For all her kindness, Mother's Day could be good to North Las Vegas humanitarian Dreana Sweeney.
The 45-year-old mother of five, three of whom she adopted, has served as foster parent and guardian angel to kids in need ever since she got her high school diploma and first apartment at 16.
"To this day, I'm 'Mom' to over 300 kids in Nevada," she said. "They all call me Mom, and I look like I could be their little sister."
The roof she puts over her brood is Promoting Healthy Adolescent through Schooling, Education and Services, or PHASES, a behavioral health, social rehabilitation and counseling organization Sweeney founded in June 2011.
To launch PHASES, Sweeney blended personal experience with degrees in criminal justice, business and psychology and decades working with state and local children's services organizations.
"I worked at Child Haven for 15 years, and I would see the biggest problem was people aren't addressing the bad behavior," she said. "They should be assessed and placed with the proper family."
In Sweeney's youth, foster care was close to home. Her grandmother and aunt cared for several children in need and instilled a certain state of mind in her.
"The way I was raised, when a foster child comes into the home, they are considered your brother or sister," she said. "This is part of me."
The mentality isn't shared widely, she said. As a child advocate and foster parent, Sweeney saw children shuffle through 15 to 40 foster homes in their adolescence. Later, as a prison officer, she witnessed juvenile offenders transition from foster care to criminal records and jail time.
Under the PHASES umbrella, Sweeney recently launched two sub-programs, Faces and Milestones, to address separate but related needs of PHASES clients.
Faces offers food and clothing resources for families. Sweeney started the program after a holiday season spent dipping into her own pocket to help clients.
Milestones is a transitional housing program for adolescents ages 16 to 21 who have phased out of the foster system and may be otherwise homeless. Youths are to be living in a program-purchased North Las Vegas home by April 1, Sweeney said, and four other homes are in escrow. An investor is slated to back a 240-unit apartment complex for Milestones "graduates" to live after age 21, Sweeney said.
Clients of the two programs are able to access PHASES programing, such as social and parenting lessons, and extras, such as a planned trip to Knott's Berry Farm amusement park in California, Sweeney said.
"I want them to experience what my kids experience," she said. "I want them to know what it's like to go camping, to go sleep with food in their stomachs, to feel safe."
Sweeney has expanded PHASES offices in North Las Vegas twice to reflect client growth. The current address is 2755 W. Cheyenne Ave., Suite 105.
"I just look at it as definitely a blessing," she said. "I didn't think it would take off this quick."
Although PHASES is less than a year old, progress has been noted.
Client Nyesha Walker has a full house with five children ranging in age from 2 to 11. Her four sons have disabilities including autism, mental delays and deficiencies and are prone to tantrums and fighting, she said.
Going out in public was difficult for the young mother.
Then Walker was connected with PHASES, and outings have taken a calmer step forward.
"Their vocab is improving, and there are less tantrums, and it's easier for them calm themselves down," she said.
The boys attend weekend "day treatment," which includes classroom work, outside activities and computer time. Walker was able to take her family out to eat recently and avoid disruptive behavior, she said.
"I hope they grow up and have as much a normal life as anyone else," she said.
PHASES is funded through Medicaid, Amerigroup and private insurance. Sweeney employs 20 independent contractors and four full-time employees.
Clients are referred to Sweeney via state and county services, the court system and word of mouth.
Sweeney works one-on-one with clients, she said, and is often the liaison or advocate in the classroom, courtroom and living room, as PHASES programming also targets family dynamics contributing to behavioral issues.
She's also working on a doctorate in psychology.
Despite a packed day planner, Sweeney plans to keep up her stamina and her mission.
"Until it's time for me to get my wings, I'll be doing this," she said.
For more information, call 868-6365 or visit phasesnv.com.
Contact Centennial and North Las Vegas View reporter Maggie Lillis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 477-3839.