A Residential Shelter for Adolescent Drug Addicts

by Dance To Live

When I visited a class at Nexus Recovery Center in December, a new group of children had just entered the treatment center with their Moms.  I joined the children’s class.  What a sad testament to the effects of drug abuse on the children in a family.  The new children are dramatically different than children who have lived at and experienced the treatment center for several weeks. It is difficult for the new youngsters to sit still and listen, many of the 4 year olds were still in diapers, they did not know their colors, had trouble introducing themselves in a group and were anxious and restless.

Repeatedly I am impressed by the patience and loving nature of the staff.  They make a huge difference in these children's lives in a very short time.  They set boundaries of acceptable behavior and temper their discipline with love and respect.  Their speech is positive and rewarding and affirming.  . 

It is in this environment that Dance to Live offers it's classes.  Begun as a vehicle to pass on Michelle's love of dance, Dance to Live offers grants to non-profit organizations which provide dance therapy, yoga, and expressive movement programs that are designed specifically for the children in their care. Movement therapy is a healthy and effective method for a child to transcend the challenges of the moment and work toward emotional and physical wellbeing.

I was so happy to see progress in just this one class, as the children began to meet expectations and participate fully in the program.  The feeling in the room went from concern (doing something new) to enthusiasm and smiles.  That’s just how captivating Dance to Live is!

I know that what we do at Nexus Recovery Center, and other shelters in which we provide services, honors the kind, loving, accepting personality of Michelle.  What we do is healthy, stimulating, and lots of FUN!  We use physical activity to bond participants through integrated and challenging movement.

Thank you for supporting us – and lending a helping hand to these young mothers and their children.

Today, October 19th  is the 13th anniversary of my daughter’s death.  Michelle was a dancer and performer from the age of 5 – and to her dancing was what brought meaning to her life. 

When she was 11 years old, Michelle wrote, "To me, dance is everything. It is my air to breathe, my will to live, and the water to quench the thirst in my soul to express myself. When I am dancing, my life is in order; without dance and my ability to free my feelings, my world is chaotic and confused."

Using Michelle’s words, we were inspired to provide this feeling of release to other young women who need an outlet to expresses themselves for situations in which language could not give meaning to the depth of their feelings.

Thanks to all of you who have supported Dance to Live throughout the years.  We are working hard to provide movement as a healthy and effective method for an adolescent to transcend the challenges of the moment and work toward emotional and physical wellbeing.

It's hard to imagine that another year has almost gone by and we will be starting our 8th year at Nexus Recovery Center - a residential treatment center where adolescent women  receive treatment for drug addiction while their children reside with them at the center.  The women and children attend school plus counseling sessions, both individual and group.

Added to this mixture of treatment, Dance to Live offers classes in Yoga and therapeutic dance, both to the mothers and their children – who are as much victims of their mother’s drug addiction as the mothers themselves. 

Some of these young women have had lives so confusing that it is difficult for them to express what they are feeling.  Movement transcends all languages and allows the women to express themselves in ways that otherwise they would not.  Dance to Live works on trust and supportive relationships– such as pairing individuals in Yoga moves where success is dependent on both parties.

The first time I attended one of the Nexus classes was near Thanksgiving 7 years ago.  Our dance therapist, Lynn, asked the girls to express what they were grateful for.  I was truly surprised to realize that these young women, suffering from severe drug addiction, felt “loved” by their families- that they realized others in their lives cared very deeply for them.  I honestly thought that they would be disenfranchised from their families – but that wasn’t the case.

Perhaps because Nexus exists to work with adolescent females, particularly girls with children, they are not yet hardened addicts.  However, on the same day of my first visit the girls had just received the news that 2 of their friends who had recently been released, overdosed and died on cheese heroine on the same weekend they left Nexus.  The girls in class were struggling with grief and the realization that they were not so different from their deceased friends.

We hope that accomplishments earned in the Dance To Live classes prepare these young women to succeed in other challenges.  If one can master a difficult Yoga pose, the balance required for that transcends into other aspects of their lives.  Exercise, expression, music, motion, release from daily struggles in a healthful setting – all these are tools for their future survival.  Thank you for giving these young women a fighting chance.

PS.  I'm sure you understand that photos do not accompany this report and the women and their children are minors.

Susan Parma, President

Dance to Live is now moving into our 8th year of serving the adolescents and their children at Nexus Recovery Center.  It has been a wonderful and fulfilling partnership with Nexus to work with these young women striving to create a drug-free future for themselves and their children.  As we introduced Yoga and dance therapy to Nexus 8 years ago, it is telling that the service agency is moving in the direction of incorporating "mindfulness" into their treatment program.  Just as Dance To Live has always stressed body and mind awareness, now the concepts of Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention are being incorporated into the treatment program.  We love it!

Cindy Seamans, PhD, Licensed Psychologist, director of the Adult Women and Detox Programs at Nexus says that a “mindfulness-based program is especially effective with Nexus clients in very early recovery who have trauma histories and co-occurring anxiety and other mental health disorders. It is a great tool for them to use to fight cravings and the type of impulsive self-destructive decisions that lead them to relapse”.

This concept is the essence of Dance To Live.  We have always accepted that young women and children who have chosen to abuse drugs are dealing with far more than just drug abuse.  To stay off drugs, these women have to be provided skills so that they can communicate and release the frustrations and trauma in their lives.  Dance to Live has chosen the vehicle of Yoga and movement – so that what cannot be said with words can be transmitted and released through movement.

Nexus has recently added a new program for the Pregnant/Parenting Women with Children (PPWC) Residential Program – one of only a handful of programs in the nation that allows women 18 and older to bring as many as three children with them while they are in residential drug treatment. This program includes parenting education, life skills, family counseling, and ensures healthy birth outcomes for infants. Moms in the program that give birth to babies while in recovery, return to Nexus from the hospital to continue their treatment with their infants. The typical length of stay is 60-90 days, and 72 healthy babies were born to moms at Nexus between September 1, 2013 and August 31, 2014.

Dance to Live welcomes these parents and children into our groups. Once the new children adjust to their altered living arrangements, they welcome the break from their year-round classrooms.   Recently we have had so many young children in our groups that we have had to split the children into two groups (younger and older).  That’s great – as long as they come we will provide the service they need.

We strive to provide these young women and their children with resources they can use in their daily lives to create healthy and productive lifestyles in the future for themselves and their children.  Without your assistance our programs would be severely curtailed.  As always we are grateful for your support.  Together we can create the opportunity for a brighter future for them and their families.  Thank you!

Suan Parma

It has never occurred to me to say this in writing, but the reason we do not have photographs on this site of the children we work with - is because they are children - and frequently the Mothers themselves are legally children as well. I received a thoughtful question about this.  Virtually all our work is with children in protective shelters - so we vigilantly guard them and their privacy.  Not to do so would be to endanger them.  So thank you for asking the question and giving us the opportunity to explain.  We are always happy to discuss Dance to Live with anyone.  My email is included in each report.

From our website - "Dance to Live!  provides grants for expressive movement and dance therapy in memory of Michelle Parma.  Our mission is to raise funds to support community programs that provide dance therapy as a means of expression, connection, co-operation, an outlet for emotion and a source of joy.  Dance to Live uses dance therapy to connect beauty with one’s self."  The previous sentence expresses what we accomplish at Nexus Recovery Center.

The adolescent girls we work with have already experienced poverty, dead-end education, hopelessness, drug addiction - and ever more frequently single motherhood.  The children are housed at the residential shelter with their mothers and we have had an explosion of young children in our classes.  Since most of these children are developmentally delayed (because of their home environment) we work with the school to tailor classes around what they are currently being taught.  At this point, we are dividing our children's classes into two groups - the very young children and then the elementary age children.  Their mothers all attend one adolescent movement class where lesson plans are coordinated with the counseling and educational staff and developed by Dance To Live to address their most pressing needs. Frequently that need is an alternate means of expression - some form of outlet for emotions other than words.

The environment which these girls and the children inhabit is so different from most of the lives we live.  But Dance To Live can make a difference.  They have come to Nexus for help - either through their own volition or court ordered.  They will receive weeks of counseling with their children and peers, education and tutoring, and lots and lots of group work and play.  We are proud to be part of that healing process and we very much thank you for your involvement in Dance To Live.  

When I visited in December, a new group of children had just entered Nexus Recovery Center with their Moms.  I joined the children’s class.

Whereas the kids Lynn works with on a regular basis are thrilled to see her - these children were apprehensive of  a new person and what was expected of them.  Lynn got out her "dots" and spread them in a circle on the floor.  Each child sat on a dot - and we began the movement period with music and games.  

The games involved moving with colored scarves and taking turns dancing in the center of a circle when your color was called, Yoga poses, a story book followed by questions about the child's favorite part of the story, stuffed animals (each child chooses an animal and then makes the sound of the animal or walks like the animal), and a piece of Christmas tinsel under which the children crawl/slide/slither and then later jump over.

One of the boys seemed incapable of participating.  When all the other children would sit, he would remain standing and seemed oblivious to what Lynn had asked him to do - and also, totally unaware that the children around him were having fun.  He watched or stared out into space but never participated in the class.  He was not a problem and we would speak to him using his name, but he was unresponsive.  We knew there were no physical problems - it just seemed he couldn't connect.  I turned my attention to others in the room - and later when I looked back, he was sitting on his dot on the floor - smiling - not participating yet - but smiling.  Next time...............

I was so happy to see progress in just that one class, as the children began to meet expectations and participate fully in the movement program - and relax and enjoy the experience..  The feeling in the room went from concern (doing something new) to enthusiasm and smiles.  That’s just how fun Dance To Live is!

Thank you for supporting Dance to Live!  We all need to dance a bit and shrug off life's problems.  One hundred percent of your donations go directly to providing services to the children.  Without your help we would not be able to affect a positive change in these children's lives.  We are grateful.

Susan Parma, President - Susan.Parma@DanceToLive.org

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Organization Information

Dance To Live

Location: Dallas, TX - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.DanceToLive.org
Project Leader:
Susan Parma
Dallas, TX United States
$2,745 raised of $9,300 goal
53 donations
$6,555 to go
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