco Homes in 1987 and today serves as its CEO.
Since its inception a quarter century ago, Bosco Homes has become known as an organization that will not give up on an at-risk child.
Gus Rozycki led a group of six Sherwood Park residents to form the charitable society in November 1987. Their immediate aim was to assist those who provide services for children, adolescents and adults who struggle with personal, developmental and mental health challenges.
"We have been providing services for 25 years, serving well over 4,000 individuals and their attendant families," said Rozycki.
The John Bosco Child and Family Services Foundation acquires lands, buildings and facilities for the housing, treatment and education of individuals who, through no fault of their own, require assistance and support. The foundation's focus is helping people and families struggling with many challenges.
Under Rozycki's leadership, Bosco has thrived and grown into an outstanding child and family services provider.
"Some of our programs we provide are residential services where they live with us, while others are day programs where people go home. Half of the kids in our school are referred to us by public or separate schools in the Greater Edmonton area," said Rozycki, now the foundation's CEO.
Teresa Devost, a psychologist, worked with Bosco Homes for 13 years, volunteering as a psych assistant initially and later as a clinician manager until March 2007. She worked primarily with children and adolescents, administering tests for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Her clientele ranged in age from seven to 19.
"We had kids suffering from various emotional, behavioural and psychological difficulties. This was an excellent program," said Devost, reflecting on how Bosco Homes provided schooling, therapy and other benefits to these troubled young people.
At any given time, some 200 children and their families receive treatment, education and support from Bosco Homes and 120 adults also receive a range of mental health services and supports.
"Most of the kids came from broken homes. Many of them had severe behaviour problems, mental health problems - a large variety of kids and problems, some with substance abuse issues," she said.
Their clientele included the whole spectrum of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).
The uniqueness of Bosco Homes, she said, was that it tried to devise a plan for each individual person, no cookie-cutter approach.
She praises the staff of Bosco Homes, many of whom must deal with young people who are at times violent against others.
"Some of them were basically young offenders. They were facing either our program or jail," said Devost.
Bosco Homes has grown from a 14-bed residential treatment facility in Strathcona County to a multi-tiered family of organizations which provide an array of services throughout Alberta and the Northwest Territories.
Among their services are intensive group treatment care, psychological and assessment services, foster care, special education and aboriginal services.
Above and beyond government funding, Bosco Homes needs to fundraise to supplement Christmas gifts, field trips and fun activities. If furniture wears out, the government is unlikely to provide money for replacements, so again fundraisers are imperative.
In 1991, Bosco Homes opened three transition group homes in Edmonton to assist clients' transition from a highly structured institutional program to a community-based group care program.
Two years later, the organization opened a 40-bed treatment foster care program which grew to a 70-bed treatment and general foster care program.
In 1995, the Ardrossan intensive treatment program, known as The Ranch, was expanded to 59 children and adolescents in care. That same year, they were selected to operate a territorial treatment centre in Yellowknife.
The Bosco central office moved from Sherwood Park to Edmonton in 1997 as administrative space requirements and program expansion could no longer be accommodated at Franklin's Inn in Sherwood Park.
Their new accommodations at St. Bride School were now home to Phoenix Academy, which met the educational needs of students from their four new group homes.
By 1999, the Edmonton region of Alberta Social Services was in desperate need of an extra 24-bed intensive group treatment program. With help from the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Bosco acquired St. Vital, the former provincial house of the Oblates, for its second campus-based program.
More expansion came in 2000. Bosco Homes was contracted to operate the Trailcross Treatment Centre in Fort Smith, as well as a six-bed community-based program and a second group home in Stony Plain.
In 2005, Bosco Homes purchased St. Francis Centre to serve as its administrative headquarters.
Bosco Homes was selected in 2006 to operate three adult mental health programs in Wetaskiwin to some 65 mental health clients. As well, an adult program for women with FASD who have children was initiated.
In 2007, Bosco Homes opened group homes in Ponoka and Innisfail. A third opened in Wetaskiwin the following year. Also in 2008, Bosco Homes began operating a treatment foster care program.
Given the success of the women's Open Arms program, in March 2009, a program for men with FASD was approved with funding from Alberta Justice.
Bridges, a community-based child and family support program, was opened in 2011.
A semi-independent living program was acquired in 2012 from Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the Boys and Girls Club of Edmonton.
The foundation has also established a fund to assist former clients seeking training or education for a trade or occupation.
Rozycki often hears success stories from past clients. Many of them depart from their care and go on to happy marriages, raising loving families, and finding gainful employment in many fields.
"We have some of our former kids working as policemen, social workers, teachers and blue-collar jobs, and they are successful people," said Rozycki. "Of course, there are people out there who didn't succeed sadly, and some of them are not on this planet anymore.
"Many of them do contact us, and it reinforces that we did make a difference in their lives," he said.