Personal Development

My Life as a Gruntled Employee

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

I’m gruntled. I’m so gruntled I sneak around on the weekends, wake up really early, and stay at the “office” really late. I know, I know—you’re probably thinking this sounds like the beginning of a twisted Lifetime movie. I get that these activities can be seen in a negative light, but in this case—I assure you, they’re great!

“Gruntled” isn’t a term most people use to identify a “happy employee,” but I say, “why not?” It’s common to call an unhappy worker a “disgruntled employee.” Anyhow, I’m embracing the phrase. I’m gruntled. I mentioned before that I “sneak around on the weekends”—I like to work on weekends and “sneak” to work when my family members and friends are busy with things they like (my husband likes naps). I “wake up really early”—I open my eyes and my brain starts to think about what new projects we can start, how we can make more meaningful connections with the members and agencies that we care deeply for, and what new information is needed in the field. I have even been known to send emails with ideas before I get out of bed and head for a delicious cup of coffee. Before coffee . . . yes, I know—that’s pretty risky. I also “stay at the office really late”—I cannot “shut it down” at 5 p.m. I have tried (only because I was told about self-care—apparently that’s a thing), but I actually don’t think my mind ever stops. I love what I do so much, that I want to do it—all of the time. You’ve heard the phrase, “you’ll never work a day in your life if you do what you love to do.” Well, that’s it—I am just doing what I love to do and I believe that IS my self-care. I’m gruntled doing it.

Here are some of the things that make me gruntled. Perhaps some of these things will help you fill your organization with gruntled staff—or understand why they are gruntled and help you keep it that way:

  • I care about our mission and vision. I think in order to be truly gruntled at the workplace, one needs to be passionate about the mission and vision of the organization. For the record, the mission of NSPN is to ensure an effective system of response for youth in crisis through public and private partnerships at a local, state, and national level. The vision of NSPN is to create a world where all youth are safe. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
  • My supervisor is a leader. She leads by example. She believes in me. She checks her ego at the door and leaves that door open for input, ideas, and thoughts from all of her staff. She cares about my wants and needs to move forward. She listens—she takes the time to understand what MY idea of success is—and she helps provide the resources to accomplish it.
  • I’m challenged. There’s nothing like a good ol’ challenge to make me use my brain. Tasks can be difficult, but they are always possible. I care about our organization, partners, NSPN members, licensed Safe Place® agencies, and RHY grantees, so when I’m challenged, I know I’m playing a role in the success of all of these. (Being challenged also makes me gruntled, because it tells me I’m trusted.)
  • I have autonomy. I know some employees need a little more hand-holding than others, but I don’t believe any employee likes to be micro-managed. I cannot stand it. I’m happy I have the autonomy to do what I’m paid to do and do it well. You might have heard the phrase, “hire someone who is an expert and then get out of their way.” Well, it’s true. If you’re a micro-manager, stop now. You hired your employees for a reason—get out of their way and let them do it.
  • I’m comforted by transparency. I love that our organization is transparent. Gruntled employees remain content and safe when they know the direction of their organization. This doesn’t mean everyone is involved with every decision, but it does mean we support each other by providing the information and tools we need to carry out our responsibilities. Nothing demoralizes employees more than the phrase “need to know.” Everyone who knows me can tell you I don’t like this phrase. I think people who push “need to know” as a control mechanism, as an explanation or excuse for excluding staff who may think differently or excluding staff who question the status quo—have challenges they or their therapist “need to know.” One of the issues with “need to know” is no one seems to know who all “needs to know.” It’s based on perspective. Only including your “close friends” in a discussion or “accidentally” leaving someone out of a conversation disrupts the flow of the process.  Processes are in place for a reason. To help with this, determine teams (everyone who actually needs to know) and create contact lists (for use across the board), so when you email someone, you email the contact list and you don’t leave anyone out of the conversation.
  • I enjoy our culture. The team establishes the culture. Does it feel good when you walk into the office? Is it supportive and respectful or do you experience tension and stress? Being able to walk into an environment that is supportive enhances productivity—and gruntledness (not to mention it is definitely possible to have fun in the workplace).
  • I feel appreciated. Organizational leaders can’t always give their staff members a raise, but they can invest in them in other ways—including professional development. Don’t be afraid of developing your staff because they will move on—develop your staff so they can move up! They’ve already chosen your organization—show them you chose them as well. (By the way – NSPN offers a terrific Professional Development package with benefits like professional coaching for middle managers, an Emerging Leader Institute, Training of Trainer sessions, CEUs, Certified Youth Care course and certification, and more.  Invest in your employees by letting NSPN help. Take advantage of these benefits and let them grow professionally! Contact us at info@nspnetwork.org to learn more.)

They say happiness is contagious. I hope I’ve been able to share some ways you or your team can be happy—I mean . . . gruntled!

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Try a Mantra for 2017

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

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Looking back in my 2016 work notebook, I have a list of “possible mantras” instead of actual resolutions for the previous year. I was coming back to work after several months of maternity leave and I guess wasn’t quite ready to commit to a traditional resolution. Instead, I was adjusting to my life as a new mom working full-time. Some of my “possible mantras” for 2016 included: “This is enough;” “Don’t forget to breathe;” and “No is a complete sentence.”

I wish I had reviewed my 2016 mantras more frequently than in January and now.

So this 2017, I’m going to try again to pick a mantra, write it down, post it around my workspace and my home, and use it. And I’m going to just pick one, not make a whole list of them.

If you are a person who also has trouble sticking to a resolution, may I suggest a mantra as well? I got the idea here: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/forget-resolutions-embrace-a-yearly-mantra-instead-226656. The author provides an example: instead of deciding to exercise three times a week, your mantra could be “move more.”

Here are some other examples of possible mantras to replace popular resolutions:

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Do you have other ideas for mantras or resolutions? Let us know on Twitter at @nspntweets.

Happy 2017.

Live Life Unfiltered

Written by: Elizabeth Smith Miller, Communications Coordinator, National Safe Place Network

It’s no doubt technology has made life more…let’s say convenient. Technology has provided increased accessibility for education, safety, healthcare, and entertainment. It has also paved a new way to build “social connections”. But, with these new “social connections” – are we really connecting? Technology enables increased efficiency and productivity; however, it has disabled true conversation, connection, and togetherness. Take a moment and watch a powerful video authored by Prince Ea. In this video, he shares a simple message to encourage you to be balanced, mindful, and present. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRl8EIhrQjQ

Some have argued that technology has strengthened communication; however, I believe technology has made communication faster and shorter – not stronger. In fact, I believe communication is strongest when no form of technology is involved at all.

I have found technology – as wonderful as it is – often times interrupts, rather than improves our lives.  Look around; you’ll begin to notice how society is starting to live through technology instead of taking the brilliant science behind it to meet certain needs. So many moments are being lost because they are being experienced through a (screen) filter. I want to shout – “LIVE IN THE MOMENT!” I mean, don’t you want to experience something you enjoy first hand and not through a screen? I was at a concert one evening and I was recording the song I had been waiting for all day. About half-way through, I realized I was watching it through my screen. With excitement, I had been waiting for that very moment and almost missed the entire thing. I wasn’t allowing myself to experience something joyful. I was watching it with a filter, which I could have just as easily watched on screen from home. It was that moment that I realized the value of just enjoying the in-person experience. When you have a better connection with your phone than a person, you are living life through technology. It’s time to make some changes. Live life unfiltered; live in the moment.

Here are five ways you can start living life unfiltered:

  • Adjust your morning routine.
    • Put your phone out of reach.  Many of us sleep with the phone right beside us and the first thing we do in the morning is check our emails or social media accounts.  Try starting the day off with a nice stretch or meditation instead.
  • Leave home without it.
    • That’s right…leave your phone at home.  Plan a day with the family or by yourself and leave the technology at home.  If you’re concerned about an emergency, let others know where you’ll be and what time you expect to get home.  If there is an actual emergency, they will do what they did before cell phones… they will find you.
  • Eat and be merry.
    • Make your time at the table, chair, or couch technology free.  Simply enjoy your meal and savor each bite.  Not only is it the healthiest option, it’s also a way to actually connect with others – or yourself if you choose to have a bite alone.
  • Don’t drop one piece of technology for another.
    • While smart phones have become a one-stop-shop for all things, technology doesn’t begin and end there.  If you truly want to disconnect for a while – turn the television off too.  Instead, go outside and plant a flower or tree, pull out the big tub of photos (you know – the ones you had to go and get developed to see them.)  Sit down around a table and relive the memories or share those memories with those who weren’t there – especially those who don’t know what life is like without the technology of today.
  • Don’t allow over-stimulation to control your life.

Here’s a fun life-hack where you can make a quick change to help you avoid over-stimulation and potentially reduce the urge to constantly check your smart phone: http://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/480240/adventures-in-grayscale/?utm_source=SFTwitter

Seton Youth Shelters’ Spring Cleaning Campaign

Written by: Karlaa Williams, Public Relations & Donor Associate, Seton Youth Shelters

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Seton Youth Shelters has just finished celebrating 30 years of Changing Lives, Building Futures for more than 250,000 teens and their families, free of charge since 1985. With our three main program areas – shelters, mentoring children of prisoners program and street outreach programs – donations are always needed, from bathroom tissue, to non-perishable food items, to hygiene items and household cleaning products.

In this age of social media, online giving sites like GoFundMe, and others, pinpointing a specific audience can be a bit difficult.

Here at Seton Youth Shelters, we attempt to think outside the box and engage the community on a regular basis. Many of our donors are have families with small children and teens, just like many of the youth we serve. The Hampton Roads area is seven cities clustered on the southeastern coast of Virginia. Last year, in celebration of our 30th anniversary, we had a year-long calendar of events from open houses, to a bench dedication in honor of a longtime supporter, to our Spring Cleaning Campaign. We even opened a “Seton Shop” featuring Seton-branded mugs, shirts, caps for those dedicated supporters.

Our favorite and most successful campaign is the Spring Cleaning Campaign. Seton Youth Shelters is the official designee for Thrift Store USA, ranked as one of the nation’s top thrift stores by Lucky Magazine.  A Norfolk stop for all thing vintages, chic and….of course thrifty. This 26,000 sq. feet store has furniture, mattresses, shoes, jewelry and clothes. Many thrift stores are known buy their items from warehouses because of a lack of donations. Not so with Thrift Store USA! They have placed more than 100 donation bins around Hampton Roads. It’s in these distinctive, bright blue bins sporting the Seton Youth Shelters’ logo, on which our donors to place many items to be sold. The Spring Cleaning Campaign directed donors to the bins!

When designing our campaign, we thought of this:

You and your family are cleaning up all the old clothes from last year that you didn’t wear and placing them in these large plastic bags. The house is clean! But where do you put all of these bags?

That is the scenario that I believed many area families and donors were going through. Thrift Store USA’s truck will pick up bulk donations free of charge, from your home. Don’t have that many items? There are plenty of Thrift Store USA bins, you can surely do a quick drop off. Voila! Donations gone…and you have done a great deed!

Interested in campaign ideas? Here are some tips!

  • Identify your audience
    • Families
    • Small children
    • Teens
    • Churches etc.
  • If you have a bulk list of donation needs, condense it down for social media. Ask for one to two things.
  • Ask donors to sponsor a single item that you really need. Maybe they don’t have the time to go and buy it for you, but are willing to give you $50 to buy it yourself or towards to total purchase price.
  • Get creative! Think seasons or the nearest holiday and how to integrate that into your needs! Need more sunscreen for outings? Seedlings or flowers as a gardening activity? Holiday tree decorating?
  • Use social media to get the word out. Create custom hashtags that specify your campaign.
  • Encourage your followers to share! Sharing your posts increases the views, and helps you spread the word.
  • Spend some money! Boosting social media posts for $10 can be very beneficial, especially when spending that $10 gets you over $100 in donations.
  • Always say “Thank You”. Whether it’s a photo posted on your social media pages, a handwritten thank you, a phone call, or a “shout out” at your next fundraising event. Just say it!

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: What’s it All About?

Written by: Hillary Ladig, Communications Coordinator, National Safe Place Network

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (MLK Day), a time to commemorate Dr. King’s vital role in the Civil Rights Movement. On MLK Day, Americans of every age and background will unite in a day of service as a way to transform Dr. King’s life and teachings into community action that helps resolve social problems.

More than 20 years ago, the U.S. Congress designated MLK Day, the third Monday in January, as a national day of service. MLK Day is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service, making it a “day on, not a day off.” As it states on the http://www.nationalservice.gov website:

“The MLK Day of Service empowers individuals, strengthens communities, bridges barriers, creates solutions to social problems, and moves us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a ‘Beloved Community.”

To learn more about Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, click here: http://www.nationalservice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/MLK%20Day%202016%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf

To find a place to serve on MLK Day, please visit: http://www.nationalservice.gov/mlkday

As Dr. King famously and selflessly stated, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” Take time today and throughout the year to serve others. It will make all the difference.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month

Written by: Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer, National Safe Place Network & RHYTTAC

Although I had learned about suicide and had even been a peer educator in high school, I had not personally been impacted by a completed act until my freshman year in college. I was serving as a resident advisor and was called into the head resident counselor’s office to hear the news. The boyfriend of a friend of mine had shot himself in the woods on campus. I was sad for my friend, angry at the young man and confused about what had happened. I had been trained to look for signs. Everyone had seen this young man many times and although we knew he had a temper, it always seemed to be directed at others. Like the other individuals involved, we waded through the rivers of grief and found that the depth of the waters differed from person to person. Feelings of guilt, anxiety, depression and anger were common and yet, like most moving waters – the rivers flowed and we found renewed energy to continue our life journeys – even though his was complete.

In later years I was impacted by the suicide of a young transitional living program participant. As a supervisor, I would sometimes be called into action when a staff person was sick. One Sunday I was covering the program and this young man indicated he was hungry. He was the only one in the building so I decided to make pancakes. I can still see his face and remember how moved I was when he gave me a hug and expressed sincere gratitude that I had made this small gesture for no other reason than to be kind to him. He talked about his life and how he always felt like a burden to others and how he wanted things to be different. He was able to verbalize his desire for close relationships while confirming his doubt that these same relationships could last. Six months later, he completed suicide on a different Sunday morning. He asked that there be no service as no one would mourn him “for real.” He was wrong – I cried. The staff cried. Volunteers cried.  Like the other individuals involved, our tears joined in the rivers of grief and we found that the depth of the waters differed from person to person. Feelings of guilt, anxiety, depression and anger were common and yet, like most moving waters – the rivers flowed and we found renewed energy to continue our life journeys – even though his was complete.

Most recently, my nephew called to say that my sister attempted to take her own life. She was in the hospital and although she indicated that her overdose on pain medication was an accident – no one in the family overlooked the obvious. She was still with us and we could share our love, appreciation and support. Relief was one side of our family coin and sadness the other. My sister has been surviving with multiple sclerosis for more than 25 years. She is in constant and considerable pain. She cannot breathe and it is difficult and close to impossible for her to move. She says she is tired. She says she is done. She says her faith tells her that there is something next. Regardless of whether she intended to complete suicide or not, the result of the potential loss is frightening. We all responded with concern, sought reassurances and then continued in our individual boats down the rivers of grief and found that the depth of the waters differed from person to person. Feelings of guilt, anxiety, depression and anger were common and yet, like most moving waters – the rivers flowed and we found renewed energy to continue our life journeys – even though we do not know when hers will be complete.

I know very few people who have not been impacted by suicide. Internal fleeting thoughts;  personal attempts; friend or family losses; media exposure – all demonstrate to us that to think about this life fully will also involve recognizing the inevitable nature of death. In trainings and consultations we discuss how suicide is different from any other form of loss. The intentionality of the act and the self-directed nature of the decision make it very difficult to understand, talk about or find ways to respond to in healthy ways.

However, the conversations about suicide should be happening at many levels – familial, organizational, community – and these conversations should be happening often. Knowing the warning signs and seeking help for the individuals is critical. It is better to breach a sensitive subject and have the person be alive even if they are angry.

People who complete suicide may exhibit one or more warning signs. The more warning signs, the greater the risk. Example warning signs include:

  • Feeling trapped
  • Talk about killing themselves
  • Stating of implying that he or she has no reason to live
  • Feeling like a burden to others
  • Referencing unbearable pain
  • Feeling as if there are no answers or no way out of situations
  • Increased substance abuse
  • Acting recklessly
  • Withdrawing from activities or friends
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Aggression or violence
  • Saying goodbye
  • Depression
  • Loss of interests in hobbies or other activities
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Unexpected euphoria or happiness

As we examine this topic during National Suicide Prevention Month, we at National Safe Place Network encourage you to get involved at whatever level makes sense for you.

Consider:

The loss of life is a loss of potential. Possibility evaporates and is replaced with thoughts of what could have been. If you or someone your know is thinking about suicide, please seek help. National Safe Place Network envisions a world in which all youth are safe. Thank you for your efforts to make this vision a reality.

Part Three of our “Brain Development” Series: Creating a Brain-Based Environment for Youth

By: Robin Donaldson, Chief Operating Officer, Indiana Youth Services Association & NSPN Advisory Board member

Adolescence is defined as the transition from childhood to adulthood and encompasses the broad developmental tasks of establishing a unique identity and developing one’s own autonomy and independence. Brain development also undergoes unique changes during adolescence that can explain many behaviors specific to this developmental period.

Brain development continues well into the 20’s and the last area to develop is the prefrontal cortex, responsible for higher cognitive and emotional functioning. Prefrontal cortex development is largely influenced by experience and this allows us to directly impact adolescent brain development.

After a preadolescent cellular growth spurt in the brain, a pruning process begins in adolescence. The adolescent loses approximately three percent of gray matter in the prefrontal lobes. This pruning works on a “use it or lose it” principle so it is important to repeatedly expose young people to the skills and knowledge needed to become successful adults. Repeated use and exposure will strengthen the neural connections that support these skills so they are not lost during the pruning process.

The speed and efficiency of neural communication is determined by neural sensitivity known as long-term potentiation. Under normal situations, long-term potentiation is highest during adolescence. However, adolescents face many factors that can inhibit long-term potentiation.  Things like alcohol and substance use, chronic stress, sleep deprivation, and stimulants interfere with long-term potentiation and slow neural communication. We can help teens minimize exposure to these risk factors through education.

Due to the pattern of brain development, teenagers have greater difficulty reading the emotions of others, a function of the prefrontal lobes, and experience emotions at greater intensity than adults due to a reactive limbic system. We can help develop the neural pathways between the limbic center and prefrontal lobes by helping teens examine and identify emotions (their own and of others) and helping them learn to “put a brake” on their emotions and stop and think before reacting. Activities such as “emotion charades” allows teens the opportunity to both recognize and express emotions.

Research now demonstrates a significant link between exercise and brain functioning and development. Exercise increases blood flow and oxygen level in the brain and this is necessary for optimal cellular growth and function. Exercise also impacts neurotransmitter levels in the brain that can serve to help teens better regulate emotional control.

Knowledge is power and teens should be educated about how the choices that they make during adolescence can have lifelong impacts.

This blog is the final post in a three-part series on adolescent brain development. Click on the links below to read parts one and two:

Part One of our “Brain Development” Series: General Brain Development

Part Two of our “Brain Development” Series: The Brain and Crisis Situations

A Personal Reflection on Leadership

Written by: Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer, National Safe Place Network & RHYTTAC

Writing about leadership is bizarre. If you write about something, you should know what you are writing about. If you profess to know a lot about leadership – or at least enough to write about it – does that mean that you are holding yourself out as a role model? In trying to determine the most accurate, though totally subjective, answer to my own question, I decided to think about the leaders I know or have known in my life. First, there was my mom. She led through a balance of compassion and control. My father led through years of hard work followed by years of stories of what he learned by working so hard. My first pastor, Brother Fred, was a Native American leading a small Christian church in rural Mississippi. He led by demonstrating that words of kindness may soothe but never eradicate the pain caused by words of hate. My high school English teacher led by gentle challenges to all of his students that you are never as accomplished today as you could be tomorrow. An early social work supervisor led by showing patience, persistence and passion – all while working with the kids rather than hanging out in the office. Each of these souls imprinted their form of leadership on the way I feel and think about the world. So, I wonder. Is this leadership? Is it impacting another in such a way that the other person is forever changed by the encounter? If so, can there be negative leaders? Surely, there are. If not, many of the warnings I received as a child were simply scare tactics meant to keep me on the straight and narrow (I think they worked to well.) I believe there are leaders who lead without ever realizing people are paying attention. I know there are leaders who use their skills and personal characteristics to gain more for themselves than they ever help others achieve. I think there are leaders who believe that they should be followed and who criticize those individuals who refuse to follow them. Luckily, I don’t work with these people. I don’t see any of these leaders in partnering organizations or in our membership. I haven’t spotted these leaders at our workshops or conferences. In our world, I see the other leaders. The ones who understand that a simple gesture of good will, an act of patience, a sharing of resources, a hug of support or a nod of validation can be critical. These leaders don’t look for THE moment to make a difference because they realize that EVERY moment is an opportunity to create change. John Quincy Adams said, “if your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader”. Our social service field is filled with leaders at all levels. Youth, professional youth care workers, managers, clinicians, executives, administrative staff, drivers, volunteers, cooks and receptionists – each spread ripples of positive impact in the streams in which they swim. I guess maybe the most often missed characteristics of leadership are humility and gratitude. I am learning to be a leader. Thanks to all of you who are learning with me.

Speaking of leadership – NSPN members and licensed Safe Place agency staff gathered in Savannah, Georgia last week (August 12-14, 2015) for the New Leadership Institute. Participants identified their leadership strengths and challenges, assessed leadership styles, developed skills, and learned new methods of decision-making. Stay tuned for details about upcoming NSPN leadership-focused events!

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Avoiding Sparks: On the Road to Independence

By: April Carthorn, RHYTTAC General Specialist, National Safe Place Network

Homelessness is not a choice. Too often a young person’s decision to leave home is the healthiest (and only) option available to them. Some have no choice as they are forced from their homes at the hands of their guardians. Many flee because of issues such as family conflict, sexual orientation, poverty, abuse and neglect, while others may become entangled in substance abuse, gangs, and addiction problems.

Once a young person is homeless, it is very difficult to transition out. Age restrictions prevent many youth from accessing housing / shelters thus making it hard for them to connect with services to help end their homelessness. Transitioning youth also face barriers when trying to get their own housing. Paying rent and bills is virtually impossible with a part-time minimum wage job and many landlords will not rent to youth. Therefore, many youth are forced to remain hidden or move to the streets.

Without proper housing, food, and support systems, the health of a youth experiencing homelessness is at risk. Homeless youth have higher rates of HIV and other STIs and face a greater risk for developing anxiety and depression as compared to housed youth. It is difficult to grow into a healthy adult when you’re unhealthy, poorly nourished, and stressed.

While this paints a bleak picture, we can prevent youth homelessness by making sure young people know where to turn when their home is not safe. Most youth at risk of being homeless leave difficult home situations or age out of foster care to find themselves without a safe sanctuary, something we all need and appreciate. Everyone likes to come home and close the door behind them and feel safe. Many at-risk youth and young adults do not have this opportunity.

While most youth are resilient and want to move forward, there are a number of barriers for someone who is unprepared to be independent. Most youth who have aged out of care or have had to leave home lack experience in independence and therefore need a helping hand up. Searching for safe accommodations can be complicated, stressful, and hopeless if the youth / young adult is suffering from mental health concerns such as depression, stress disorders, substance abuse, and a history of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse.

What You Can Do To Help Avoid the Sparks:

Many youth / young adults ages 18-24 tend to take increased risk to figure out which career, educational, and financial path they want to pursue. Being a supportive ally can help foster a positive transition into adulthood and provide young people a chance to explore opportunities, develop financial independence, and create healthy, lifelong relationships.

  • Empower youth to make decisions. Youth / young adults have often been left out of critical decisions made about their lives. It is important to allow the young person take charge of his or her own future while you listen, help guide, and support. During daily interactions, provide youth with frequent opportunities to make decisions and to learn from consequences, both positive and negative.
  • Communicate high expectations. Far too often, youth / young adults have heard more about their limitations than about what they can achieve. Send positive messages about future possibilities. Offer forward-looking comments into everyday conversation. For example, use phrases such as “when you go on to college…” or “when you start your own business…” as opposed to phrases like “if you go to college.”
  • Start early. Find ways to introduce important concepts to younger youth. For example, talk with a pre-teens about the value of education and saving for long-term goals.
  • Decrease control and increase youth responsibilities gradually. While allowing youth to make choices, be clear about boundaries. Involve youth in setting rules and establishing appropriate consequences related to their behavior. Allow young people to learn and practice adult life skills with your support.
  • Help to identify at least one reliable, caring adult in a young person’s life who can serve as a stable, ongoing connection and can provide support pre-and-post-transition into adulthood.
  • Encourage the development of positive peer support networks through participation in constructive group activities with others who share similar likes and experiences.
  • Be an effective coach who listens, advises, and provides youth / young adults with opportunities to learn and practice new skills.  Do not shoot down their ideas.
  • Advocate for youth rights as they relate to employment, housing, education, medical and mental health care, court proceedings, and social needs.
  • Remind young people of their responsibilities related to self commitment, citizenship, character, and fairness and generosity toward others.
  • Recognize successes and celebrate ALL achievements and milestones on the path to adulthood.

Pride Isn’t an End. It’s a Beginning.

By: Jama Shelton, LMSW, PhD, Deputy Executive Director for True Colors Fund

Pride Month is not only an opportunity for homeless youth programs to celebrate the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) young people with whom they work, it’s also a time for youth-serving agencies to come out as visible allies of all young people. Sometimes youth serving organizations may not celebrate Pride Month if they think it isn’t relevant to the youth within their programs. Even if you aren’t aware of any LGBT identified youth (or youth who may be questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity) within your programs, chances are, they’re there! In fact, 99% of the service providers we surveyed for our Serving Our Youth Report said they work with LGBT youth in their homeless youth programs. Less than one percent reported not working with LGBT youth. Pride Month is a perfect opportunity to let these young people know that you see them, stand with them, and support them.

Pride Month is a time to be, well… proud! It’s a time to celebrate the accomplishments of LGBT people and communities. And we’ve had no lack of accomplishments lately! Laverne Cox continues to excel at her craft, while also raising awareness about the unjust treatment of transgender people, particularly transgender women of color, in our country. Over the past few months, Caitlyn Jenner’s decision to live as her true self has made headlines worldwide, and introduced the topic of transgender identity to a whole new audience. Let us be proud of and celebrate these incredible women!

Let us also recognize that many LGBT young people struggle to survive in families and communities that are not yet able to accept or celebrate them. According to service providers we surveyed, LGBT youth continue to be overrepresented within the population of youth experiencing homelessness, and identity-based family rejection continues to be the primary reason for their homelessness. While Laverne and Caitlyn are making their ways into households all over the world via mainstream media, transgender youth are being forced out of their homes and face great difficulty finding adequate support once on the street.

While updating our report this year, we asked service providers about their experiences working with transgender youth separately from their experiences with cisgender LGB youth in order to better understand how to support transgender youth. Here are some of the key findings from the report:

  • Organizational staff report average increases in the proportion of LGBT youth they serve. This change is higher for transgender youth.
  • Service providers were more likely to report that transgender youth experience homelessness for longer periods of time than cisgender LGB youth.
  • Transgender youth were estimated to have experienced bullying, family rejection, and physical and sexual abuse at higher rates than their LGB counterparts.
  • The number one need for LGBT youth experiencing homelessness, as identified by providers, was housing. Providers also identified transition-related support as a critical need for transgender youth. Transition-related supports include access to legal support, name/gender marker change, access to healthcare specific to transgender youth, access to hormones, and emotional support.

So why am I bringing this up during Pride Month, a time when celebrations of LGBT identity abound? Because not all LGBT community members are accepted, much less celebrated, in their families and in their communities. This June, I challenge you not only to celebrate, but also to educate within your organizations and communities. Increasing visibility is important, but let’s not stop there. It’s an important first step in creating a safe and inclusive society, but when Pride Month is over and the parades have ended, what will have changed for the LGBT youth experiencing homelessness in your community?

This June, I am proud to work alongside many of you in communities around the country as you commit to making your programs and services safe and affirming for all youth. I encourage you to celebrate the LGBT youth you serve not only during the month of June, but all year. If you’d like suggestions on how to do that, contact us at the True Colors Fund. We’re happy to help!

True Colors Fund, National Safe Place Network NSPNsights Blog, Pride Month 2015

True Colors Fund, National Safe Place Network NSPNsights Blog, Pride Month 2015

True Colors Fund, National Safe Place Network NSPNsights Blog, Pride Month 2015

True Colors Fund, National Safe Place Network NSPNsights Blog, Pride Month 2015

True Colors Fund, National Safe Place Network NSPNsights Blog, Pride Month 2015

True Colors Fund, National Safe Place Network NSPNsights Blog, Pride Month 2015