The ANCHOR Commission, which provides corrective services for youth ages 12 to 17 in Martinsville, Henry and Patrick counties, is celebrating 50 years of serving the community.
ANCHOR, according to executive director Ricky Walker, “tries to give young men a new chance and a way to give them the treatment, give them the resources they need while they’re still in the community.”
The organization began in 1972, when a group home for boys was created. In 1973, a group home for girls was created. It expanded several times in the 1990s and continues to expand.
Referrals for many of ANCHOR’s programs typically comes through the courts and the courts service program, but some also come from the Department of Social Services. There are some scholarships available for various programs for those who need them and cannot afford them.
ANCHOR also has a shelter care program, which makes up “a lot” of ANCHOR’s placements. Previously, there had not been a shelter care program in the area for the past 25-years.
“We started our current shelter care in 2020, and we started it just in time for the pandemic. So, it was kind of difficult for the first couple of years keeping it up and running, but we survived the pandemic and we’re doing really well,” Walker said.
Walker explained the differences between group homes and shelter care and the roles of each program. ANCHOR is currently the only shelter care or group home service in the region, with the closest being in Lynchburg.
“A group home placement is more of a long-term placement. It’s generally up to six months. Shelter care placements are, by code, a short-term placement. They can only be up to 90 days. A shelter care order can be reissued or extended, but generally that’s for 90 days,” he said.
Another program offered is Outreach and GPS. This helps prevent youth from needing to be monitored in more intensive ways, such as a detention center. The program serves about 65 young people per year, saving the localities ANCHOR serves a “tremendous amount of money,” Walker said.
“Outreach and GPS is going on and checking on young people at home, in their schools, at their place of work if they have one, and that can be done with or without GPS monitoring. We can go out and check on them just as an enhanced supervision for the courts or the court service unit, or we can go out and do that as well as having a GPS unit monitoring their movements every day,” Walker said.
ANCHOR has substance use disorder programs, as well. One of them, called Seven Challenges, is a comprehensive counseling program that aims to “meet young people where they’re at.”
“Whereas most adults have decided that they need some help, or they’ve decided that they need to do something different, with young people a lot of times the only reason they see it as a problem is because the courts, their parents, or someone else is telling them they have to stop,” Walker said.
Seven Challenges walks participants through the decision-making process and helps them to learn how to make decisions about safe and healthy options.
There’s also the Brief Challenges program, a shorter program that acts as an assessment to determine if young people have a substance use disorder problem, especially among youth who claim they were caught the first time they had a substance, he said.
“One of the best compliments I’ve had of both of those programs is a young person coming through, be it the group home or one of these two programs, coming out and one young man in particular said that the Seven Challenges Program not only helped him make decisions about drug use, it also helped him make decisions about life,” Walker said.
Recently, ANCHOR has also started Anger Replacement Training (ART), which helps young people with anger management issues. The ART program and both substance use programs are for young men as well as young women.
“ART, it’s an intensive program, it’s been used for over thirty years across the country, it’s one that the state of Virginia uses in all of their institutions, and it’s 10 weeks of group or individual sessions. The leaders for that program, they use things like skill streaming, which is basically teaching them ways to deal with their anger management issues, anger control training, and more reasoning training,” Walker said.
ANCHOR also offers a co-parenting class for parents going through a custody situation. It’s a four hour class, taken via Zoom, that “highlights each component required by the state of Virginia for parenting situations and custody situations,” Walker said.
“I like to say that it teaches parents how to get along when they’re parenting a child form separate locations and it also teaches them how not to use the child as a pawn, if you will, and to get along for the sake of the child and for the benefit of the child,” Walker said.
The Transitional Day Program, a cooperative agreement with Henry County Public Schools, helps to educate students with emotional and psychological disabilities that affect their behavior to where they cannot be in a traditional classroom, he said.
“They need a more restrictive classroom environment, and the aim of the program is to work with them and return them to a traditional school classroom setting at some point in the future,” Walker said.
The various programs have an effect on many of the young people who pass through them. Walker said, adding it is sometimes difficult to see these changes in the group home and shelter care placement because “you see them every day, but when you look at the beginning and end of their time there you can see the impact.
“It’s a really rewarding experience to see a young man coming in that he doesn’t realize what he should be doing. He’s getting in trouble, he’s doing things out in the community that he shouldn’t be doing, and then when he leaves here you can almost see him getting to be where they’re acting like more of an adult,” Walker said. “They’re making their decisions for the right reasons, they’ve learned how to get along with other people in social situations, hopefully they’ve learned not to be so impulsive and reacting so quickly when they get mad, and they can work things out whether than just getting in a fight.”
Walker thanked each locality for the 50 year resolutions they presented and said the work of ANCHOR would not be possible without many different organizations, including the United Way, Harvest Foundation, Kiwanis Club of Martinsville, Charity League, and many businesses, church organizations, civic organizations, and individuals. He also thanked the localities and ANCHOR staff and board members.
“None of this would be possible without the work of our staff, our ANCHOR staff, the board members, the ANCHOR Commission Board. They are tremendous, they have always supported ANCHOR,” Walker said.
“Some of our board members have been with us a long time and they just really like being a part of the board because of our mission and because of what we do in the community. The support of the localities, it wouldn’t be possible without the three localities, Henry County, Martinsville, and Patrick County,” he said.