Louisiana organization visits Roy Maas Youth Alternatives to emulate successful program models

Extensive programming including shelters, drop-in center, in-house therapy a model for others

SAN ANTONIO - – Foster youth, kids experiencing homelessness, trafficked children are all welcomed by Roy Maas Youth Alternatives (RMYA).

“It’s the continuum of care, knowing that a kid could come in at any point in their journey and receive services and be followed up with,” said RMYA COO Dr. Julie Strentzsch.

Strentzsch said that’s what has caught the attention of similar organizations in Texas, Colorado, and now Louisiana.

“We want to emulate their type of care on a greater scale in New Orleans,” said Rebecca Gardner, the board president of Raintree House in New Orleans, a shelter and therapeutic service center for foster care youth in crisis.

The weekend before Thanksgiving, she got the tour of RMYA.

“I picked the brains of all the fabulous staff members and walked the grounds of Meadowland and learned about the drop-in center and how Roy Maas has created these amazing partnerships throughout the community,” Gardner said.

“Their eyes were so big the whole time they were with us,” Strentzsch said. “It was really neat talking with her after the tour. She said, ‘Now I have a vision for where I want to go with this agency.’”

Roy Maas has an extensive list of services including:

  • Emergency shelters (one just for trafficking victims)
  • An emergency drop-in center
  • Long term residential programs
  • Transitional living programs
  • Counseling

“How to integrate clinical, that’s a big question for everybody, because not a lot of facilities have therapeutic processes integrated into their programming. They bring in therapists from a contract perspective. We don’t do that so, it makes us a little bit unique in the state and across the United States as well,” Strentzsch said.

During the pandemic, RMYA staff also took many calls from other organizations asking how they were dealing with serving youth amid COVID, and are continuing to do so.

The long-term programs at Roy Maas have a 90% successful discharge over the last two years. 80% of the stakeholder respondents report that family relationships have improved after RMYA services.

Plus, the Council of Accreditation, or COA, has recognized RMYA for exceeding state and national standards.

“And our drop-in center is the first accredited 24-hour drop-in center in the United States,” Strentzsch said.

“You see the recreational facilities, you see the pool they have for the kids to swim during the summer and understand the basics of how many direct care staff they need throughout the day, how those direct care staff are needed to be able to attend camps with the children, really just looking at the bigger picture,” Gardner said.

Gardner was invited to tour the campus by RMYA supporter and advocate Lana Duke, a former foster youth who now owns several Ruth Chris restaurants and supports foster care organizations including both RMYA and Raintree.

About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.