Anti-Trafficking’s Sensational Misinformation – Part II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What’s the value of a volunteer?

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

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

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

    The basic reasons follow:

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

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

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

    Things

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

    Events

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dragon Flies and Night Terrors: Parenting with Your Parents

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We got to go outside.”

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

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

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

“Time’s up.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safe Place – One Professional Youth Worker’s Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting to Know Your NSPN Family: Read Across America Day

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

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

Here are the favorite books of your NSPN family:

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

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

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

 

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National Safe Place Week: March 19-25, 2017

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

National Safe Place Network (NSPN) is pleased to announce National Safe Place Week, March 19-25, 2017 (#NSPWeek2017). This nationally recognized week highlights the Safe Place program and the many valued partners who work together to provide access to immediate help and safety for all youth. NSP Week serves to recognize licensed Safe Place agencies, local site and community partners, and volunteers who are the pillars of strength that support the national safety net for youth.

NSP Week helps garner support for Safe Place and calls attention to local and national issues affecting youth. Well-planned awareness activities provide opportunities for individuals and organizations to share information about Safe Place and youth in crisis as well as opportunities to get involved in local Safe Place program efforts. Effective NSP Week activities and events: increase general awareness about Safe Place; provide opportunities for advocacy; help build community support for Safe Place and licensed Safe Place agencies; and, recognize individuals, organizations, and businesses involved in the program.

NSP Week 2017 will be celebrated nationally using the following themed days:

  • Safe Place Sunday – March 19
  • Make Some Noise Monday – March 20
  • Tell All Tuesday – March 21
  • We Stand Together Wednesday – March 22
  • TXT 4 HELP Thursday – March 23
  • Friends of Safe Place Friday – March 24
  • Safe Place Site Visit Saturday – March 25

Want to get involved and celebrate NSP Week 2017? Here are a few ways you can lend support and celebrate Safe Place:

Make Some Noise Online:

  • Join the Thunderclap: Add your support to the official Thunderclap campaign to help raise awareness about Safe Place during NSP Week. Thunderclap is a social media crowd-speaking platform that helps people be heard by saying something together. Thunderclap blasts out a timed Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr post from all supporters, creating a wave of attention. The NSP Thunderclap will launch on March 20 at 1:00 p.m. EST. Please join and share the NSP Week Thunderclap here: http://thndr.me/4Re0Nb
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  • Spread the word on social media: NSP Week is a great time to promote share information about Safe Place and youth in crisis on social media channels, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We’ve created sample social media posts you can share throughout the week: http://bit.ly/2lDh95r. Click here to view, download, and share NSP Week social media images along with your posts: https://www.facebook.com/pg/NatlSafePlace/photos/?tab=album&album_id=10154752551031183
  • Change your Facebook and Twitter photos to support NSP Week: Click here to access the official NSP Week Facebook cover image and upload it to your personal and / or organization’s page: http://bit.ly/2l5ukr. You can also add a Twibbon (profile photo frame) to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Add the NSP Week Twibbon to your profile pictures and encourage others to do the same: http://twibbon.com/Support/nsp-week-2017
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Get Involved In Your Community

  • Become a Safe Place volunteer for your local licensed agency. Click here to find contact information for the licensed Safe Place agency in your community: http://nationalsafeplace.org/what-is-safe-place/where-is-safe-place/
  • Visit Safe Place sites in your community and thank employees for their commitment to serving youth. NSP Week is a great time to recognize organizations and businesses that display the Safe Place sign and respond to youth in need of help.
  • Not in a Safe Place Community? Help convene community partners (ie: youth service organizations, local government, law enforcement officials, first responders, etc.) and inform them about Safe Place and the importance of providing immediate help and safety for young people in need. NSPN is happy to provide information, resources, and support to help facilitate this conversation. If you’re interested in bringing Safe Place to your community, please let us know at info@nationalsafeplace.org.

In addition to the above, you may also donate to National Safe Place Network. Help us create more Safe Place communities nationwide and ultimately connect more youth to supportive services: www.tinyurl.com/nspndonation .

To learn more about Safe Place, please visit: http://nationalsafeplace.org/.

A Heart In Pieces

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

I was in a local grocery store recently. As I entered the store, I was bombarded with signs that Valentine’s Day is once again upon us. Red roses with white bows. Balloons reaching for the sky. Bouquets of candy bars. Sweets for the sweet. As I wandered about the aisles, my mind drifted toward the hearts that will be broken on this day when love is celebrated.

Somewhere there is a young boy who will be taunted and shamed by other boys who notice the small valentine he has clutched in his mittens for the teacher. They will grab the delicate card he worked hard to make and they will stomp it into the snow as they call him names. He won’t shed a tear – at least not now. He has learned not to cry. He knows that showing he has a heart will only make things worse. The older boys will get bored and move on to other targets. He will pick up the pieces and carry on.

Somewhere there is a young girl who has loved being daddy’s secret valentine until the day his touches made her scared. They made her uncomfortable. They made her confused. Now, when daddy says “I love you”, she nods her head and prays that he will not want to come to her when mommy goes to work. On this day, she will think God must have been too busy and as her father leaves her room she cries her heart out – and then she will pick up the pieces and carry on.

Somewhere there is a young mother who has worked all afternoon to make sure the right meal is on the table. Her husband will come home and she will know the drinking began before he ever left work. Her efforts will be buried under criticisms of how the food tastes, how the house looks, how she has changed, and how she disappoints him. She has long ago stopped hoping for a card or a rose. She nods in agreement to every word with the hope that her gift on this day will not involve touches filled with rage and disgust. As she looks in the mirror that night, she thinks about how she will cover the new bruise. She will pick up the broken pieces of the mirror and carry on.

Somewhere there is a father who will lose his job today. He has been saving every penny to pay bills that have filled his mailbox since his heart attack last year. The company can no longer afford to insure him so it found other reasons to let him go. He sits in his truck in the parking lot and takes out the handful of singles in his wallet to see if he has enough to take his wife a small gift for Valentine’s Day. He knows he must have gas in the tank to look for new work so he heads home and knows the woman who sat by his side while he recovered will stand by his side through this new challenge. She has his heart and together, they will celebrate the gift of life and carry on.

Somewhere there is a family surrounding a young family member in a hospital bed. Each member of the family prays for a miracle that is getting harder and harder to believe in. Their hearts are breaking and they ask the questions – Why him? Why now? Why? If he passes on this day their memories will be forever connected to their love for him and the pieces of their spirits that will travel with him on his journey. They cannot imagine or trust in the strength they have to pick up the pieces and carry on.

Our world is full of people who celebrate Valentine’s Day as a day of love, romance and endless possibilities. Our world is also full of people who see every day, including this one, as another day of heartbreak, fear, worry, and loneliness. Youth care workers, domestic violence counselors, workforce advocates, and hospital personnel are just some of the many hearts that do important work every day. They commit themselves to helping lift up others in times of need. On this day of love, please take a moment to thank someone for the gifts they share with others and know that the heart they lift up may someday be yours.

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Getting to Know Your NSPN Family: Inspired Indeed.

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

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Black History Month is observed every February to recognize and honor the great achievements of African Americans throughout history. Black History Month began in 1976 (replacing a weekly celebration) and has been strongly supported by many individuals and groups since then.

As a way to celebrate the phenomenal accomplishments of African Americans and to help you get to know your NSPN family, we’ve asked NSPN staff members:

What African American has inspired you the most and why?

  • Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer: Maya Angelou – Her spirit, compassion, fierce courage and love of the use of words inspire me.
  • Shauna Brooks, Principal Investigator: Harriet Tubman wore many hats – daughter, sister, wife, mother, survivor, protector, facilitator, host, soldier, spy, caregiver, problem solver, investor, and many others. I would call her a “bad ass social worker”.
  • Katie Carter, Director of Research, Education, and Public Policy: Barack Obama. He has faced unprecedented gridlock in Washington, DC, so much criticism, and a great amount of pressure as the first African-American president. He has done so with grace, humor, and intelligence. He is missed.
  • April Carthorn, General Specialist: My grandmother, Ruthie Mae Jones
  • Sherry Casey, Operations and Administration Manager: Muhammad Ali
  • Lindsey Collier, Human Trafficking Specialist: Maya Angelou – She is an incredibly gifted and talented individual and she never let racial, gender, or other forms of discrimination and bias stop her from sharing her gift with the world.
  • Zach Elmore, Operations Specialist: Muhammad Ali – He broke barriers and held fast to his moral code, in the face of adversity.
  • Kim Frierson, Training Specialist: My mother – because of everything.
  • Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations: Dr. Martin Luther King – He was a wildly brave man who acted on his beliefs and gave his life for those beliefs.
  • Rachel Hurst, Development Associate: Septima Clark – She inspired those who we think of as inspirational civil rights leaders. She believed so strongly in literacy and in the rights, but also responsibilities, of informed citizenship. Even when she was afraid, and rightly so, she did things because it was the courageous and right thing to do. She was known for a way of listening and talking with people who made them feel whole and important. She had principles, but she changed and grew as she had new experiences; I admire that quality. Because shew as a woman in the movement, she was allowed no power and her role was always downplayed. She wasn’t shy about pointing that out and became a feminist later in life, pointing out that sexism was “one of the weaknesses of the civil rights movement.”
  • Hillary Ladig, Communications Coordinator: Maya Angelou – her words will forever inspire and influence generations of people.
  • Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events: I am incredibly inspired by Sarah Breedlove, a.k.a. Madam C.J. Walker. During the 1890s, she became a self-made millionaire. That’s right – a millionaire – in the 1890s!  She created hair care products, built her brand by cultivating a team of 40,000 brand ambassadors, and marketed and sold her products door-to-door. To this day – 134 years later – you can still buy her successful products. She was rightfully deemed a “marketing magician” as she paved the way for marketing professionals throughout history. She shared her success by offering sizable donations to the YMCA and other organizations. She’s just incredible.
  • Eric Tadatada, Technical Assistance Specialist: Jackie Robinson – He broke the baseball color line.

Who inspires you the most? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Moving Forward: Ways to Stay Engaged in Human Trafficking Awareness All Year Long

Written by: Lindsey Collier, Human Trafficking Specialist, National Safe Place Network

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As National Human Trafficking Awareness Month draws to a close, I want to take a moment to thank each and every one of you who have engaged in the important work of awareness. Whether you have shared your knowledge and expertise or taken time to learn something new this month, thank you. After a month of efforts focused on awareness, you may be looking forward to some respite from the problem of human trafficking. Alternatively, you may be eager to learn more and to take action. Wherever you are, I encourage you to stay engaged in some capacity. Your community, region, state, and nation need you.

Here are some simple ways you can stay engaged all year long:

  1. Share what you know. Start a conversation. You won’t have all of the answers…that’s okay!
  2. Contact your local, state, and federal representatives. Share your concern about human trafficking. Ask them what they are doing to combat human trafficking in your community, state, and nation, and world. Request their continued support to fight human trafficking and meet the comprehensive needs of survivors. To find out who your representatives are, click here.
  3. Save the National Human Trafficking Hotline Number in your phone: 1-888-373-7888. This hotline can be used to report a tip or to request services.
  4. Volunteer with organizations combatting human trafficking. To locate organizations in your community, check out the National Human Trafficking Referral Directory.
  5. Do you travel? If so, download the TraffickCam App on your smartphone. You can upload pictures of your hotel room to a database used by investigators to determine where traffickers are committing their crimes.
  6. Be an informed and ethical consumer. Check out Made in a Free World for a growing list of companies that are committed to freedom and ethical business practices.
  7. Donate to National Safe Place Network or other organizations committed to meeting the needs of survivors while creating a world in which human trafficking cannot exist. Click here to donate to NSPN! We cannot do what we do without your support.

“Nothing happens just because we are aware of modern-day slavery, but nothing will ever happen until we are.” – Gary Haugen