Shaping lives one visit at a time

Celebrating their 125 anniversary, Hoyleton Youth and Family Services continues to support children and families despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo courtesy of

Hoyleton Youth and Family Services is a faith-based organization that provides services to children and families in need. Primarily located in Hoyleton, Illinois, they serve as an outlet for foster children, parenting teens and developmentally disabled boys. Sharon Schultz, director of child welfare, has overseen the foster care program for nine years. Schultz said the Hoyleton staff works hard to carry out their mission, which is to help the youth of all beliefs and backgrounds.

“Our care and compassion are what drives us on a day-to-day basis,” Schultz said. “We have a lot of outreach in the community. We are helping [young people] to live on their own or prepare for the next stage of their life.”

According to Schultz, her job can be mentally tolling at times. She and her coworkers have to focus on their mental health just as much as their patients. Some days this may mean leaving work early. Because of this, Schultz said they highly staff in order to provide employees with support from other workers and get guidance on cases to bring a collective recommendation to court hearings.

“I think anyone in social work will tell you there is no day that is the same, so we rely a lot on our team members,” Schultz said. “We have a code to ‘share the love.’ We jokingly say on bad days to ‘share it all’ so it doesn’t land on just one person. We are very cognizant of the impact stress can have on you in this job, so we make sure that we support each other. There’s a lot of emotion. You have to learn to shut it off at some point in the day. You can’t help clients if you don’t have time for yourself.”

With a career in social work, you’re bound to create special bonds with clients, according to Schultz. One case that shaped her career was with a pregnant teen who she visited four years ago during a quarterly visit with a fellow case worker.

“She was crying when we got there and explained how she always wanted a baby shower,” Schultz said. “She tried to throw herself one and invited friends and family, but no one showed up. Small things like that we take for granted. They are normal things in our life, but for some people, it’s a dream of theirs to have the little things we do.”

Feeling bad for the teen, Schultz reached out to their community church partners to throw her a surprise baby shower. Although it happened after the baby was born, Schultz said the teen was very grateful.

“I still hear from her every so often about how much that meant to her and her child,” Schultz said. “She now belongs to a church and tries to give back to her community by doing volunteer work. That one case brought me and my coworkers so much joy.”

A major way Hoyleton thrives is off of their volunteer work. Volunteers can help in many ways, such as assembling backpacks for children, helping stuff goodie bags for events, donating Christmas gifts, baking with kids and taking them fishing. Schultz said their clients love spending time with the volunteers.

“We have a variety of ways for people to volunteer and help our clients,” Schultz said. “It doesn’t always have to be buying them something. People can build relationships with them as well.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has had major effects on many businesses. Schultz said that Hoyleton has luckily not been forced to downsize. In fact, it has helped their organization grow.

“Thankfully we haven’t had many of our clients test positive for COVID-19,” Schultz said. “Our staff have been wonderful coming into work every day knowing that there could be possible exposures. We’ve been able to step up to the challenge and help the community in a variety of ways, whether that’s offering counseling, resources for parenting services. 

Although visitors cannot currently visit homes because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still many monetary ways to volunteer at Hoyleton. To learn more about volunteering, please visit and click on the Get Involved tab.