FAQs – MIYFS Counselors in our Schools


Q: What services do MIYFS counselors in our schools provide?


A: MIYFS counselors in our schools practice evidence-based prevention and intervention strategies proven effective for the mental health of youth. They know our children and know how to tailor their services to serve our MI community. These counselors interact with students in classrooms, outdoor play areas, hallways, and other locations throughout the school day, including lunches and recess.


MIYFS counselors interact with school staff and administrators in a consulting role, providing strategies for students who may need additional care or disciplinary measures outside of standard classroom interactions.


Q: Why is it important to have mental health counselors embedded in our schools?


A: By working as part of our school communities, MIYFS counselors have access to students during the day, where they spend the majority of their time. Their location allows for observational assessment and more formal screening in combination with school staff to identify potential risk factors early and the ability to refer kids for additional treatment when it’s deemed beneficial or necessary.


Our schools are the most obvious point of contact for kids in our community. To ensure the mental health of our kids, the entire mental health and well being of the family must be considered. Having counselors in our schools ensures that families with school-aged kids have an important support in place to identify the needs of a family to benefit a child.


Having counselors in schools for kids creates a low barrier to entry for services. Counselors are present and engaged, and provide services at no cost, which further reduces barriers to services and treatment for families.


Q: Why can’t teachers or administrators provide the support our kids need at school?


A: MIYFS school-based counselors are credentialed and trained to address general issues of mental health, as well as more specific issues such as violence, abuse, neglect, spectrum and mood disorders, behavioral disorders, and substance use and abuse. They are integrated into the school teams they belong to and are available to provide screening and referral to staff. School-based counselors are a valuable asset for our teachers and administrators.


MIYFS school based counselors provide programming and curriculum for students, staff and parents in areas that include: bullying, domestic and date violence and rape, depression, suicide prevention, anxiety and stress management, substance abuse, peer pressure and more general areas of social emotional awareness and functioning.


Group interventions are available upon request in areas such as grief and loss, divorce, family separation, friendship and peer relationships, LBGTQ+, physical challenges and more general social emotional skill building. There are also student interest groups and clubs that are facilitated by YFS school-based counselors.


Q: If the school counselors are delivering such important services, why not fund them and cut other areas of service that Mercer Island Youth and Family Services provides?


A: While the services the school counselors provide are highly beneficial to supporting the mental health of our kids, they are a point of entry for the most urgently required support MIYFS provides, including emergency financial assistance, rental and utility assistance along with a food pantry. ‘The City’ did not instigate these cuts but deferred to the expert advice of the MIYFS Director, who is best suited to determine how to prioritize service reductions. MIYFS has carefully considered what services can be reduced while still providing the core services our community needs. As important as our school counselors are, eliminating other MIYFS services would result in a devastating absence of care for the most urgent needs of our community.


Q: If the other services MIYFS provides are so important and essential, why don’t I hear about them as much as the school counselors?


A: There are many reasons why you may be more familiar with school-based counselors than other essential MIYFS services. School counselors are visible members of our school communities, and families often get to know them as part of their immediate circle of support. Secondly, many of the wrap around services provided by MIYFS outside the school setting touch on sensitive areas, where people receiving those services want to maintain their privacy. While many parents will openly share their appreciation for the school counselors, they may not be as eager to share other experiences with MIYFS. Counselors in our schools benefit all kids, but the comprehensive MIYFS suite of services address the holistic needs of a child and family.


Q: Can the Mercer Island community find a way to fund essential services in our community provided by MIYFS?


At this time, a group is convening and collaborating in our community to find solutions for the mental health needs of Mercer Islanders, including school counselors. PTA representatives are actively engaged to work towards solutions with MIYFS staff, MIYFS Foundation leaders, City Council, Mercer Island School District, Mercer Island Schools Foundation, and community members including representatives from the ‘NO on Prop 1’ campaign, senior citizens, and community leaders.


As your PTA, we will keep you updated, share possible opportunities to engage and potential solutions. Our PTA mission, ‘every child, one voice’ will not be fulfilled if we do not stay active on the mental health needs of our community. We are working for the whole child, yours, and all in our community.

Mercer Island PTAs


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