Advocate for Youth

Kars4Kids Small Grant Program: A Powerful Thing

Written by: Varda Meyers Epstein, Communications Writer at Kars4Kidskars4kidslogoKars4Kids is a car donation program whose proceeds underwrite educational initiatives for children. We fund things like summer camp scholarships, tutors, and after-school programs. We’ve also created a successful small grant program.

The small grant can be a powerful thing. Take the latest recipient of a Kars4Kids small grant is National Safe Place Network (NSPN). NSPN serves homeless and runaway children. By partnering with NSPN, Kars4Kids extends its reach and diversifies its mission to help still more children.

The Kars4Kids small grant program is a means for recognizing the good work other organizations are doing with children, allowing us to put our imprint on this work, too. Whether it’s a check for $500, $1000, or $5000, a small grant from Kars4Kids says, “This work is valid and excellent, and we stand behind you.”

Over the past two years, the Kars4Kids small grant program has helped fund:

gotr-runs-come-rain-or-come-shine positive-impact-for-kids_1
  • Extracurricular activities, experiences, and wish fulfillment for foster children and their families
  • Summer camp scholarships for science camp
science-camp8 giveaway_2 technology mother-and-son

These small grant recipients each have something in common: they are helping a sector of deserving children that Kars4Kids would not ordinarily reach. The small grant offers a perfect way to partner with beautiful work outside the scope of a single organization’s mission. These grants further show that organizations can network to help each other blossom and grow.

We are excited to receive small grant requests. We love reading about the work of the organizations that apply to Kars4Kids for assistance. Take NSPN, for instance.

NSPN created Safe Place because until it did so, there was no safe place for this very vulnerable sector of children: children without homes, children who have run away from home. Kars4Kids is glad to know that now these children have a place to go where they can get help, warmth, and kindness. The existence of NSPN and of Safe Place tell us that the future holds hope for a brighter world where all children can grow up safe—a kind of world where nothing stands in the way of a child getting an education and getting ahead.

And Kars4Kids stands behind this mission in full.

We stand behind this because at Kars4Kids we believe you can measure a society’s worth by how it treats its more vulnerable sectors. Our children deserve our protection. They deserve to be worry-free as they navigate childhood and the four walls of the classroom.

We know that this is precisely what NSPN is trying to accomplish. NSPN is working to give children back their childhood, that feeling of safety, and the freedom to grow and learn. It’s why Kars4Kids gave NSPN a small grant: we know kids can’t learn if they don’t feel safe. Kars4Kids is proud and glad to partner with organizations like NSPN that make it possible for children to bloom to their fullest potential.

We, at Kars4Kids, are grateful for the opportunities afforded us by our small grant program. We consider it an honor to learn about all the creative ways in which organizations are helping children. It is the fondest hope of Kars4Kids that through the power of our small grant program we can continue to help children, no matter where and who they are, to get ahead and be their best.

 

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November is National Runaway Prevention Month

Written by: Hillary Ladig & Elizabeth Smith Miller, NSPN Communications Team

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Between 1.6 and 2.8 million youth run away each year. If all of these young people lived in one city, it would be the fifth largest city in the U.S. These numbers are simply unacceptable, especially when you consider that many of these youth will end up on the streets. They are not bad kids; they are good kids caught up in bad situations. By supporting National Runaway Prevention Month (NRPM), you’re showing America’s runaway and homeless youth that they are not invisible and they are not alone.

Here are some ways you can get involved in NRPM and create awareness in your community:

  • Facebook Profile Picture – Wednesday, November 2nd: Lately, the trend on Facebook is to add a filter to your profile picture to show that you support a certain cause and to spread awareness. This year, the National Runaway Safeline (NRS) has created an NRPM filter you can utilize to show support for runaway and homeless youth: [link to profile filter]
  • Wear Green Day – Wednesday, November 9th: Most people have something green in their closet; whether it be a t-shirt, tie, pair of socks, etc. Coordinate a “Wear Green” day with your coworkers, friends, students, and/or classmates on November 9th. This is a fun and easy way to encourage people to learn more about NRPM. For added impact, take a photo of your group wearing green and post it to social media using the hashtag #NRPM2016. Tag NRS and they’ll share your photo.
  • National Candlelight Vigil – Wednesday, November 16th: Youth Service agencies, community groups, and individuals will host candlelight vigils to show solidarity with youth in crisis. Host your own candlelight vigil in your neighborhood, at your school, your workplace, your place of worship, etc. This event is low cost and high impact.
  • Selfie Sign Day – Wednesday, November 23rd: On this day, NRS’ website, www.1800runaway.org, will have a “Selfie Sign” available for individuals to download. The sign will show you are supporting NRPM 2016, but they’re also encouraging everyone to use the caption, “This is how I have helped a friend…” and have everyone share a story about how they’ve helped a friend.

National Safe Place Network is honored to partner with NRS and the National Network for Youth to support NRPM. To learn more about NRPM, please visit: http://www.1800runaway.org/runaway-prevention-month/

To view the 2016 NRPM Toolkit and Messaging Guide, please click here: http://www.1800runaway.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/NRPM-2016-ToolKit-and-Messaging-Guide-1.pdf

Poem: The Flame Within
My living flame burns bright inside.
Not dimmed or extinguished by tears I have cried.
I hold it closely and protect its light.
To guide me through what feels like eternal night.
How can such a small flame light my way?
Does it have the strength to repel the cold things people say?
I recognize what you may not.
That my flame, while small, is very hot.
It heats my mind with thoughts of those who were kind.
It eases my fear when strangers are near.
It ignites my passion to do what is right for me.
When others only focus on the wrong that they see.
For all of us looking to find some sense of ease,
for some sense of safety,
for some sense of peace.
For some sign that we are not alone,
let your flames burn brightly to guide us “home.”

~ Anonymous

Use Your Voice this Presidential Election

Written by: Katie Carter, Director of Research, Education & Public Policy for National Safe Place Network

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Photo credit: https://mfgtodayblog.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/vote.jpg

This week I was tuning into the latest season of “The Voice” right before the Vice Presidential Debates started. For those of you not up on current, televised singing competitions, “The Voice” is in the vein of “American Idol” – singers compete for the winning title and a record deal. The public votes.

The public votes.

It only just occurred to me the parallels between “The Voice” and elections. This is a big election year (some might say HUGE). Two new candidates, no incumbents, and a possible party-change in the United States Senate rest on the outcome of Tuesday, November 8.

You can read a good list here about reasons to vote: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/reasons-to-vote-in-elections_us_56c776e2e4b041136f16e9ad

It’s not just the presidential race to consider. There are down-ballot races too (for state representatives, state senators, judges…) where you vote may matter even more.

The first step to voting is to make sure you are registered. If you work with transition-aged young people, you can help them educate themselves and register to vote too. Many states have voter registration deadlines in mid-October. Some as early as this Saturday, October 8 and some as late as early November. You can check your state laws here: http://www.rockthevote.com/get-informed/elections/important-election-dates-deadlines/by-state.html.

Whatever your party, whatever your vote choice, this is an opportunity to use your voice and vote.

Cutting Through the Noise: Advocating for our Kids during the Presidential Election

Written by: Katie Carter, Director of Research, Education & Public Policy, National Safe Place Network

As a political junkie, I love presidential election years. I especially love years like this: where a few months ago there was no incumbent and wide-open races on both sides (depending on who you ask). These campaign cycles can also be incredibly frustrating. Candidates visit small towns where they would never otherwise set foot, eat state fair food, rub elbows with locals, and mug for photos. It all feels inauthentic. Fake. How can a long-serving U.S. senator really speak on behalf of working families? How can a billionaire relate to middle class workers? How can privileged white men and women relate to the plights of runaway youth? How can powerful people understand what it’s like to be homeless when they have never had to worry whether they will have a place to sleep, or a hot meal and shower waiting for them in the morning?

This is where we come in. As advocates, youth workers, execs leading youth and family-serving agencies, it’s up to us to make sure the needs of these young people and families are heard. We need to beat the drum to make sure affordable housing, funds for runaway and homeless youth programs, and affordable health care for young people are priorities for elected leaders at all levels of government – from city council to the President of the United States.

Here are some ideas for getting involved this election year:

  1. Host elected officials at your organization or shelter. Show them around and explain how you operate, what you need, and what it means to the young people you serve. This could include your city officials, state senators and representations, or US congress members. If you are in an early caucus or primary state, you may even be able to get a presidential candidate (see above comments).
  2. Write Letters to the Editor of your local papers. Highlight your programs and how proposed legislative changes (at all levels of government), will impact your agencies and the youth you service, for the better or worse.
  3. Communicate with your elected officials. Make phone calls. Email them. National officials track the number of calls and emails they receive on specific issues. State officials often do the same. It may not seems like they are listening, they are tracking!
  4. Encourage your staff to vote. Encourage young people to vote. Take young people to the primaries or election in November. Help them register. It’s their right.

However you get involved, don’t pass up this opportunity to make your voice heard and advocate on behalf of the young people we serve.

August 12 is International Youth Day

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The United Nations declared August 12 International Youth Day in 1999, providing an opportunity to celebrate young people around the world. The focus of this year’s International Youth Day is to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. You can read more about the agenda here: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld

The United Nations has also developed a toolkit with activity ideas to celebrate International Youth Day: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unyin/documents/Toolkit-IYD-2016.pdf

One activity listed in the toolkit is “Advocate.” While the toolkit stresses advocating for celebrating International Youth Day and encouraging youth to make sustainable consumption choices given this year’s focus, an important advocacy activity in the United States is for the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Every country except the United States has ratified the treaty.

Ratification of the treaty has resulted in greater restrictions on employing children, greater focus on child heath, and a decrease in legal corporal punishment against children. It is past time for the United States to pass this treaty and solidify its commitment to children at home and abroad.

President Obama’s FY 2017 Budget Released

Written by: Katie Carter, Director of Research, Education & Public Policy, National Safe Place Network

President Obama released his 2017 budget proposal last week. It includes some bright spots in funding for runaway and homeless youth programs and supports for child welfare programs. This is just a proposal though, and serves as a blueprint Congress will use to build its own budget.

Here are some highlights from the proposal:

  • $6 million increase for Runaway and Homeless Youth Act programs, including the Basic Center, Street Outreach, and Transitional Living Programs.
  • $2 million to conduct a prevalence study of youth homelessness
  • $11 Billion to address family homelessness through creating of housing vouchers and rapid re-housing assistance
  • $85 million for the education of homeless youth
  • Funds to support demonstration grants to help states implement the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014

For additional highlights of homeless programs in general, check out a summary from the National Alliance to End Homelessness: http://www.endhomelessness.org/page/-/files/FY%202017%20Budget%20Rundown.pdf

For additional information about programs and funding related specifically to children and young people, check out First Focus’s highlights: https://nspn.memberclicks.net/assets/docs/NSPN/big-investments-in-kids-in-the-presidents-budget.pdf

Then and Now

Then and Now: The Reality of New Beginnings
By: Shauna Stubbs, RHYTTAC Principal Investigator for National Safe Place Network 

Human beings tote baggage around everywhere we go.  Sometimes we hold that heaviness inside and struggle to let it go.  Experiences of disappointment, pain and loss teach us to survive by limiting expectations, eliminating vulnerability, and disconnecting from others.  Other times that baggage gets stuck in the environment around us.  Failing an assignment at school colors a teacher’s perception of a student’s potential.  A mistake at work results in colleagues or supervisors doubting a young person’s reliability.  A common but destructive error in judgment breaks a parent’s trust and makes it difficult for a youth to restore it.

For those of us who work with runaway and homeless youth, it isn’t hard to see how such baggage might trigger a chain of events and reactions that could ultimately lead a young person to isolation, hopelessness, and life on the streets.  Knowing how important both resilience and relationships are to positive outcomes for runaway and homeless youth, we have an opportunity to encourage youth, families, and communities to explore such challenges from a different perspective.

Change is hard for any of us.  Feeling pressure to change makes it harder.  Working to change in the face of expectations that we will fail can make the odds seem insurmountable.  Our youth and families experience these struggles every day.  Coping skills that cause harm are difficult to replace.  Unsupportive communication patterns are hard to break.  We who serve runaway and homeless youth recognize those challenges, and we know that pushing through them can produce extraordinary results.

As RHY service providers, our knowledge and experience uniquely equip us to help youth and families navigate these changes.  Here are a few of the ways we can help:

  1. Normalize these experiences. Help youth and families see that they are not alone.
  2. Facilitate realistic expectations. Don’t set families up to fail.  Help them recognize that old patterns were practiced for a long time, and it may take some time to practice newer ones.
  3. Teach and demonstrate healthy communication skills. Use reflective listening and practice “I” statements.
  4. Teach and demonstrate skills for giving meaningful and effective feedback. Specific acknowledgement and lessons learned about effort, strategy and persistence build self-esteem.  Celebrate each positive step!
  5. Encourage youth and families to take risks. Vulnerability is a powerful connection facilitator, and it can be very scary.
  6. Build relationships with local schools, businesses, churches and other organizations and advocate for youth in our communities.

This skill-building and advocacy can help youth and families lighten the load they carry and move forward with a perspective of hope and possibility.

Follow these links to helpful resources available from National Safe Place Network:

NSPN Training Members can access the following webinars on e-Learning at http://nspnetwork.training.reliaslearning.com/

NSPN: Motivational Interviewing (NSPN201503)

Additional resources available through RHYTTAC on e-Learning athttp://rhyttac.training.reliaslearning.com/

Engaging Families of RHY (RHYTTAC47)

Meeting “Connection” Needs of RHY (RHYTTAC48)

Family Assessment and Intervention (REL-FAI-BH-0)

Other resources available online:

Stages of Change Model: http://stepupprogram.org/docs/handouts/STEPUP_Stages_of_Change.pdf

Assertiveness Formula: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/romance-redux/201108/the-abcs-assertiveness

Miracles in the Face of Many Challenges

Written by: Steve Tarver, President / CEO, YMCA of Greater Louisville

It’s Christmas Eve, after six in the evening. Most of the stores are closed and the streets are starting to get very quiet with little traffic. The daylight hours are few, so it’s dark outside. Cars parked in driveways and lights on in most homes indicate that families are gathering for holiday celebrations.

It’s during this time that I like to stop by our YMCA youth shelter. Like many others, it’s a 24 hours a day, 365 days a year operation. Normally, I will have picked up some gift cards which I like to deliver to be handed out to the staff that are working that night along with one for each child that happens to be spending that evening with us.

This past year (2014), it struck me…Where would these children be without the opportunity to be at our shelter? And further, the same question applies for every day of the year. Not sure why it took so long for this to hit me, but I have thought a lot about it since.

Sometimes I have the opportunity to meet with some of the children that are with us. I am always amazed at their intelligence and resilience. So many of them are miracles that stand up in the face of many challenges. And a caring adult who is simply willing to look at them with respect and see them as an asset can be a life changing opportunity for the child as well as the adult. In my opinion, that’s the real magic of the work done by hundreds of the optimistic and welcoming staff that work with the population of homeless youth in our local YMCA shelter, and places across the country that provide the security, safety, and HOPE for these young people.

Of course, this goes far beyond the Christmas holiday. But the question remains, where would these children be without the network of shelters that serve this population? I wonder also, the extent to which the broader community recognizes (and appreciates) this network. Like the children that find themselves on the street, neglected, or abused, many of those that serve them operate “in the shadows.” Shifting the outlook around youth development from a deficit model to an asset model is a huge story that needs to be told. Can we get this work out of the shadows? Can we shift from the generations-deep paradigm that youth are problems that need to be fixed? Can we create a new custom that would start from a point of seeing the potential of youth without being fearful of high expectations? In my experience, only rarely have high expectations not resulted in high responses. These young people have the capability. I’ve seen it.

Hopefully, there will be more dialogue promoting the asset approach to youth development to more audiences. National Safe Place Network offers a platform: www.nspnetwork.org.

Resources:

The Youth Thrive framework is a strengths-based initiative to examine how all youth can be supported in ways that advance healthy development and well-being and reduce the likelihood or impact of negative life experiences. Click https://nspn.memberclicks.net/assets/docs/RHYTTAC/youth-thrive_advancing-healthy-adolescent-development-and-well-being%20report.pdf to review the Youth Thrive Advancing Healthy Adolescent Development and Well-Being report. If you’re interested in receiving the Youth Thrive training, please contact National Safe Place Network at info@nspnetwork.org.

Literature Review of Youth Development / Asset Tools: https://nspn.memberclicks.net/assets/docs/RHYTTAC/lit%20review%20of%20youth%20development%20asset%20tools%202002.pdf

Youth Resilience: http://www.cssp.org/reform/child-welfare/youth-thrive/2013/YT_Youth-Resilience.pdf

Protective & Promotive Factors for Healthy Development and Well-Being: http://www.cssp.org/reform/child-welfare/youththrive/body/youth-thrive-protective-promotive-factors.pdf

Developmental Assets: Preparing Young People for Success: http://www.search-institute.org/what-we-study/developmental-assets

Increase Kids’ Strengths by Building Development Assets: http://www.search-institute.org/publications/developmental-assets

To learn how to get involved, please visit www.nspnetwork.org or email National Safe Place Network at info@nspnetwork.org.

Being a Veteran in the RHY Field

By: TC Cassidy, MPA, M.Div., CYC-P, Director of Technical Assistance / HTR3 Project Director, RHYTTAC / National Safe Place Network

When I was asked to write this blog as a veteran of the United States military and the RHY field, I struggled to find a balance between recognizing military veterans and recognizing veterans of the RHY field.

In recognition of military veterans I can think of no better words than those spoken by President Barack Obama:

“For their service and sacrifice, warm words of thanks from a grateful nation are more than warranted, but they aren’t nearly enough. We also owe our veterans the care they were promised and the benefits that they have earned. We have a sacred trust with those who wear the uniform of the United States of America.” 

In recognition of “veterans” of the RHY field I have tried to string together some words that address your service with one of our country’s most vulnerable populations. I believe the reason many of us are “veterans” of the field is our core belief in the truth found in the words of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower:

“Fortunately for us and our world, young people are not easily discouraged. The hopes of the world rest on the fresh outlook of young people.”

Our service in the child and youth care field, with runaway and homeless youth, provides opportunities for children, youth and young adults accessing our services to “change the world” just as our 2015 National RHY Grantees Conference tagline states. Our service also gives us the opportunity to become “veterans” of the RHY field and to honor the service of “veterans” that have gone before us to guide our work.

Some of the veterans that come to mind for me are people the field has lost in recent years: Pamela Johnson, Mark Krueger, and Ron Mortenson. I was fortunate to know and learn from each of these “veterans”; I was fortunate to call them colleagues, mentors, and friends. I could write pages about the impact Pam, Mark, and Ron had on me and my work.

Other “veterans” of the field are going to be sitting in a room at the 2015 Runaway and Homeless Youth Grantees Conference in a few days. I am fortunate to call you colleagues, mentors, and friends. I look forward to meeting you there to continue our work to end youth homelessness and provide opportunities for youth to change the world.

I hope each of you find an opportunity to connect with a “veteran” of the field that has impacted your work – at conference, by phone, email, Skype, Twitter, Facebook – to let them know how they have influenced your work with children, youth, young adults and families.

“Doing” Ethics

Written by: Katie Carter, Director of Research, Education & Public Policy, National Safe Place Network

When was the last time you discussed ethics with someone?

Chances are it’s been a while, if you’ve had the conversation at all. Ethical discussions can be challenging. They can bring up memories of previous situations where we maybe did not act or respond to a situation ethically. They may force us to confront friends or colleagues about their unethical behavior. They may result in uncomfortable conversations.

Professional ethics, while sometimes challenging, are also integral to the work we do as professional child and youth care workers. Whether working as a counselor, program director, street outreach workers, shelter staff, or executive (and everything in-between), knowing the professional code of ethics that guide this work helps professionalize the child and youth care field. Ethics are not law and regulations, agency policies, or personal values. Someone’s values may clash with the code of ethics, leading to the previously mentioned uncomfortable conversations.

Many different professional codes of ethics exist. National Safe Place Network recognizes the Standards for Practice of North American Child and Youth Care Professionals as a model for child and youth care professionals.

This code of ethics provides a framework for the child and youth care field and can help guide the thinking and actions of professionals. Find out additional information and view the complete code of ethics here: https://nspn.memberclicks.net/assets/docs/NSPN/child%20%20youth%20care%20ethics.pdf

If you haven’t thought about ethics in a while, now is a great time to review the code and have some conversations with your colleagues about “doing” ethics.

For more information about becoming a certified child and youth care professional, check out this information about training and certification: http://www.nspnetwork.org/child-youth-care-certification