Making a Promise

Our approach to kids at Covenant House is unique and the cornerstone of this is the “covenant”. When a youth comes to our doors, we make a covenant, or a promise, to support them every step of the way to independence. We share our guiding principles with them, which include providing immediate care and sanctuary, modeling and communicating positive values, as well as offering structure and helpful choices.

The youth must agree to follow the rules of the house, as well as a plan developed by the youth and their youth worker. Plans can include all the objectives they set for their stay, such as looking for a job, going to school or learning life skills. Every plan is tailored to the individual needs and goals of each youth. Every youth at Covenant House is working towards independence in their own way and at their own pace, with the careful ongoing support and encouragement of a dedicated youth worker.

Planning for success

During the day, our kids are working at their job, going to school or attending our mental health day program, called Arts and Minds. In the evening, they all come back for dinner and are in bed by 10 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. on weekends.

The structure of our day plans, the curfews and the rules of conduct at Covenant House are strict, but reasonable. We do this for two reasons—safety and structure. We have many youth living together and we need to keep them safe. We have a reputation among the youth for being the safest and cleanest youth shelter in the city and providing safety to our youth is a responsibility we take very seriously. And, when our kids are given the structure they need, they learn to navigate the world we live in and achieve success.

We believe in our kids. We believe that if we give a reasonable set of expectations to the youth, they will rise to meet them—and we see it every day. Teens can be headstrong and often feel the need to do things their own way. We will identify when they are ill-prepared and we will address the need for specific life skills. We believe that sometimes youth need to make bad decisions and see the consequences before they are ready to be guided in more positive directions. We catch them when they fall and then suggest something more manageable until they are ready to try again.


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