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Getting to Know Your NSPN Family: The Gift of Giving . . . and Receiving

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

Tis the season for giving . . . and receiving. Have you ever thought about why it’s sometimes hard to receive gifts? Most people like to give gifts instead of receive them. There’s something to say about having a giving heart—to be responsible for invoking happiness in another. Happiness is contagious. It feels good to know you helped make someone smile. You experience excitement and glee as you wait for the person to find out what you’ve gotten them. You don’t do it for the “thank you,” you give because you know you’re sharing a positive, uplifting emotion with someone you’re connected to.  What a great feeling, right?

Giving gifts feels good, but if you think about it, receiving gifts offers an opportunity to experience an entirely different emotion. It also “feels good,” but there’s something “deep” that tends to happen.  Sometimes the sense of gratitude can be overwhelming (in a good way). When you receive a gift, you feel warm, peaceful, and sometimes tearful. You don’t become thankful because the gift is useful or fun (although sometimes gifts are AMAZING); you’re thankful because the person who gave you the gift cared about you. They dedicated a moment of their life—just to you. That’s pretty amazing too, right?

Since it’s the season of giving and receiving, take your time during each exchange and focus on the emotions you experience. Feel the sense of bright, joyful glee—and appreciate the warm feeling of gratitude.

As mentioned above, sometimes the gifts you give—or receive—are pretty awesome. We asked your NSPN family, “What is the best gift you ever gave or received?” Here’s how they answered:

  • Laurie Jackson, President/Chief Executive Officer: “The most memorable gift for me is a longer story than just an answer. Prior to my coming to Louisville, my family and I would host a Christmas dinner party each year for our friends. Each year there would be a gift exchange. It was a great time and a great event. After several years the decision was made that all of the couples didn’t really need gifts as all of us were blessed in our lives with our families, connections and lifestyles. We all made the decision that our normal routine of “gift giving to each other” would change and we would adopt a family each year instead. As there were six couples and multiple singles we chose larger families with several children. While it was always satisfying, the first year was truly the best as it just felt right and all of the participants truly embraced the decision and the action. There are many stories of how much were we able to give an how much we could stack in the entry way. We truly loved giving and celebrating our friendships in this manner.”
  • Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer: “I told my mom that I wanted to take up music again and mentioned that I might like to get a keyboard. My mother passed in November and a week after she was buried, I found the keyboard she had ordered for me for Christmas. I thought it was the last gift I would ever receive from her and so it holds a special place in my heart. Little did I know that she has continued to find ways to send me gifts when I least expect but most need them.”
  • Shauna Brooks, Principal Investigator: “Music is a pretty core part of my identity, and I have driven a 1991 Volvo without a functional radio for more than 12 years. One Christmas, my partner completely surprised me with an iPod, engraved with the message, ‘Music is where it began. We make the perfect duet.’”
  • April Carthorn, General Specialist: “The best gifts I ever received are life, free will, and faith. The best gifts I have ever given are trust and loyalty.”
  • Zach Elmore, Operations Specialist: “When I was in sixth grade, my younger brother, my sister, and I gathered up all of our allowance money and spare change around the house and planted a flower garden for our mother on Mother’s Day. While we were working, a lot of the other neighborhood kids came over and helped out, so by the time the garden was planted and we showed it to her, there was a crowd of kids watching. She was quite touched and still brings it up to this day!”
  • Kim Frierson, Training Specialist: “A day off with no obligation.”
  • Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations: “The most memorable and biggest gift I received was a Christmas gift from my mother in 1979. It was a Dodge Omni O24.”
  • Hillary Ladig, Communications Coordinator: “I’ll always remember my first car, gifted to me from my parents. I had just come back home from a show choir competition in Branson, Missouri, and the car was waiting for me in the driveway. It was a 1998 Chevy Cavalier.”
  • Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events: “I’ve been given a lot of gifts in life that are important to me, but I think the best gift I received was being taught to have faith and to be a good person—no matter how difficult it is.”
  • Autumn Sandlin, Operations Specialist: “There isn’t one particular gift I can pinpoint as the best given or received. I have very creative, thoughtful family and friends who always manage to come up with something amazing during the holiday season. I also love giving gifts to the people I care about, so I’d hope they’d all think that any gift I’ve given them is the best gift at the time.”
  • Eric Tadatada, Technical Assistance Specialist: “The best gift I ever received was a scroll from my girlfriend on Christmas Day accepting my proposal of marriage four months earlier. My mother read it in front of our family.”

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

What’s the best gift you ever gave—or received? Feel free to comment below.

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Getting to Know Your NSPN Family: Being Thankful

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

Each month, we share a little something about your NSPN family as a way to help you get to know us better. Sometimes the posts include fun facts and sometimes the answers are pretty meaningful. This month, we asked the team, “What are you most thankful for?”

The answers are below—but before you take a look, we want to say on behalf of the entire team of National Safe Place Network, we are thankful for you. We are thankful for each and every person who believes in our vision of creating a world where all youth are safe—and supports our mission to ensure an effective system of response for youth in crisis through public and private partnerships at a local, state, and national level. We’re thankful for the time you spend with us, the time you dedicate to teach and learn from us, and all of the times you share us with people you know. Thank you for allowing us to meet your needs and be your network and for working with us—because, together we can.

“What are you most thankful for?”

  • Laurie Jackson, President/Chief Executive Officer: “My family and friends.”
  • Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer: “My family and the unique relationship I have with each member.”
  • Shauna Brooks, Principal Investigator: “My partner in life and love—Kimberly Brooks.”
  • April Carthorn, General Specialist: “I’m most thankful for my life experiences.”
  • Sherry Casey, Operations and Administration Manager: “My family.”
  • Zach Elmore, Operations Specialist: “The support of friends and family. I would not be where I am without them.”
  • Autumn Sandlin, Operations Specialist: “I try and be thankful for the good parts of my life. I graduated this year, and I’m thankful for my time interning at NSPN and their willingness to let me make this work my full-time job. My nephew is one of the best parts of my life, and I’m thankful for his curiosity and intuitiveness that he shares with me. My friends who show me support and love I might not know I need, as well as my mom and sister. And cute dog videos. Always cute dog videos.”
  • Kim Frierson, Training Specialist: “My beautiful bear and wonderful family and friends.”
  • Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations: “I’m thankful for family and friends.”
  • Rachel Hurst, Development Associate: “My family, my faith, that I am healthy and whole, my dog Buddy.”
  • Hillary Ladig, Communications Coordinator: “My family and my health.”
  • Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events: “I’m fortunate and blessed to have a few good family members, but I was born with them. I don’t really know what it’s like without them—or their impact on my life. So, when I think about being thankful for something, I immediately connect it with something that I have personally developed true appreciation for. I’m most thankful for my job. I worked hard to earn the skills I have to do my job; I worked hard to get my job; and I work hard to keep my job. It’s something I have done on my own and I’m proud of what I do and the organization I work for. I continue to be thankful for my job on a daily basis because no one is indispensable. I also know what it’s like to work for a company that doesn’t have NSPN’s standards of ethics and dedication toward its members and mission.”
  • Eric Tadatada, Technical Assistance Specialist: “I’m most thankful for my wife.”

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

 

Children with Cerebral Palsy at Greater Risk of Bullying

Written by Cerebral Palsy Guidance

Youth and family service organizations serve a multitude of young people, including those with disabilities. Children living with any type of disability are more vulnerable to bullying than their peers. With those disabilities that make a child look different, including Cerebral Palsy, the risk of being a victim of bullying is even higher. The Forum for Equality estimates that nearly 15-25% of students in the United States are victims of bullying. While bullying is a big problem for a lot of children, and the consequences can be serious, there are things that can be done to prevent this victimization and to help victims cope.

 

Bullies Often Target Children Perceived as Different

Cerebral palsy affects a child’s muscle movements. There are different types of Cerebral Palsy and it affects everyone in different ways. According to Cerebral Palsy Guidance, individuals with the most common type of Cerebral Palsy, Spastic Cerebral Palsy, can experience stiff muscles, difficulty controlling muscles, and/or difficulty moving from one place to another. Some children may struggle to chew and swallow food, which can cause drooling. These kinds of factors cause other children to perceive them as being different or not normal. Statistics show that perceived differences are major factors in bullying, and this means that children with disabilities are at risk.

Children with a disability like cerebral palsy are more likely than their able-bodied peers to be bullied. A child with cerebral palsy may be targeted by a bully because they are perceived as being less able to defend themselves due to their various physical make-ups. Some children with cerebral palsy also have cognitive impairments that can make them vulnerable. These children may have a more difficult time distinguishing between friends, and individuals who are trying to hurt them.

 

Bullying Has Consequences

Both the victim and the perpetrator of bullying suffer negative consequences. Some are physical; bullying can cause real and serious injuries. A child with disabilities related to cerebral palsy may not be able to defend himself and can really get hurt by bullying. Of course, the psychological consequences are often the longer-lasting effects of bullying. Bullying increases a child’s risk for developing depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, low confidence, and could potentially lead to substance abuse issues. These psychological consequences can also affect the perpetrator of bullying.

 

Prevention and Support for Bullying Victims with Cerebral Palsy

Preventative measures can help put a stop to bullying. Adults, including teachers, parents, and others, must take an active role in teaching children to empathize with others and to stop bullying behaviors as soon as they are witnessed. Awareness and education can also play a big role in prevention. Teaching children about cerebral palsy helps build empathy and prevent bullying behaviors. This can be done at home, or in the classroom.

When a child with cerebral palsy does become a victim of bullying, they need support and guidance from both adults and peers in their life. A strong group of friends, adults who they feel comfortable talking to, and participation in activities of all types can go a long way in helping a child feel more confident and able to avoid some of the worst long-term consequences of bullying.

Living with cerebral palsy presents challenges that others don’t have to face, such as simply being able to walk. These children shouldn’t also have to face bullying and its side effects. Greater awareness, education, and support can help these children avoid bullying and stand up to it if it does occur.

 

Learn more about helping young people with cerebral palsy at:

cerebral palsy guidance-logo

Getting to Know Your NSPN Family: That’s What They Said

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

“Quotes.” Such a funny little word, yet “quotes” leave such a significant impression on our lives. Communication is a powerful thing when you think about it. Someone can say a simple sentence and it can evoke emotion and even completely change one’s way of thinking. It’s amazing that a few words can make someone smile, laugh, or cry—those words can really make an impact on the way someone is feeling. If you actively use social media sites, you see quotes every day through “memes” that are shared. Think about the emotions you experience while reading them.

Some of the best quotes are the ones that make you laugh—the ones that are innocent and kind, yet honest and humorous. Oftentimes, these types of quotes come from children. If you’d like to take a brain break and crack a smile—perhaps even laugh—here are “17 Kid Quotes That Will Make You Laugh So Hard You’ll Cry” from The Huffington Post.

To help you get to know your NSPN family a little better, we asked this question: “What is your favorite quote?” Here’s what was shared:

  • Laurie Jackson, President/Chief Executive Officer: “There are too many to count—seriously—I don’t have a favorite; I have many favorites.”
  • Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” – Dr. Seuss
  • Shauna Brooks, Principal Investigator: “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off!” – Gloria Steinem
  • April Carthorn, General Specialist: “My favorite quote is, ‘This too shall pass.’ I also like the quote, ‘You don’t truly know a person until you know them.’”
  • Zach Elmore, Operations Specialist: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” – Fred Rogers
  • Kim Frierson, Training Specialist: “To me, it’s always a good idea to always carry two sacks of something when you walk around. That way, if anybody says, ‘Hey can you give me a hand?,’ you can say, ‘Sorry, got these sacks.’” – Jack Handey
  • Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations: “Tomorrow is another day.”
  • Rachel Hurst, Development Associate: “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” – E. B. White
  • Hillary Ladig, Communications Coordinator: “Oh, there are so many! I will always love this one from Maya Angelou: ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’”
  • Autumn Sandlin, Marketing and Communications Intern: “I’m a huge quote person. I’m constantly highlighting, writing down, and folding down the pages of books I read with any quote I like on it. I’ve been reading a lot of memoirs by some of my favorite female comedians lately, so my favorite quote of the moment comes from Mindy Kaling. “If you don’t see a clear path for what you want, sometimes you have to make it yourself.”
  • Sabrina Smith, Development Intern: “To be soft is to be powerful.” – Rupi Kaur
  • Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events: “Oh my goodness. I cannot choose just one. I love quotes and asking me to pick my favorite is like asking someone to pick their favorite child. Well . . . I guess with that said, one of my most favorable quotes is an original, which I say quite often. ‘Focus on doing the right thing. At the end of the day, I’m going to rest my head on my pillow knowing I did what’s right.’” – Elizabeth Smith Miller
  • Eric Tadatada, Technical Assistance Specialist: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”Learn more about your NSPN family at www.nspnetwork.org/our-team.

    Feel free to leave your favorite quote below! “Sharing is caring.” ☺

Getting to Know Your NSPN Family: Our Independence

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

There are lots of ways to celebrate Independence Day. There are even few web pages that share fun 4th of July statistics. Here are a few of those stats from statisticbrain.com:

  • 63% of people attend a fireworks display.
  • 66% of people display an American flag.
  • 32% of people attend a parade.
  • 80% of people attend a barbecue, picnic, or cookout—of which 150 million hot dogs, 700 million pounds of chicken, and 190 million pounds of red meat and pork are consumed.

There seems to be one statistic missing—how many people actually know what Independence Day is? According to abcnews.com, only 14% of U.S. teens understand that the 4th of July marks the historic day where we declared independence from France. That’s a whopping (more than) “5 million U.S. teenagers who don’t understand the true meaning of Independence Day.”

During your celebration of our independence, take a moment and share the reason for the celebration with the future leaders of America. You can make it fun! International Business Times shares “15 Fun Things to Know About Independence Day.”

You can also comment below to let us know what activities you have planned. As a way to help you get to know your NSPN family, we asked the following:

“How do you celebrate your independence, or what do you do on Independence Day?”

  • Laurie Jackson, President/Chief Executive Officer: “Relax, honor our military, and spend time with family, and of course, fireworks.”
  • Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer: “My father passed away on the 4th of July. I now think of him on that day and how his passing was his way of gaining independence from the disease that controlled his body for so long.”
  • Shauna Brooks, Principal Investigator: “My favorite way to celebrate the 4th of July is grilling out burgers and dogs, enjoyed along with a fine craft beer, and watching fireworks after the sun sets.”
  • April Carthorn, General Specialist: “I celebrate my independence with daily demonstrations of good citizenship, positive character (being trustworthy, responsible, caring, fair, generous, and consistent). I make my own decisions. I also celebrate with family and friends at cookouts or public events—and I love watching exploding fireworks.”
  • Sherry Casey, Operations and Administration Manager: “Cookout and family time with fireworks.”
  • Lindsey Collier, Human Trafficking Specialist: “Gather with family and friends and grill out.”
  • Zach Elmore, Operations Specialist: “Family and fireworks. My dad puts on a show that draws most of the neighborhood children, with homemade ice cream afterwards.”
  • Kim Frierson, Training Specialist: “On Independence day, I enjoy having a family dinner.”
  • Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations: “I don’t do anything special—just relax and do whatever comes up.”
  • Rachel Hurst, Development Associate: “It’s my brother-in-law’s birthday, so usually I go home to visit my family and we have a cookout, some fireworks, and a campfire with s’mores.”
  • Hillary Ladig, Communications Coordinator: “On Independence Day, I like to be with my family, grill out, and watch fireworks.”
  • Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events: “I celebrate my independence by being thankful for it. Being able to show appreciation for freedom is a privilege—one many individuals don’t have the opportunity to experience.”

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

ns-july-independence

 

Getting to Know Your NSPN Family: Summer Love

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

Salty sea air . . . the wind blowing in your face . . . aah, there’s nothing like summer. Summertime is like a rite of passage for sun, fun, and relaxation. There are lots of reasons summertime is the best—including:

  • Beach time
  • Pool parties
  • Grilling and picnics
  • Outdoor gardening and greenery
  • Walking/running weather
  • Ice tea—and other cold beverages
  • Longer days
  • Summer clothes
  • And MORE!

We talked to your family at NSPN and here are what summer loves were shared:

  • Laurie Jackson, President/Chief Executive Officer: “Grilling out and pool or lake time.”
  • Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer: “Summer breezes.”
  • Shauna Brooks, Principal Investigator: “What I most enjoy about summer is gently floating in an inner tube on the lake with a lemon shandy until the sun beats down with such heat that I have to slip in the water to cool off.”
  • April Carthorn, General Specialist: “What I love most about summer is the full bloom of trees as they sway in the wind, colorful fragranced flowers, and beautiful butterflies.”
  • Sherry Casey, Operations and Administration Manager: “Flip-flops.”
  • Lindsey Collier, Human Trafficking Specialist: “The heat!”
  • Zach Elmore, Operations Specialist: “The long days, sitting outside and watching the sunset after working all day on the farm.”
  • Kim Frierson, Training Specialist: “The days are longer.”
  • Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations: “I love the long, warm days and being able to sit out on my porch enjoying the day.”
  • Rachel Hurst, Development Associate: “I love that the hours of daylight are so much longer and the sun is brighter. It makes me so much happier. I really love going to the best beach in the world, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.”
  • Hillary Ladig, Communications Coordinator: “Spending time outdoors—especially, on the water somewhere. During my childhood, I spent many summer weekends boating on Lake Cumberland. I have and always will be a water child!”
  • Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events: “Watermelon, swimming, and the Florida heat. Call me crazy, but when I go to my car from being in a cold store, I love getting in my car and just sitting there for a moment. I eventually have to turn the AC on, but I ‘soak up’ the heat when I can.”
  • Eric Tadatada, Technical Assistance Specialist: “Long and sunny days.”

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

What do you love most about summer? Feel free to let us know by commenting below.

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5 Art Therapy Facts + 3 Ways to Use Art in Your Therapy Practice Now

Written by Ginny Gaulin, Clnician & Art Therapist at RefugeeOne

You can’t walk into a bookstore without spotting several art therapy coloring books on the “What’s Hot Now” table.  The coloring books are trending, but art itself has been used as a tool for communication for thousands of years.  Art therapy as a health services profession has been official since the 1970’s, with founding figures utilizing art therapy starting in the early 1900’s.  Today, more people than ever are engaging in and benefiting from art therapy.

Here are 5 important facts about to know about art therapy plus 3 ways to start successfully incorporating art into your therapeutic practice right now:

5 Important Art Therapy Facts:

  • Art therapy is a masters-level mental health profession.

Using art for combating stress and facilitating relaxation is so beneficial, but it is not art therapy.  Art therapists have specific national credentialing and licensure, and ethical art therapy can really only be practiced when facilitated by an art therapist.  Learn more here and here.

  • Art therapy is not only for young children.

As we mature, we quickly learn how to mask our emotions verbally.  However, we are unpracticed at hiding emotions that are revealed in our artwork, making art therapy especially beneficial for clients of any age who are resistant to treatment or not used to talking about their feelings. Often the children that we see have learned early to build these defenses.  Art therapy is for everyone.

  • Artwork should be treated with confidentiality, like other clinical documentation.

Art therapists will not display artwork in hallways like art teachers in schools. If you treat the artwork and processes with clinical respect and power, the client will too.  During final termination sessions, I will often display client’s artwork on my office wall like a gallery and the client can invite family members or teachers to view the work, but only with the client present.

  • Self-discoveries through art are always more powerful than a therapist pointing out interpretations or observations.

Art therapy combines process, product, verbalizations, and interpretations of artwork. Yes, art therapists have clinical training in diagnostic art indicators, but no, we do not solely rely on them for diagnosing clients. Encouraging clients to make their own observations about their artwork is the goal.

  • Artistic skill is not a requirement for treatment.

With the focus both on product and process, art therapists cannot say enough that we are not looking for artistic skill.  Art therapists pick processes and materials intentionally to meet specific goals, which can range from reducing intimidation about art making to challenging clients artistically.

3 Ways to Use Art Right Now:

While practicing art therapy for healing is outside of a clinical counselor’s scope of practice, using art, or creative counseling, in treatment is highly impactful and encouraged!

  • Use art to aid in communication – “Can you try to draw it instead?” is a great way break the ice when clients begin to show resistance to talk therapy. Keep materials within arms reach so it takes minimal effort to participate.  If a client is immediately resistant, ask them to scribble on the page and use that to talk about their current experience. Avoid asking “what” or “why” questions, and try not to make guesses at what people have drawn, which can be unintentionally insulting and minimizing.  Ask instead: What can you tell me about your drawing? How does looking at this make you feel? Where would you be if you were in this drawing?
  • Use art as a ritual – Effective closure when ending sessions is healthy and important, and art can be a great way for clients to self-soothe. When short on time, be mindful of material choices, such as providing a smaller paper size and limiting options for drawing materials. This can keep things moving but also allows for the drawing to feel completed before leaving the session. Ask if there is anything the client would like to share about the image, but avoid diving deeper or asking specifics when seeking closure.  Resist pulling these images out to finish up next time, and instead keep them in a folder for review later.  Those external, tangible images can help document time spent in treatment and the progress made.
  • Use art to build awareness – Create a handmade art journal with your client and encourage frequent entries. Ask them to take it home and draw when they experience a specific emotion they are working on in treatment. (This can become part of a therapy check-in process if you think your client will never touch the journal at home.)  Later, encourage describing the artwork with words in the journal, which helps build mind-body connection and improve emotional identity skill.

Interested in going to school for art therapy?   Learn more here.

Want to find a credentialed art therapist?   Learn more here.

PI SM - Jan 9 - Youth Art Request

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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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.”

human-trafficking

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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