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There’s no mystery to Marquell’s success

April 23, 2012

Marquell with his father, Marcello

The foster mother reported that he could get out of hand.

The Georgia Division of Family and Children Services caseworker assigned to the family said he had a major behavior issue and would really act out.

It carried over to school, where he was physically aggressive to peers and staff.

Marquell was referred to Youth Villages from DFCS about a month before he reunified with his father, Marcello.

Then Marquell’s behavior changed. The reasons for it are a mystery. By all accounts, his physical aggression and outbursts reported by the foster parent and state just didn’t happen any more.

“I never saw it,” Marcello said. “He’s always been a great boy.”

But he still needed help. Marquell was placed in foster care following allegations of abuse by his mother. He’s also diagnosed with ADHD, which created problems with impulse control. Youth Villages Family Intervention Specialist Kayla Billups worked with Marcello to create a safe, stable environment for Marquell. She worked with Marquell on coping skills. They met up to three times each week, with Kayla on call 24 hours a day.

The Intercept intensive in-home services program is a proven alternative treatment for children and youth who otherwise would be placed in foster care, residential treatment, detention centers, hospitals or other juvenile facilities. Diverting youth from these out-of-home placements, Intercept family intervention specialists provide guidance and treatment resources for youth and families in their own homes.

“DFCS made sure the support services Marquell received during foster care went home with him,” said Kirby Starks, Youth Villages regional manager. “DFCS set the foundation for Marquell to succeed.”
DFCS and Youth Villages collaborated often to ensure the family had social supports and positive activities for Marquell.

Weekly goals were set up to give Marquell something to focus on. They achieved a two-fold benefit.

“One week we’d work on outbursts, then the next week we’d work on Marquell cleaning his room,” Marcello said. “Part of it was getting him to stay on task, but it also let Marquell understand that being a part of the family required his contribution.”


Marquell’s in the third grade and said math is his favorite subject.

“I like living at home,” he said. “I get my work done and I get to watch movies or play games.”

Marquell was discharged in October. On his days off, Marcello regularly visits his son’s school.

“I’m pretty active with the school to make sure everything’s going well there,” he said. “Not only that Marquell’s getting the care he needs and following up on everything, but also to check on Marquell and make sure he’s doing what he needs to do.”

Kayla said dad sometimes visits the school and sits in during Marquell’s class.

“He developed a good rapport with the teachers and advocated for Marquell,” she said. “Marcello’s worked very hard to make a good home for his son, and I commend him for that.”

But the change in behavior when Marquell went to his father’s house remains a mystery. Maybe it was his system, as Marcello calls it, where Marquell has work to do and then gets to do what he wants. Marcello doesn’t suffer silliness during work time, and is consistent with rewards and consequences.

From day one, Kayla said dad has done whatever has been asked of him to make a home for Marquell.

“Maybe it was his sternness,” she said. “Or the way he handled Marquell. He’s always been supportive and helpful to Marquell, never rude or anything like that. He just never left the door open for Marquell to act up.”

Kayla went to court with Marcello during custody hearings. She helped Marcello develop a rapport with Marquell’s teachers at school.

“We had a lot to work through,” Marcello said. “But it’s so much better now. I’m happy Marquell’s at home.”

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