Children

Safe Place – What Are the Benefits?

Written by: Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations, National Safe Place Network

Safe Place logo

Safe Place® is a nationally recognized outreach and prevention program for youth in crisis. As the only nationwide safety net initiative implemented on a local level, Safe Place unites social service agencies, corporations, civic organizations, government entities, volunteers, educators, and law enforcement in an effort to increase the number of access points through which young people can connect for assistance. More than 20,000 locations across the country display the yellow-and-black diamond-shaped Safe Place sign, the universal symbol for youth safety. Safe Place locations include: libraries, fire stations, YMCAs, grocery and convenience stores, public transportation vehicles, social service facilities, and more.

Safe Place provides a variety of benefits to youth, families, and communities. Here are some of the reasons why Safe Place is a vital community program:

Youth get help when and where they need it.

  • Neighborhood Safe Place locations offer help and safety
  • Youth can get help before their problem escalates to a crisis
  • Safe Place connects youth and families to supportive services

Schools collaborate with youth service agencies.

  • This important collaboration helps raise awareness about Safe Place as an immediate connection to help.
  • Safe Place is a resource for schools when a student needs assistance.
  • Students learn about Safe Place through presentations, information cards, and public service announcements.

Law enforcement connects with youth and offers assistance.

  • Safe Place helps reduce unnecessary placement in juvenile facilities.
  • School-based officers provide Safe Place information to students.
  • Safe Place agencies serve as a resource for law enforcement when they encounter a youth in crisis.

Youth service agencies develop unique collaborations.

  • Collaboration opportunities increase as a result of new or enhanced community partnerships.
  • Safe Place connects agencies to a national, well-recognized brand resulting in increased visibility.

Businesses and community locations displaying the Safe Place sign show a commitment to youth safety.

  • Safe Place becomes a resource for local sites.
  • Safe Place offers a standard procedure to follow when a youth is in need of help.
  • Employees are encouraged to engage in volunteer opportunities
  • Business leaders and employees learn about current youth issues.

To learn more about Safe Place and the many benefits associated with the program, please contact National Safe Place Network at info@nationalsafeplace.org or 502-635-3660.

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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.

Mateo 1

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.

Agencies in Action Against Human Trafficking: Park Place Outreach

During National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, we’re highlighting agencies and programs doing exceptional work to combat human trafficking and serve victims-survivors. Today’s blog features information about Park Place Outreach located in Savannah, Georgia, an NSPN member and licensed Safe Place agency. This post was written by agency staff:

Park Place Outreach, in Savannah, Georgia operates a Street Outreach Program (SOP) that is actively involved in addressing human trafficking in the community. A large part of our outreach program is centered on providing services to trafficking victims, including assistance in residential placement with other collaborating agencies and training for schools and businesses on identification of and response to trafficking victims.

We also focus on educating our community about human trafficking. We participate in venues that are specifically focused on raising awareness. The SOP coordinator serves on the Savannah Interagency Diversity Council (SIDC) Board, which plays a huge role in resolving human trafficking on both the local and national level. We also take part in the annual Savannah Traffic Jam, a conference facilitated by the SIDC.  This year’s Traffic Jam will take place on the campus of Savannah State University on Saturday, January 28th, 2017.

The SOP program goes out into the community two to three days a week and distributes information to suspected trafficking victims. Our approach is to provide information on how to get out of the life if they want.

Park Place Outreach recognizes that an understanding of culture is critical to assist trafficking victims. We have received extensive training from other agencies such as National Safe Place Network and the Family and Youth Services Bureau.

We collaborate with surrounding agencies to assist us in bringing victims off of the streets and out of harm’s way.

Our SOP emphasizes the importance of identification of trafficking and seeks to raise awareness among various community organizations. We work closely with agencies such as Safe Shelter and Salvation Army, who have collectively agreed to assist and provide services to survivors.

To learn more about Park Place Outreach, please visit: http://parkplaceyes.org/

Agencies in Action Trafficking: Fresno EOC Sanctuary and Youth Services

During National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, we’re highlighting agencies and programs doing exceptional work to combat human trafficking and serve victims-survivors. Today’s blog features information about Fresno EOC Sanctuary and Youth Services located in Fresno, California, an NSPN member and licensed Safe Place agency. This post was written by agency staff:

Under the California Office of Emergency Services Human Trafficking Victims Assistance Program, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking Regional Program, Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission (EOC) Sanctuary And Youth Services Central Valley Against Human Trafficking Program (CVAHT) serves as the planner, fiscal agent, monitor, and technical assistance provider for six strategically chosen sub-awardees and leads the Central Valley Freedom Coalition (CVFC), the local Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking Coalition. The project provides comprehensive trauma-informed client services, advocacy, outreach, training, and public awareness to a six-county region including: Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced and Tulare. CVAHT is also the local service provider of the Trafficking Victims Assistance Program in partnership with U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), offering non-citizen victims access to benefits and case management.

The overarching goals of the CVAHT program are to:

  1. Identify victims of human trafficking as defined by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, and provide comprehensive services to victims and survivors;
  2. Build capacity by providing training and technical assistance on human trafficking in diverse professional sectors;
  3. Provide leadership for, work collaboratively within and actively strengthen the regional anti-trafficking coalition, Central Valley Freedom Coalition, a Rescue and Restore Coalition; and
  4. Increase public awareness, particularly among victims of trafficking, of the dangers of trafficking, how to identify victims and the protections and services that are available for victims of trafficking.

The Coalition’s Steering Committee meets quarterly for training and updating purposes on the topic of human trafficking, as well as creating a safety and supportive services network for identified victims of human trafficking. Sub-committees meet monthly in order to increase collaboration on the topics of: Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Minors, Labor Trafficking, Law-Enforcement, Public Awareness, and Victim Services. General Coalition meetings are held bi-annually and are open to the public. In addition, CVAHT, Central Valley Freedom Coalition, and their project manager supports the activities of local and federal law enforcement agencies, district attorneys’ offices, and the U.S. attorney’s office via pro-active information sharing and training on human trafficking. Central Valley Freedom Coalition is comprised of local and federal law enforcement agencies, legal service organizations, faith-based organizations, service providers, and advocacy groups. Fresno EOC Sanctuary and Youth Services, Fresno Police Department, Fresno County Sheriff’s Department, Fresno County District Attorney’s office, FBI, ICE, EEOC, U.S. Attorney’s office, Crime Victim Assistance Center, Central CA Legal Services, Marjaree Mason Center, Centro la Familia Advocacy Services Inc.; California Rural Legal Assistance, Family Services Supporting Tulare County, Fresno Council on Child Abuse Prevention, Kern Coalition Against Trafficking, and Central Valley Justice Coalition are among member organizations. CVAHT is in a position to clearly identify the extent of human trafficking related issues in California’s Central Valley, establish and utilize protocols, certify and provide services to survivors of trafficking in persons. This program fills an existing gap in services while offering a proactive measure toward decreasing future numbers of human trafficking incidents in the community.

Potential victims of trafficking are initially screened by advocates, and/or case managers. Potential victims may enter into contact with CVAHT project staff through a variety of ways. Emergency responders may be dispatched to locations which are deemed safe, for an initial assessment. Potential victims may also be referred through existing community agencies, law enforcement, concerned citizens and significant others or present as a self-referral. CVAHT utilizes a trauma informed approach in conducting both screening and assessment to determine primarily that the definition of trafficking is met as defined by the TVPA and secondly the availability and provision for individualized and comprehensive services to assist all victims of human trafficking in establishing safety, self-sufficiency, and in achieving their short-term and long-term goals.

A unique feature of Fresno EOC, as a community action agency, is that its board and staff must reflect the ethnicity and characteristics of the clientele served. The diversity of program staff lends itself to attract a variety of ethnic, cultural, and racial minorities. Several of the program staff members are bilingual in Spanish, one staff member speaks both Ukrainian and Russian, allowing the program to serve persons with limited ability to speak English. In addition, the majority of informational materials are available in multiple languages, and public service announcements are also broadcast among Spanish-speaking radio stations. The Project utilizes both Language Line and the National Human Trafficking Hotline for initial contact when other languages present, and has additional funding available for translation. Sanctuary and Youth Services maintains a culturally diverse team of staff who are cross-trained and accessible to assist as needed to ensure there are no communication or cultural barriers that impede the delivery of services. In light of sensitivity to the complex identities of male, female and transgender clients, CVAHT ensures that paperwork, intake procedures, and personal interactions are respectful of references, including preferred names and pronouns. Furthermore, CVAHT maintains awareness and heightens service skills by participating in relevant training for sensitivity to cultural, gender victim-oriented trauma issues.

CVAHT utilizes a collaborative and regional approach in order to meet the varying and individualized needs of survivors. Through funded partnerships, advocates have been trained and hired by participating agencies located within the geographic six-county region served. This has proved to increase access to services, especially for rural communities where services are sparse. Additionally, due to the frequency movement of victims by their traffickers within the region, it has provided a way to increase successful investigations and participation of victim service agencies with law enforcement. During the case management phase, this approach has proved helpful to support Survivors because it has increased collaboration, leveraging resources, available options to victims and the ability to fill in gaps of services.

To learn more about Fresno EOC’s CVAHT, please visit: http://www.fresnoeoc.org/cvaht/

Anti-Trafficking’s Sensational Misinformation

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 thrownaway 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?

Later next month, I will share research and other details of my work where 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.

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.”

Kars4Kids Small Grant Program: A Powerful Thing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Kars4Kids stands behind this mission in full.

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

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

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

 

Valley Metro Designates 900 Buses as Safe Place Locations for Youth

Written by: Hillary Ladig, Communications Coordinator for National Safe Place Network, Media Release written by Ann Glaser, Public Information Specialist, Valley Metro

Safe Place is an outreach and prevention-based program for youth coordinated by licensed agencies in communities across the country. The program relies on community partnerships to strengthen the safety net for youth and to provide designated Safe Place locations where young people can access immediate help and safety. Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development, located in Phoenix, Arizona, recently announced an expanded partnership with Valley Metro to add 900 buses to the community’s network of Safe Place locations.

PHOENIX, AZ (November 22, 2016) – As of today, homeless, runaway and abused teens can connect to life-changing resources on every Valley Metro and city of Phoenix bus in Maricopa County. In support of local youth and in partnership with Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development, Valley Metro has expanded Safe Place from light rail stations to include all 900 buses that serve 100 routes across 512 square miles.

“Valley Metro is part of the fabric of this community, and we have a strong commitment to not only connecting people to their lives, but also creating opportunity and cultivating safe neighborhoods,” said Scott Smith, Valley Metro CEO. “Thanks to the support of our operating partners, the Valley’s most vulnerable teenagers will now be able to access safety, shelter and stability in times of distress.”

Safe Place is a national youth outreach program that supports young people in need of immediate health and safety resources in more than 1,500 communities across the country.  It is managed locally by Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development.

“For 40 years, Tumbleweed has provided resources and opportunities for youth in our community who are homeless, abused or traumatized,” said Paula Adkins, Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development Interim CEO. “Valley Metro’s expansion of Safe Place to all local buses will drastically increase our presence in Maricopa County and allow us to reach more youth.”

Decals with the Safe Place yellow and black logo are visible on each bus. In addition to Valley Metro buses and light rail stations, Safe Place locations include QuikTrip convenience stores, libraries and fire departments. Eighteen year-old Vicky R. went to a local QuikTrip to seek safety for herself and her baby from a threatening family situation.

“I am alive today because of Safe Place,” Vicky reveals. “With the support of Safe Place and Tumbleweed, I’m back in high school to get my education and I’m gaining valuable financial and life skills, which will help me achieve my goals for my son and me.”

Valley Metro’s partnership with Tumbleweed began in 2013 and has continued to grow with the opening of two light rail extensions and the expansion of bus service within Phoenix. To learn more about Safe Place, visit valleymetro.org/safeplace.

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Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, Phoenix Vice Mayor Kate Gallego and Phoenix Councilmember Laura Pastor along with representatives from Valley Metro, City of Phoenix, Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development, Transdev, First Transit and Allied Universal.

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If you’re interested in becoming a Safe Place location or would like to start the program in your community, please contact Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations, at sharmon@nspnetwork.org or 502-635-3660.

November is National Runaway Prevention Month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ Anonymous

Use Your Voice this Presidential Election

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

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

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

The public votes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some ideas for getting involved this election year:

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

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