advocating for youth

The Sustainability Puzzle

By: Shauna Stubbs, RHYTTAC Principal Investigator for National Safe Place Network 

Sustainability is more than fund development and capacity building.  It is not only easy to over-simplify the idea but to completely mis-characterize it.  We think about how our agency or program can win funding from competitors.  But in truth, sustainability is collective, cooperative, and collaborative.  Here are a few pieces of the puzzle to help you consider applying a philosophy of sustainability in your organization.

Know what your community needs.  Regularly mapping assets, assessing needs, and identifying gaps in resources or services for the population(s) with whom you work enables organizations to avoid duplication and focus effort where it is most needed.  Keep in mind that community boundaries aren’t necessarily geographic.

Know who you are.  Develop a clear mission and use it to drive decisions.  Recognize your strengths and leverage those in organizational and program development.  Avoid the temptation to reconfigure for funding opportunities (or even private donations) that aren’t an authentic fit.

Know who you need.  This applies both internally and externally.  Board and leadership development require attention to diversity.  Both should reflect the populations you serve and bring the full complement of skills and assets necessary for your organization to thrive!  From an external perspective, sometimes the most sustainable strategy to achieve an objective is to build relationships with partners who can contribute their strengths and resources to your success.

Value people.  Listen for the voices of clients, volunteers, and direct care staff.  These are the people who really know what is going on, and they are so often ignored or unappreciated.  Recognize how important the people who earn the least in your organization truly are, invest in their professional development, and engage them in decisions.  Then sit back and watch what happens!     

Be Excellent.  Start from the most evidence-informed position possible, develop programs based on logic models, monitor performance and evaluate outcomes.  Continuously improve the work you do.  Build depth before breadth.  As a reminder, none of these grand ideas will produce excellence without the engagement of the aforementioned people.

Pay it forward.  Agencies and programs that are culturally invested in professional advancement and Positive Youth Development have a natural advantage when it comes to succession planning.  Draw a pathway from receiving services to volunteering to providing services to leadership, and make it part of your organizational identity.

Share what you learn.  Evidence-based practice involves exploring what has and has not worked for others, critically considering what is likely to work for the people you serve, and evaluating outcomes that follow the practices you employ.  It also involves supporting the knowledge base available for other practitioners to explore.  What you learn can be helpful to others.

It’s all about the mission.  There is no place for ego.  People who work in organizations who serve people and communities are ultimately aiming to work themselves out of a job – to eliminate the need for their services by solving the social problem at the root of the need.  For example, the Forty to None Project’s mission is “…to raise awareness about and bring an end to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth experiencing homelessness.” Learn more at:

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

Follow the links below for additional resources about sustainability:

Each of the following links provide information about potential funding sources:

National Prevention Week: May 17-23

NSPN supports National Prevention Week!

NSPN supports National Prevention Week!

A note from Mr. William H. Bentley, Associate Commissioner, Family and Youth Services Bureau, and Frances M. Harding, Director at Center for Substance Abuse Prevention:

Dear Colleagues,

This week is National Prevention Week, a time for all of us to focus on behavioral health, the essential role it plays in the overall health of young people and their families, and its importance to our productivity and prosperity as a nation. The Administration for Children and Families’ Family and Youth Services Bureau is a partner with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in supporting National Prevention Week.  During this week, and throughout the year, we encourage you to bring awareness of the behavioral health issues that may be experienced by the children, youth, and families you work with every day.

The daily health themes of National Prevention Week cover many behavioral health issues, including: tobacco use, underage drinking, excessive alcohol use, opioid and prescription drug misuse, illicit drug use and youth marijuana use, and suicide.  By increasing awareness and educating others about these issues, we will make great strides in overcoming the challenges of youth homelessness, adolescent pregnancy, and domestic violence, and help our nation’s young people and their families lead healthy, productive, and violence-free lives.

In honor of National Prevention Week, community organizations in every U.S. state and many U.S. territories are hosting events ( to inform the public about the risks associated with substance use and misuse and ways to promote personal health. State and federal agencies and national organizations are sharing information about actions communities can take to prevent mental or substance use disorders.

I invite you to join us in recognizing National Prevention Week by taking the Prevention Pledge ( and encouraging the youth and families you work with to do the same. In taking the Pledge, we demonstrate to others that we care and are actively working to advance behavioral health.  I also invite you to take a photo of how you maintain a healthy lifestyle and what inspires you to choose prevention.  Share your photos via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using the hashtag #ChoosePrevention ( to inspire others. Thank you for your commitment to National Prevention Week and the health and well-being of our young people and their families.


William H. Bentley
Associate Commissioner
Family and Youth Services Bureau

Frances M. Harding
Center for Substance Abuse Prevention

NSPN and the Academy for Competent Youth Work Team Up to Help Advance the Youth Services Field

In honor of 2015 International Child and Youth Care Workers’ Week last week (May 3-9), NSPN is pleased to announce a partnership with the Academy for Competent Youth Work to provide Child and Youth Care certification training. The Academy for Competent Youth Work is effectively transforming the practice of child and youth care by focusing on these core goals: 1) Prepare a competent international youth care workforce; 2) Help youth care organizations develop and implement research-based best practices; 3) Advocate for quality services for children, youth and families; and 4) Advocate on behalf of Child and Youth Care Practitioners. NSPN is proud to be the exclusive national partner with the Academy for Competent Youth Work for complete access to training. This partnership provides the opportunity for NSPN to offer this certification training: “Child and Youth Care Foundations Course” and certification exam. Participants may pursue certification at the Basic and Associate levels (national certification) or the Professional level (international certification).

There are many benefits to becoming a certified youth care worker:

  • Receive the benefits of high-quality, cost-effective training that builds on individual experiences of child and youth workers.
  • Become part of a competent, certified group of child and youth care workers advancing the youth services field.
  • Individuals with varying levels of experience are welcome.
  • Discounted course registration fees available for NSPN members and licensed Safe Place agencies. Course registration is free for FYSB-funded RHY grantee agencies.

The CYC: Foundations Course is eight 5-hour modules that include the following topics:

  • Introduction to Professional CYC Practice
  • Professional Ethics and Regulation
  • Brain-based Guidance Techniques
  • Assessment and Documentation
  • Communication
  • Developmentally Based Programming
  • Relationship Development
  • Group Work
  • Activity Development and Leadership
  • Supervising Children and Youth
  • Cultural Diversity

Contact us for additional information about how you can become a Certified Youth Care Worker – or 502.635.3660.

Mother’s Day

By: Holly Arnold, Residential Shelter Manager at Home Start, Inc’s Maternity Shelter Program in collaboration with residents and staff in Home Start’s housing program

I am currently at home scrubbing unmentionables out of my son’s Spiderman underwear while my other two-year-old screams incessantly in my ear because he wants grapes. My six-year-old is outside kicking a ball against the wall waiting for his dad to get home from work. During times like this, I constantly think…how do our residents do it?

The I remember some inspirational words. The staff at Home Start’s Maternity Shelter Program asked our 23 residents to provide us with one word that meant something to them in order to create a custom painting. The word could be inspirational, something that got them through a tough time, a mantra, or a word that reminded them of something positive. Their words were:

Perseverance, Competent, Family, Determined, Omnipotent, Enlightenment, Love, Memories, Integrity, Peace, Aspiration, Hope, Strong, Serenity, Respect, Be Yourself, Persistence, Strive, Dedication, Patience, Courageous

Every time I think of these words I am reminded of motherhood. Typically, the media celebrates Mother’s Day with stories of stay-at-home mothers putting lasagna in the oven and carpooling to soccer practice. And while there is certainly praise due to those moms, I think it’s important to salute a different type of mother: our 18-24 year old ladies experiencing motherhood in the midst of homelessness, without family support, recovering from addition…and triumphing. Mothers who are able to take it one day at a time, one step at a time. Mothers who are able to sing praise of perseverance, family, strength and pour love into their children, no matter their struggles.

I am also reminded of the words of my staff who completed the same exercise:

Sunshine, Optimism, Compassion, Integrity, Fun, Passion, Dedication, Semantics, Achievement, Hope, Presence, Peace

I know I am among strong women who experience motherhood through the eyes of our participants and appreciate the beauty of a new generation. While we work on strengthening families, preventing child abuse and neglect, providing stability and self-sufficiency – we also see the light and the promise in this beautiful, incredible work we do.

Have an inspirational Mother’s Day!

Our finished painting, created by Megan Bisbee: 

NSPNsights Blog - "Inspirational Mother's Day"

Breaking Down Barriers: Working with Children, Youth, and Families Impacted by “Disabilities”

By: Dee Blose, Executive Director, Youth & Family Services, Inc.

We all have a “disability” of sorts.  I wear glasses.  Without them I would be lost in this world.  Glasses are basically my accommodation to help me better access my environment.  They help me be the best that I can be!

That is the purpose of any accommodation for someone that learns, processes, or accesses the world in a different way.  If we could think of “disabilities” as mere differences, rather than a weakness, then we have made the first step to break down a barrier for our clients.

I have had the amazing opportunity to get to know a group of children, youth and young adults with a variety of “abilities” through some of our programing here at Youth & Family Services, Inc. in El Reno, Oklahoma.  We have a partnership with, a state-wide parent driven autism support system.  Through that partnership we assist with a couple of summer camps, and a year round social/entrepreneurial club called Bee’s Knees.

What we have found through working with a variety of children, youth and young adults on the autism spectrum is that they are more like the rest of us than different!  And that is where our common ground lies.  Finding those “touch points” where our interests can intersect give us the perfect space to come together and share, communicate, and grow together.  Music, animals, art, and hobbies all offer this common ground that we can join together celebrating.

One of the most rewarding experiences I have had with Bee’s Knees was attendance at an art show showcasing their artwork.  Youth that are quiet, non-social, suddenly open up about their art, especially when their art is about an interest of theirs.  Art about computers, video games, electronics, movies, books, animals, whatever is their passion all the sudden leads to communication and socializing.  It is a glorious sight to see them engage.  One particular young man will take a strangers arm and gently lead them over to his work.  Although he has a stutter, he is adamant that he describes his work in detail.  It always seems to actually have a complete story, a beginning and an end.  One of his works describes the process of renting a video game, everything from ordering it on-line to the postman delivering it to his mailbox, to him enjoying it (artwork included below).


Without common ground opportunities, this type of communication would be lost, never even heard in the context of a public event or public opportunity.  It would rather be a topic of a social skills conversation where a therapist would be challenging this youth to NOT talk about his video game, but to try and stay to more “socially appropriate” topics.  I don’t know about you but one of my favorite things to talk about are my current interests, so why would they be any different?

Developing programs that capitalize on their interest and their strengths opens up the world to new possibilities.  Suddenly these barriers become moments of enlightenment and new human interactions, new appreciations for different points of wonder, new experiences from both directions.

Consider as you are identifying “barriers” to participation for children, youth, and families impacted by “disabilities” that you look at it in an entirely different way.  If you were on their side of the “barrier” what would be important to you?  Where would you want to interface and engage?  What have you got to showcase to the world?  Then build a program or event or activity from that perspective, inviting all the rest of the world (or group) to join.  It may very well be that the barrier we have erected is basically only perceived from the original perspective.  You may very well now not see a barrier, but rather a bridge that connects us all together into one glorious group of humans that can laugh, sing, dance, and participate as complimenting spirits in the program we call “life”.

For more information about Youth & Family Services in El Reno, Oklahoma, visit their website:

For more information about Bee’s Knees visit their website: 

To see a full length movie (one hour) about Swanky Art Camp, including meeting many campers on the autism spectrum, view it here: 

To get more general disability accommodation information, visit this website

NSPN Supports #40toNoneDay – Here’s Why You Should, Too

It’s a statistic that may shock you, but that doesn’t make it any less true: Approximately 40% of youth experiencing homelessness identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT), while about 7% of the general youth population does the same. The discrepancy is outrageous. And it’s impossible to ignore.

On Wednesday, April 29, 2015 NSPN will join people across the country – including national advocacy organizations, elected officials, service providers, celebrities, LGBT youth, and community members – to support the first ever #40toNoneDay.

#40toNoneDay is national awareness day for everyone who cares about ending LGBT youth homelessness. While there are many factors that contribute to LGBT youth homelessness, identity-based family rejection is the most commonly cited reason. The ultimate goal is to reduce the disproportionate percentage from 40% to none. We need your help!

People often think that, because they don’t work at a shelter or service provider, they don’t have a role to play in the effort to end LGBT youth homelessness. The reality is: Everyone can make a difference! LGBT youth experiencing homelessness interact with more than just people working at shelters. They go to coffee shops and libraries, ride public transportation, use the internet. To put it simply: they live life! We all share the same world and you may interact with these youth on a regular basis without even knowing it!

NSPN is honored to support #40toNoneDay, but we cannot do this alone. All of us have the ability to make a positive impact in the movement to end LGBT youth homelessness. The opportunity is yours. Will you take it?

Get involved at


The Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act Introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives

Statement from Laurie Jackson, President/CEO of National Safe Place Network, on the introduction of the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act

“On behalf of National Safe Place Network members, licensed Safe Place agencies and runaway and homeless youth grantees, we are pleased this bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Congressmen John Yarmuth and Dave Reichert are working to advance needed updates to the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act. These updates will provide more flexibility and resources for agencies serving runaway and homeless youth across the country.

We applaud the efforts of the Congressmen and the National Network for Youth and their partners for leading this reauthorization effort and championing the needs of runaway, homeless and vulnerable youth.”

National Network for Youth Press Release: Bipartisan Bill to Reauthorize RHYA Introduced in the House – April 15, 2015:

National Child Abuse Prevention Month

By: Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer, RHYTTAC Director, NSPN

It is officially spring and as we look for the familiar colors of yellows, pinks, reds and greens, my mind can’t help but think of other colors. These colors aren’t prevalent during any particular season. They can be seen on any day of the year – no matter where you are in our world. These colors do not bring smiles or joy to hearts looking for something warm after cold winters. These colors do not adorn new outfits worn to church or school or community picnics. These colors aren’t the desired focal points for pictures taken at family gatherings to celebrate the time spent in laughter and love. These colors are black, blue, purple, red – bruises, welts scars – different colors at different stages of healing, disappearing from the surface but only to go deeper into the soul.

As April is National Child Abuse Awareness Month, NSPN joins our other local, state and national partners in calling attention to the ongoing need for all of us to protect children and to work toward addressing the short and long-term consequences of child abuse.

Each of you taking the time to read these words already know the reality. While the majority of instances of abuse go unreported and unrecognized, we know that this hidden epidemic is ever-present in our communities. Reviewing news reports and statistics will confirm that children still die – every minute – from abuse and neglect. Whether the mechanism for the abuse is a belt, a hot car, a bathtub or the back of a hand, each tool is used to a frightening degree of proficiency until it is not – and the child dies. In other cases, the children quietly carry the marks and the memories. Imaginative stories of falling while playing X-Men or attempting to bake a cake are superficially acceptable until the observant care giver realizes the bruises and burns aren’t in the right places to match the story or have happened before.

Those of us working in the youth and family services field are mandatory reporters. These may be the two most important words in our profession. If we expect abuse or neglect, we must report it. Not because we are certain, but because we can’t risk waiting for evidence to be certain. As soon as we suspect an instance of abuse, we report so that the trained interviewers and legal experts can address the safety needs of the child. What about parent rights? Yes, those are critical. And, these rights come with additional responsibilities. Parents have the responsibility to address concerns when they are voiced via appropriate mechanisms and with good intention. They also have the right to file charges and grievances should these mechanisms and reports be misused by anyone with a self-serving agenda.

Dealing with abuse almost feels like examining an eclipse. When abuse occurs the bright sunlight is briefly covered by the moon. If you stare straight at it, the effect is disconcerting and can sometimes be harmful. When you look away, you miss it and it passes so quickly that you may not even believe it happened.  For the child, they will us to recognize their situations – even when they can’t put words to what is happening to them. They ask us to check on them – to ask what has happened to them – to be ever curious and involved. Every now and then, you look into eyes that say – see my pain and my confusion and my love. Help me do better or be better so that this doesn’t happen to me. Help my mom, or my dad or my uncle or my neighbor. Help my brother or my pastor or my aunt or cousin. Help the person who hurts me so that I can love them and feel safe in my world.

National Safe Place Network envisions a world in which all youth are safe. This means safe at all times in every place – not just those designated by a sign. Join us in this recognition of the impact abuse has on our children and communities and then pledge to do something specific this month to raise awareness. Together, We Can make a difference. Our children are waiting.

Spring Forward with National Safe Place Network

By: Katie Carter, Director of Research, Education & Public Policy, NSPN

I love spring. It’s a time of new beginnings, warmer weather, flowers…

We mark this time of year at NSPN by launching our annual membership and licensed agency renewal drive. In case you missed the launch, you can read more here:

I’d love to take this opportunity to share some of the exciting things we are doing, and some of the things we have planned. For starters, many of you are wrapping up the busy grant-writing season. We’ve been providing support to many of our member agencies, answering questions and reviewing proposals. We are available to do this year-round, for any of your grant proposals, not just your federal proposals. We wish you all luck who are writing and submitting proposals in the next few days.

Later in April, we are hosing a webinar for NSPN members about host homes. Some of you have been asking what host homes are. In the host home model, youth live temporarily with members of the community while receiving services. Host homes can serve as emergency shelters or as longer-term housing for youth in transitional living programs. Depending on the individual state regulation, the placement may be licensed of unlicensed. Agencies in rural areas often consider host homes a practical alternative to both short-term shelters (Basic Centers) and longer-term transitional housing (Transitional Living Programs). The host home model is a flexible model providing housing and stability. We have a terrific, experienced panel lined up to share experiences using host homes in their states. We have representatives joining us from Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte, Project Oz, and Vermont Coalition of Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs. If you are curious about learning more about the model, or want to figure out how to strengthen the model in your state, check out this webinar on April 29 at 2 p.m. NSPN members can register here:

Later this spring, we are also convening an on-line course, Clinicians’ Coffee House. This four-week course will cover: how self-care can lead to preventing vicarious trauma and contribute to a better trauma-informed approach for your entire organization. You can learn more and sign-up here:

Be on the lookout for additional webinars and training opportunities through National Safe Place Network membership. We are excited about the events we have coming up and look forward to sharing them with you.

Don’t be Fooled, NSPN has you Covered

By Katie Carter and TC Cassidy

Whether your RHY-funded staff members are attending RHYTTAC conferences and trainings, you are a Safe Place agency getting help locating and recruiting sites, or you are a NSPN member during this hectic grant season, your team at NSPN is here to help – really! This is not a joke.



RHYTTAC is funded by the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) as the training and technical assistance provider for all FYSB-funded RHY grantees. RHYTTAC staff members all have a background in FYSB-funded RHY program services and understand the challenges programs face in striving to achieve the best possible outcomes in the midst of staff turnover, community change and ever-emerging needs of the RHY population.

RHYTTAC provides tools, resources and consultation to assist FYSB RHY grantees so that they may engage in continuous quality improvement of their services and build their capacity to effectively serve RHY. Technical assistance services can include the provision of relevant resources; telephone consultation; email exchanges; Community of Practice support; on-site assessment and consultation to address program-specific needs. Technical assistance may be requested directly by a grantee or a Federal Project Officer may request RHYTTAC’s involvement to support a grantee’s effort.

RHYTTAC services are free for grantee organizations, with the exception of a small registration fee for the National RHY Grantees Conference and travel-related expenses. Recognizing that travel costs are often prohibitive for many grantees, RHYTTAC is working to ensure that topics delivered via technical assistance clinics and trainings are also made available to all grantees via the website and other outlets.

RHYTTAC wants to hear from you. If there is a training topic you would like to see added to the calendar for upcoming webinars or on-site events, please let us know by contacting us at

National Safe Place Network (NSPN) Member Support


In addition to operating RHYTTAC, for more than three decades, NSPN has provided services and support for agencies serving youth and families. NSPN offers a unique set of packages designed to meet the needs of youth and family service agencies across the country.

NSPN members are a part of a national network of dedicated youth service professionals working to strengthen the lives of youth and families. We provide training opportunities to gain Continuing Education Units, share current trends, best practices, and keep members updated on news and research.

We are here for you, to answer your questions, guide you through grant proposal applications, and introduce you to others in the field, doing similar work. If interested in learning more about membership opportunities, check out:

Safe Place Program Support

Safe Place logo

NSPN is constantly seeking to provide the greatest return on the investment that local licensed agencies make in implementing Safe Place in their communities. We offer materials and resources, professional program support, training and industry networking opportunities. Don’t Safe Place in your community? Let us know and we will work with you to see if starting the program is a feasible option. For more information about Safe Place, please visit:

Don’t be fooled by all NSPN has to offer. We are here to help. Just let us know what you need!