Healthy Relationships – What do They Really Take?

Written by: Kim Frierson, Training Specialist, RHYTTAC / NSPN

Healthy relationships – the goal for the relationships we want for ourselves and the young people we work with. However, a healthy relationship is hard to create and maintain. How do we teach healthy relationships to youth? Do we model them? Is there a book to read?

What gets in the way of our young people forming and preserving appropriate relationships?

  • Trauma and its impact – Many youth have experienced traumatic events that make forming genuine relationships difficult, frightening, and unsafe. Past relationships may have been volatile and inconsistent, and it can be a daunting to initiate a relationship where one is vulnerable.
  • Lack of role models – Young folks do not model what they do not see, and some young people have not seen healthy relationships modeled. Their models may have been problematic, dysfunctional, or downright abusive. Offering examples of healthy friendships, romantic relationships, co-worker relationships, etc., gives young people a different perspective on how to operate in their personal and professional interactions
  • Lack of exposure to relationship skills – Communication skills, empathy, conflict resolution, listening. These skills and many others are not innate; they must be learned. Psycho-educational groups and information sharing with youth is another means to improve their relationship IQ.
  • Opportunities for practice – Practice makes perfect. For young people to master any skill, they must be opportunities to succeed and/or fail. As practitioners, creating safe environments for youth to “try on” new skills is invaluable.

As we move through Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, keep in mind that young people (and adults – hello!) need the skills and opportunities to forge and maintain healthy relationships. These social and emotional competencies will give young people a foundation to be a successful adult; a self-sufficient citizen that thrives in today’s world.

Here are some healthy relationship resources to brighten your day!

Love is respect – http://www.loveisrespect.org/

The Dibble Institute – https://www.dibbleinstitute.org/

Office of Adolescent Health – https://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/adolescent-development/healthy-relationships/index.html

Futures Without Violence – https://www.futureswithoutviolence.org/

Tips for Hosting a Tweet Chat

Written by Katie Carter, Associate for Research, Policy, and Information; Presbyterian Church (USA)

Want to share information and answer questions about a new program your agency is offering? Want to generate ideas for getting local entities interested in your organization? Want to provide a fun venue for connecting with your current followers and gain new ones? A tweet chat is a great, low-cost way to do this. All you need is a little prep work, a Twitter account and an hour in your day to make it happen.

A tweet chat is like a virtual meet-up connected by a common hashtag that happens during a specified time. For example, a group used  to convene on Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m. CST to discuss small business issues and network on Twitter. They used the hashtag #SmallBizChat.

If you decide to host a tweet chat, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t forget to include a hashtag. This is the way people will find your tweet chat. It is important you create a unique hashtag that is relevant to what you want to discuss. It should be simple, short, unique, and easy to remember.
  • Know why you want to start a tweet chat and have a plan. There are as many different reasons for hosting a tweet chat as there are organizations and people hosting them. Think about your target audience – local agencies? Donors? Kids on social media? Policymakers? Then cater to that audience.
  • Become familiar with tweet chats. Reading this is a good place to start. You might join in a tweet chat, or observe ones taking place. Get comfortable retweeting and using @mentions and @replies before hosting a chat.
  • Promote, promote, promote. No one will participate in your tweet chat if they don’t know it’s happening. Make sure you promote it on Twitter and other social media platforms at least a week in advance so people can plan ahead and participate. If you have a listserve, you might share the information that way. This also requires nailing down a time that will work for your target audience. Want to target school-age kids? You might plan a chat in the summer or after school hours. Targeting working parents? Think about what hours they will be available.
  • Actively manage the chat. It’s a good idea to do some planning ahead by preparing tweets in advance. Maybe you want to do a live question and answer session, in which case create a list of questions first that take into account the 140 character limit on Twitter and include the hashtag you are using. Be flexible in case you run out of time to ask or answer all of your questions. And respond to things other people ask.
  • Measure your impact and tell your story. So you’ve hosted your first tweet chat, but what did you accomplish? It’s a good idea to go back and see how many followers you gained during the chat and how many people participated by either retweeting or posting new content. Also, using websites like Storify is an easy, free way to share a summary of your tweet chat, or turn it into a story to share with donors, board members, staff and your social media networks.

Additional Resources:

Best Practices Guide: http://www.hashtags.org/business/management/best-practices-guide-for-tweet-chats/

Best Practices: http://www.slideshare.net/WCGWorld/twitter-chat-best-practices

How Not to Host a Twitter Chat: http://socialmediatoday.com/laurenbubble/1954471/how-not-host-twitter-chat

5 Common Sense Tips: http://blog.wcgworld.com/2012/01/five-tips-for-a-successful-twitter-chat

The Ultimate Guide to Hosting a Tweet Chat: http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevecooper/2013/09/30/the-ultimate-guide-to-hosting-a-tweet-chat/

Getting to Know Your NSPN Family: Geek Pride

Written by Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events, National Safe Place Network

What’s a geek to you? According to Wikipedia, “the word geek is a slang term originally used to describe eccentric or non-mainstream people; in current use, the word typically connotes an expert or enthusiast or a person obsessed with a hobby or intellectual pursuit . . .” Yada yada yada . . . There it is! “A geek is an enthusiast or person obsessed with a hobby or intellectual pursuit!” So, wouldn’t that make all of us geeks? I mean, we’re all obsessed with something. In case you’re stuck on the word obsessed—To obsess about something is to “preoccupy or fill the mind of (someone) continually . . .” Yada yada yada. So who doesn’t have something that preoccupies our minds—continually? Now that it’s settled—we’re all geeks, and it’s time to let our geek flags fly!

Did you know there’s actually a day for geeks to unite and celebrate geekiness? This day is known as Geek Pride Day and it’s held on May 25. There are lots of ways to celebrate Geek Pride Day. For instance:

  • Have a themed party.
  • If it’s a movie or television show that you are interested in—plan a marathon—live tweet it if you’re really proud!
  • Throw a game night—in costume.
  • Join a meetup and get together with like-minded geeks.
  • Share some fun photos of your obsession on social media—make sure to use the hashtag #GeekPrideDay.

Now that you’re up to speed about Geek Pride Day, take a look at what your NSPN family geeks out about.

  • Laurie Jackson, President/Chief Executive Officer: “Accounting—if that is possible.”
  • Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer: “Office supplies—the dream of being organized is fantastic.”
  • Shauna Brooks, Principal Investigator: “I LOVE data analysis!!!”
  • April Carthorn, General Specialist: “I’m easily entertained; however, I geek out about animals in the wild, fun childhood memories, and Las Vegas partying.”
  • Lindsey Collier, Human Trafficking Specialist: “Horses . . . and dogs and cats too!” I also geek out about preparing and enjoying delicious food (gluten-free of course!).”
  • Zach Elmore, Operations Specialist: “I’m a sucker for time-travel books/movies. Watching Primer with someone who has never seen it before is great fun.”
  • Kim Frierson, Training Specialist: “Movies, cooking, and social justice.”
  • Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations: “I geek out on old houses and buildings that have been preserved and/or repurposed. I also geek out on people saving materials out of buildings that are being torn down—as opposed to sending it all to the landfill.”
  • Rachel Hurst, Development Associate: “Science fiction anything—TV shows, movies, books.”
  • Hillary Ladig, Communications Coordinator: “Live music. My dad has been performing in a rock band since I was a little girl (sometimes even in my house). There’s nothing better than listening to great live music and watching the performance unfold right before my eyes.”
  • Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events: “I geek out about a lot of things, but I think I geek out the most about planning and being organized. My favorite time of the year is November and December—not because of the holidays (although I like them), but mostly because it’s time to get a NEW planner for the next year!”
  • Eric Tadatada, Technical Assistance Specialist: “Softball.”

Learn more about your NSPN family at https://nspn.memberclicks.net/our-team.

Feel free to leave a comment below and share what makes you a geek.

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Earth Day: Observations from an Amateur Environmentalist

Written by: Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations for National Safe Place Network

I’m an environmentalist, a lover of nature and someone that wants to see our planet beautiful and appropriately protected.  I’m on my patio in an older neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky as I write these words, keenly aware of nature around me. The senses of touch, sight, hearing and smell are stirred as I sit, think, and write.

The sun shines brightly and I feel the warmth of its rays. Scattered clouds float by and I’m suddenly cooled in their shadows and reminded of the great energy available through the sun. Solar power is becoming more common and affordable for individuals and should be a consideration of property owners when appropriate. On a recent vacation to the Caribbean I noticed how many homes and businesses had solar panels on their roofs, and a solar farm in a large open area with rows of solar panels undoubtedly provide power for the town. This is important there and in other places where fuel and resources have to be brought in to provide utilities. Maybe that’s something to work toward in your home and community, but if not, there are some simple things we can do to harness the sun’s power.

So what can an average person do to harness the sun’s energy? Have you ever made sun tea? If you like iced tea you can fill a clear, glass jar with water and tea bags and place it in the sun until the water is warm and the tea brews to whatever strength you like. In a short amount of time you can enjoy a glass of iced tea. And yes, you do need a freezer to make the ice – unless you have a natural source.

On clear days in the winter you can also harness the sun’s warmth by opening the blinds or curtains in sunny windows to let the rays shine through, enjoy the bright light and warm your space. In the summer, reverse that and close curtains and blinds to keep the warmth out, cool your space and reduce the energy used in air conditioning.

If you have a home with a yard and space for planting, consider planting shade trees to block the summer sun. Deciduous trees (those that loose leaves in the winter) are helpful because they let the sun in during the winter when you want the sun’s energy to warm your home. There is great value in having trees. They provide a cooling effect not only for your home but in mass they help overall heating in the environment. This is especially true in urban areas with large amounts of paving and hard surfaces that heat up in the daytime and hold that warmth at night. (You may have heard of “heat islands”.)  Undoubtedly you’ve experienced the noticeable temperature difference while driving on a summer night in a city and then passing into the country or a part of town such as a park.

As I sit, other senses are stimulated – the sense of hearing and smell. The wind is blowing through the neighbors’ trees. One is very large and the leaves have not yet come out, but you can clearly see them as they bud. The wind starts subtly and builds to a loud, rushing sound and soon quiets again to nothing. This wind cools my skin as I sit in the sun. As clouds pass I suddenly get chilly – oh the joy of spring time. My sense of hearing is also thrilled as I listen to the birds that have been awakened by spring and are singing to attract their mates. Soon nests will be filled with eggs and baby birds will hatch. I can only identify some of the birds by their song but they’re all beautiful to hear after the silence of winter.

I also distinctly recognize the smell of freshly cut grass and the faint fragrance of plant blossoms and trees nearby. All of these smells bring happiness, relaxation and memories of times gone by.

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Finally, the most obvious sense that I experience is that of sight. I’m surrounded by color – the bright green grass, new foliage on shrubbery and tiny leaves beginning to come out on the trees. Pansies in pots on the patio display vivid yellow, blue, purple, orange and rust. Some of the blooms are two-toned with light and dark in a pattern that reminds me of a monkey’s face – bringing a smile to my face. Looking across my yard I see white dogwood blossoms, bright purple azaleas and a red bud tree – all sights familiar to me since childhood. There are pink tulips, red and yellow columbine, yellow and white daffodils – so much color. I look up and marvel at the blue sky and white puffy clouds floating by.

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There in so much to take in – sound, smell, touch, and sight – all wonderful on a spring day. How does this connect to being an environmentalist? How can one experience all the beauty and not want to protect it? That is the connection. So in conclusion, here are a few things you can do to protect and preserve the beauty around you:

  1. Plant flowers, bushes, trees – whatever is appropriate for your space. It can even be a small pot of herbs, vegetables, flowers or a maple tree that will grow to shade your house. Do some research to find the appropriate plants.
  2. Put out a bird feeder or bird bath and keep it filled and cleaned to satisfy our feathered friends.
  3. If you have space, create a place to sit to take it all in, think, contemplate, and talk with a neighbor or loved one. It is amazing when you can admire nature and unplug from the unnatural.

Now, I think I’ll just sit here and take all this in just a little longer before I have to take on the tasks of the day. Happy Earth Day. Enjoy!

Anti-Trafficking’s Sensational Misinformation – Part II

Written by Laura Murphy, Loyola University New Orleans, Modern Slavery Research Project

Are America’s homeless youth targeted by human traffickers?  Yes.  But not in the sensational way we always hear about.

What we read about sex slavery today is alarming, sensationalized, and often perverse. Tracking down one of the most frequently reported statistics in today’s anti-slavery movement – that runaways are at high risk of sex trafficking – paints a very clear portrait of the unnecessarily exaggerated appeals that are widely-disseminated and oft-repeated.

So what do we know about the fate of runaways in the US? The Department of Health and Human Services reports that “Children, both boys and girls, are solicited for sex, on average, within 72 hours of being on the street.  The National Center for Homeless Education shortens the time window and increases the risk by saying “As many as one third of teen runaway or thrown away youth will become involved in prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home.” Fox News Milwaukee recently increased the number of victims to say that “90% of runaways become part of the sex trade business — and most are coerced within 72 hours of running away.”

So are runaways solicited for sex or are they recruited by pimps or are they forced into the sex trade?  Does this happen to runaway children or all homeless youth?  Does it take 48 or 72 hours for them to be trapped?

I enlisted the students in my freshman seminar on 21st Century Slavery and Abolition at Loyola University New Orleans to search for the origin of this human trafficking factoid, and they easily discovered how tangled the web of misinformation is. A 2009 Department of Health and Human Services report indicates, “Experts have reported that within 48 hours of running away, an adolescent is likely to be approached to participate in prostitution or another form of commercial sexual exploitation; however, no definitive published research substantiates this claim.”  They cite a 2001 report by Mia Spangenburg that suggests “After only an average of thirty-six to forty-eight hours on the streets, young people are solicited for sex in exchange for money, food or shelter.” Spangenburg’s source?  A 1996 Christian Science Monitor article by Mark Clayton titled “Sex Trade Lures Kids from Burbs,” in which we learn that “within 48 hours of hitting the streets, a juvenile will be approached with an offer of money, food, or shelter in exchange for sex.” And Clayton’s source?  There is none. Clayton mentions the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), which has referred to the trafficking terror faced by runaways for years. As late as 2010, NCMEC’s president and CEO Ernie Allen could only vaguely attribute the factoid to estimates made by “some runaway groups,” and NCMEC has since stopped using the stat. It is impossible to find any credible source for this claim.

This rampant misinformation and fear mongering persistently threaten to undermine the credibility of the anti-trafficking movement.

The Modern Slavery Research Project at Loyola recent performed a study titled “Sex and Labor Trafficking Among Homeless Youth: A Ten City Study (full report).”  For this study, we interviewed 641 homeless residents and clients of Covenant House International’s network and unsurprisingly found that there is indeed real reason to be concerned about trafficking among homeless youth, though there remains no evidence to substantiate any of these exaggerated claims.

Among the homeless and runaway youth aged 18-24 that we interviewed, 19% of them had been trafficked for either sex or labor in their lifetimes. Furthermore, 91% of them indicated that strangers had approached them while they were homeless or otherwise financially struggling, offering suspiciously lucrative job offers. They described being approached on the street, at bus-stops and train stations, on social media.  They told stories of being approached in or directly outside homeless shelters and government assistance offices. They were offered jobs selling stolen goods, distributing cell phones, working in landscaping, in magazine sales; others were offered jobs as models, in film, or even pornography. Many of those approached assumed or were told explicitly that they were being offered an opportunity to work in the sex trade.

One young woman said that she had been offered several escort jobs by strangers who “made it seem like it was something simple, legal.” Another pimp encouraged a young woman by insisting, “Y’all are missing out on money. Y’all are young and don’t know no better. This is good money that y’all could be having.”

One woman was approached at the shelter by a young man who wanted to take her out of town with him. She told us that the young man was trying to recruit women into the sex trade right under the noses of the shelter’s watchful staff.

When asked what the strangers offer her, one woman said “They say they will take care of me and my baby” – certainly a difficult offer to turn down.

One young man reported that men would try to tempt him by offering him jobs in modeling or manual labor. He told us that a “dude asked me about a job. I was like, yeah. He heard about a warehouse and they start you off at $15, so I said cool. Then he asked me if I wanted to fuck him. Nigger, you serious? I was asking about a job!”

Taking advantage of the vulnerabilities of young people who are down on their luck and are searching for work, recruiters try to lure homeless youth with lucrative opportunities to work in the sex trade. As a result of the persistent predatory behaviors they encountered while walking around alone, residents at Covenant House expressed a great deal of anxiety about the risks involved in sleeping outside.

As researchers, we want our work to be of use to others, but because we have seen “statistics” like the 72-hour myth, we worry that our findings will be misconstrued to provide salacious headlines. We were unable to confirm or deny such exaggerated claims because youth felt like they were being approached constantly by people who were targeting their vulnerabilities, and they were unable to put a timeline on when they were approached, nor could those who did not fall for the too-good-to-be-true offers confirm their suspicions of the people who approached them.

What our research does indeed tell us is that people are targeting vulnerable homeless youth in New Orleans to offer them seemingly lucrative work opportunities that young people find dangerous or suspicious.  And we know, from the reports of the youth themselves, that some young people are indeed accepting those offers.

There is no doubt what this finding does indeed suggest: we need to rely more on valid research on the vulnerability of young and homeless people to traffickers. From that work, we can equip organizations and agencies with knowledge that will assist them in responding appropriately to the frightening realities that young people are experiencing. We hope that our new study, as well as those we’ve produced in the past, will fill some of that gap.  The research also suggests that we need more youth programs that involve resilience strategies, self-esteem, and self-empowerment that can bolster young people’s resistance if they do find themselves on the streets or otherwise vulnerable to predatory offers.

If nothing else, we hope to suggest that we can stop using sensational headlines, based in exaggeration and misinformation, to promote a cause that needs no added drama to engage us.  We should avoid all of the sensational misinformation that has dominated this issue and focus on the voices of the young people who live this reality every day.

Laura T. Murphy is an Associate Professor of English at Loyola University New Orleans and Director of the Modern Slavery Research Project. She believes that community-based research is at the heart of social change. She provides research services, training, and education on modern slavery and human trafficking throughout the US as well as internationally. Her books include “Survivors of Slavery: Modern Day Slave Narratives” and “Metaphor and the Slave Trade in West African Literature.” She is currently working on a new book titled “The New Slave Narrative.”

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What’s the value of a volunteer?

Written by Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events, National Safe Place Network

April is National Volunteer Month, and it is a great time to recruit volunteers for long- and short-term service within your program. Volunteers are beneficial in a number of ways, including being a mentor, helping with remodeling and/or gardening, assisting with operations, and more. Here are some important factors to keep in mind when working with volunteers.

  1. Understand why people volunteer.
    Volunteers will become involved with your program for many reasons.

    The basic reasons follow:

  • They want to help others.
  • They are interested in your agency’s programs and what you offer to your
  • They want to learn and gain experience.
  • They have free time.
  • They are devoted to helping their community.
  • They know someone who was/is involved.
  • They want to volunteer for religious reasons.
  • They want to make a difference.
  1. Understand what your volunteers are interested in.
    Volunteers will not only put more effort into their service but also commit to serving longer if they enjoy what they are doing. In an effort to properly determine the appropriate position, gather information regarding the volunteer’s interest. You may consider using a Volunteer Interest Checklist for this process. Have your volunteers identify their interests. Do they prefer working with youth, teaching a skill, picking up or delivering items, washing automobiles or providing maintenance support, performing clerical duties? Take time to get to know your volunteers before placement.
  1. Understand the value of volunteers.
    Volunteers, like staff, need to be linked into your program in ways that ensure they are productive, challenged, and given an opportunity to grow. They should be valued for what they do and who they are. Volunteers are NOT free. There are real costs associated with recruiting, interviewing/screening, training, evaluating, and recognizing volunteers. Effective supervision is a necessary investment. The volunteer coordinator and staff who assist the volunteers must recognize that time must be allocated to relating to, managing, and assisting the volunteers. Staff must be available to volunteers in order to relate to them on both a professional and a personal basis. Volunteers are dedicated to your organization—it’s important for your organization to be dedicated to them. Don’t forget to say “thank you.” Ways to recognize your volunteers are limitless.

    Recognizing volunteers is crucial to sustaining their interest and dedication. Remember above when I shared the reasons they are volunteering? Providing recognition validates that their service is making a difference and meeting their needs. There are lots of ways you can recognize volunteers—and not all recognition requires a budget line.

    Awards
    There are two types of awards; both are given periodically to recognize the efforts of volunteers.

    Things

  • Certificates
  • Pins
  • Group photographs
  • Items of clothing, such as T-shirts, caps, etc.
  • Small gifts

    Events

  • Lunches and dinners
  • Picnics
  • Parties and celebrations
  • Field trips
  • National Volunteer Week celebrations

    Rewards
    Rewards are intangible day-to-day activities of recognition and motivation that are given to volunteers. Rewards tend to be more effective “long-run” motivators for volunteers.

  • Saying thank you
  • Giving respect and equal status
  • Involving volunteers in staff meetings on a regular basis
  • Maintaining a personal interest in the volunteer
  • Giving the volunteer more responsibility

    Remember the following recognition tips when offering awards and/or rewards:

  • Tailor recognition to the volunteer.
    • What type of recognition would be most meaningful to the particular volunteer?
      • Some prefer public and some appreciate smaller private recognition.
    • If appropriate and welcomed, grant recognition in a public forum, preferably among the peer group of the volunteer.
  • Time recognition so that it is as close as possible to the achievement of the volunteer.

This is just a small snippet of the helpful information available about volunteerism. If you’re interested in learning more about volunteers, including setting up a volunteer program, position development and design, recruitment, screening, volunteer checklists, interviewing, volunteer orientation and training, service records, program director and staff training, supervision, and recognition, feel free to contact us today at info@nspnetwork.org.

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Getting to Know Your NSPN Family: Earth Day Is More than Just a Day

Written by Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events, National Safe Place Network

Earth Day is just around the corner (April 22). The observation of this day has generated awareness of personal responsibility and the effects individuals can have on the climate. Each person leaves what’s called a carbon footprint. Your carbon footprint is defined as a carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere by an individual or event, expressed as CO2e.

Have you measured your carbon footprint lately? Are you taking steps to decrease your footprint? You might be doing so without even realizing it! Small things, such as those listed below, will help reduce your CO2:

  • Turning down your thermostat on winter nights
  • Turning up your thermostat in the summer
  • Replacing incandescent light bulbs with ENERGY STAR lights
  • Replacing your windows and appliances with ENERGY STAR models
  • Washing clothes in cold water
  • Performing regular maintenance on your vehicle(s)
  • Recycling newspapers, glass, plastic, aluminum and steel cans, and magazines

How do you think your NSPN family members rank in their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint in their personal lives? We asked them: “What do you do to reduce your carbon footprint?”

  • Laurie Jackson, President/Chief Executive Officer: “At my house, we recycle. We grow food in our garden and we do some amateur composting.”
  • Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer: “I recycle.”
  • Shauna Brooks, Principal Investigator: “Definitely not enough.”
  • April Carthorn, General Specialist: “I turn off—and sometimes unplug—unused lights and electronics. I also recycle (most of the time), maintain a steady, yet comfortable temperature setting, wash full loads of clothes, cover door and window cracks during the winter, look for multiple uses of plastic containers and paper towel rolls, and carpool when possible.”
  • Lindsey Collier, Human Trafficking Specialist: “Not enough I’m sure! I do try to keep lights off when not in use.”
  • Zach Elmore, Operations Specialist: “We try to carpool and use public transportation when possible. We also try to buy local goods when available.”
  • Kim Frierson, Training Specialist: “I recycle.”
  • Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations: “I recycle a lot! I use real cloth napkins and try not to use paper products too much. I also try to buy things that don’t have a lot of packaging—large containers instead of a bunch of small ones. I could go on!”
  • Rachel Hurst, Development Associate: “I recycle at home and work. I wear lots of sweaters in the winter in my very cold house.”
  • Hillary Ladig, Communications Coordinator: “I recycle and reuse anything I can.”
  • Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events: “Sadly, my carbon footprint is fairly large. I’m oh so guilty for funding the Styrofoam plate makers and the plastic cup and cutlery makers. I also hate to sit in the dark so I always have lights on. But, I do recycle and I drive a hybrid car.”
  • Eric Tadatada, Technical Assistance Specialist: “I drive a fuel-efficient car.”

Learn more about your NSPN family at https://nspn.memberclicks.net/our-team.

If you want to see how big (or small) your family’s carbon footprint is, take a look at this calculator:  https://www3.epa.gov/carbon-footprint-calculator. Feel free to let us know what steps you take to help the earth by leaving a comment below.

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Dragon Flies and Night Terrors: Parenting with Your Parents

Written by: Lisa Tobe, Executive Director, Wildflower Consulting, LLC

We’re close together, a landing between two attic bedrooms, so I can hear Mateo when he yells, “No. Stop.” He’s sleeping, and there is nobody else in the house, so I know he’s safe at least in this moment. Still I throw off my covers and open his door, white wood covered in a colorful circle of cartoonish truck and car stickers. He’s deep into a night terror and at first does not know that I’m in the room.

“Mateo, it’s Mama.” I reach over and touch his face with my hand. “You’re okay.”

He never wakes up, but he settles, so I kiss his cheek and leave. The next morning, I ask him if he had a bad dream. He doesn’t remember, so we move on in the rush of getting ready for school. Oats, cereal, lunch packed, jacket handed out and then five kisses before he catches the bus, one on each cheek, his forehead, nose and chin. Mateo kisses me back following the same pattern. It’s our way of staying with each other all day while we’re in different places.

That night, Mateo doesn’t want to go to sleep, says he’s afraid. We cuddle every night through a five-minute count down, which usually lasts more like 20. Often there’s very little cuddling; mostly tickles and giggles and words about his day. Lately he’d become a little clingier, his arms twisted in mine, like he’s not going to let me go. I like his tenderness.

“Tell me something good about your day,” I say.

“We got to go outside.”

“What did you do to fill up your kindness bucket?”

His night light, a series of blue, green and purple dragonflies lining his closet door, casts a glow in his room, so I can see his face scrunch in thought. “I fed the dog.”

“Good enough,” I think. Even though it’s one of his chores, I can see how he’d think of that as a kind thing to do. I smile.

“Time’s up.”

“No Mama.” Mateo clamps down on my arms. “I’m afraid.” My fierce little boy had been splashing in creeks and climbing up boulders since he was two, so at first I think he’s just delaying. I feel frustration rising in me. My dad, a good man from a different generation, might have called him a baby. And personally, I can see the temptation to push him into being brave. But it seems a slippery slope, a gender thing where we expect boys to behave one way and girls another. A feminist and single mom, I had always told myself that I would not parent that way.

Dad calls Mateo a ‘mama’s boy,’ which is not a compliment. This mama has: trekked internationally, including to Everest Base Camp; been a white-water guide that has run class four rapids in an oar-frame; supported herself through two graduate programs; founded a non-profit focused on violence prevention; written a memoir and survived child-abuse, complex post-traumatic stress disorder and cancer. This mama, like her son, is fierce, tenacious and outspoken about injustice. This mama completed her first triathlon six months after giving birth at 41 and learned to play soccer at 48. This mama has always taught her son to get back up when he falls and never quit when he’s behind. So, if Mateo is a mama’s boy, he’s lucky to be this mama’s boy.

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At three, when Mateo seemed drawn to Mom’s coral nail polish, she offered to do his. She set him on the counter, placing the color in quick tiny sweeps. He’d been in awe of the magic that transformed his pale-brown finger beds to brightly colored things he could wave about in front of him.

When Dad walked into the kitchen, he stopped short and announced, “Only girls wear polish.”

Mateo immediately wanted the polish taken off. He did not want to be a ‘girl.’

Mateo challenges me, negotiating, asking questions, wanting to be told what to do and wanting to do it alone. Lately, his whining has turned into talking back. Child development specialists say this will make him a successful adult – if he makes it I think. Apparently, he’s a perfect child when I’m not around or at least that’s what my parents tell me.

I have ways of dealing with these challenges, feeding him, making sure he gets enough rest and escalating consequences that I hope are appropriate to the moment, although honestly sometimes I find myself reaching, wishing for another me to step in. Neither of my parents, my dad especially understands this type of parenting. In their generation, you did not talk back period. If you did, you just might get switched or a spanking. In general, when we are in the same space, my parents follow my lead. My dad provides Mateo a much-needed male role model, since he has no contact with his dad who lives in Peru.

My mom and dad’s entrenchment in their generation’s parenting styles sets some expectations with my son that I would like to avoid, but we have the same core beliefs about being kind, compassionate, helpful and hardworking. We praise the same things, helping people, listening to directions, doing school work and thoughtful actions. And for the most part, we have managed to work out a parenting style that works for both of us.

Since Mateo’s birth, my parents have nimbly taken on the role of what we jokingly call my ‘husband,’ the other half of a childrearing duo. They watch him at least twice a week, putting him on and getting him off the bus; taking him to his games and letting him stay at their house for the day when I’m under a work deadline. Their support with Mateo has made it possible for all of us to lead richer lives, and it has allowed me the energy to parent the way I would like.

So, with Mateo clinging to my own on this night, he and I begin a new bedtime ritual meant to make him feel safer. First, we create an imaginary multi-colored, translucent bubble around him. Each night he will pick the weave of colors he likes; sometimes his favorite, sometimes mine and sometimes his own. Afterwards, I place my hand, palm open on his forehead before bundling it into a tight fist.

“Bad thoughts go away.” I say as I pretend to fling them to the far corners of the room. I move down to his heart and repeat the action again. “Bad feelings go away.” Then back to his forehead, “Bad dreams go away.” Each time his face seems to release a little.

Then we work in reverse trying to create positive energy, with the idea that when you let go of the bad, there is room for new.

“Good thoughts stay.” I take deep breath and with the exhale say, “Awww…”

We repeat this twice. “Good feelings stay,” I say with my hand to his heart.

“Good dreams stay,” my open palm lingers on his forehead. With each release of breath, I can see him sink deeper into a sense of safety until he drifts off to sleep.

Safe Place – One Professional Youth Worker’s Journey

Written by Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer, National Safe Place Network
In honor of National Safe Place Week

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The first time I heard about Safe Place® was 30 years ago. Like many others, I had seen the sign around town but didn’t quite understand the intent. I mean, don’t get me wrong – it isn’t hard to understand – Safe Place – you know, a place to be safe. How hard is that? However, I didn’t “get it.” I didn’t understand what it meant to be unsafe. I didn’t understand what it was like to not being able to sleep at night for fear something would happen to me. I had never experienced what it felt like to be bullied and not have anyone in which to confide. The words that I heard in my childhood had been filled with love, hope, encouragement, and strength. So, as I drove by fire stations, libraries, and fast food restaurants, I looked at the sign – I saw the availability of Safe Place as a good thing. Now, I know it is more than good – it is a critical link for all youth in crisis.

How did I come to this perspective? It started on the day I saw an ad for a local youth shelter. I was armed with a resume, a degree, and a sense that it was my turn to make a difference. I was lucky enough to get the job and like all first time youth care workers, I quickly learned all that would be part of my career. I learned to play basketball (or at least throw the ball in the air); I learned to assist youth with household chores; and, I learned to really listen. As the youth who were not a lot younger than me shared their stories – I was professional and then go home and cry. They shared their stories of abuse and neglect as if they were telling me what brand of toothpaste they used and I couldn’t understand why or how the things I heard about happened.  I felt helpless. I saw them enter a system that had insufficient resources to meet their needs and sometimes, I saw them return to situations that were questionable and, at times, dangerous. I wanted to contribute in a way that gave youth choice – a way that honored their right to ask for help. It was during this initial year of service that I received my training on how to be a Safe Place volunteer.

As a Safe Place volunteer, I presented information to youth in local schools and I would be surrounded by youth who asked questions. There was usually at least one youth who asked more questions and I knew that although 100 youth may have heard my message – the meaning of what I had was special to him or her. The situations we discussed – bullying, relationship violence, parental substance abuse, school problems, and many others – were important and life changing.  I was provided an opportunity to provide a link to help and I found that in many cases, the youth really just wanted someone to listen.

I had an opportunity to meet with businesses to make sure they understood the program and how they had a critical role in helping keep youth in our community safe. These business leaders asked questions and challenged me in ways that helped hone my negotiating skills and my insistence that it never hurts to ask. I asked for everything – donations of money, time, in-kind gifts, and other resources – all geared toward helping youth be safe.

As time went by, I was soon offered the job of Safe Place Coordinator and I embraced the opportunity. I learned to manage volunteers and to help them feel needed and appreciated. I learned how to create successful fundraisers and to build public awareness about the program. I learned to face skeptics who found it easy to assume that all adolescents in need of help were simply unruly kids who needed to learn respect and how to follow rules. I learned to advocate for community needs and how the answer “no” was simply an opportunity to present the question in a different way.

The different question came when I was asked to serve on the National Safe Place Advisory Board. I was given the chance to come together with other coordinators, counselors and executive directors – all committed to the expansion of the Safe Place program. I learned so much from this group of change agents. They taught me how to solution think. Every group can easily identify barriers and challenges to progress. This group focused on using the barrier as a springboard and we would dive deep into the dynamics of the situation and even we agreed to disagreed – we did it with respect. I learned how Safe Place could work differently in each community and the flexibility of the program while still protecting the agencies and the youth involved. If possible, I became even more passionate about the potential of Safe Place to assist all youth in crisis. It just took the right partners in each community.

I served on the National Advisory Board for 20 years. I served as Chair of the group and as a member of the Board of Directors. With each new leadership role, I found myself utilizing all of the skills, knowledge, and connections that Safe Place had brought me in each task I accepted.

In 2013, my Safe Place journey brought me to the place I probably always belonged. As a staff member of National Safe Place Network, it is part of my daily responsibility to put the needs of youth in crisis first and to try and find ways to help each community reach out to youth in their communities. It is in this role that I continue to try and listen, solution think, negotiate, advocate, and hope. It is in this role that I celebrate every TXT 4 HELP contact, every crisis call resolved, and every new Safe Place city launched. The reality is that if you don’t believe in Safe Place – you may not truly know Safe Place. The third week of March is National Safe Place Week. Communities across the country will find ways to celebrate this public/private partnership that brings the best of social services, businesses, first responders, public officials, and community members together to provide one simple thing – a place for youth to get help – when and where they need it most. Whether the youth is hiding in a closet and the only link to safety is a text or the youth is being followed by bullies and sees a sign on a nearby store – the offer is clear and easy to understand. We want to help you – all you have to do is ask.

So it takes me back to my initial days learning about Safe Place. I mean, don’t get me wrong – it isn’t hard to understand – Safe Place – you know, a place to be safe. How hard is that?

Getting to Know Your NSPN Family: Read Across America Day

Written by Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events, National Safe Place Network

Today is Read Across America Day—also known as Dr. Seuss’s Birthday! Dr. Seuss is best known for his wonderfully whimsical children’s books, including The Cat in the Hat; Green Eggs and Ham; Horton Hears a Who!; The Lorax; Oh, the Places You’ll Go!; One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish; and so many more. These books have inspired youth and adults to read since his first book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, which was published in 1937. Dr. Seuss’s favorite book was There’s a Wocket in my Pocket!

Here are the favorite books of your NSPN family:

  • Laurie Jackson, President/Chief Executive Officer: “I don’t have one favorite. I love, love, love cookbooks—so I have many.”
  • Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer: “Jane Eyre—Have loved it since childhood. I have lots of favorites that reflect my different moods, but this one stands out above the rest.”
  • Shauna Brooks, Principal Investigator: “I love the imaginative world of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry along with its characters and relationships. My favorite among the books is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It’s an extraordinary story of adventure, danger, strength, and hope; a lesson that people aren’t always what they seem; and a quintessential demonstration of positive youth development!”
  • April Carthorn, General Specialist: “The Bible—best stories of intrigue . . . love, hate, death, drama, miracles, free will, temptation, togetherness, divide, character, salvation, etc. It reflects the in-between phase of life, death, and even beyond.”
  • Lindsey Collier, Human Trafficking Specialist: “Magnificent Obsession by Lloyd C. Douglas. (You’ll have to read it to discover why. J)”
  • Zach Elmore, Operations Specialist: “I find myself re-reading Slaughterhouse-Five every year or so. So it goes.”
  • Kim Frierson, Training Specialist: “The Stand, Stephen King.”
  • Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations: “I really like The Shack, by William Paul Young.”
  • Rachel Hurst, Development Associate: “A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Madeleine L’Engle; Anne of Green Gables; and Pride and Prejudice.”
  • Hillary Ladig, Communications Coordinator: “I don’t really know. I recently read Me Before You and it was brilliant, funny, and heartbreaking.”
  • Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events: “I pretty much like any book—as long as it’s on a shelf. I receive no joy from reading. I’d rather be designing the cover of it—and other pictures—who doesn’t love pictures in books?”
  • Eric Tadatada, Technical Assistance Specialist: “The Bible.”

Learn more about your NSPN family at https://nspn.memberclicks.net/our-team.

Feel free to share your favorite book by leaving a comment below.

 

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