A New Guide Can Help You Get Teens Involved in Preventing Dating Violence

Want to get teens involved in dating violence prevention during National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month--and throughout the year? The Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence's Our Revolution campaign, developed for teens by teens, can help you do that.

The "Our Revolution Conversation Guide" (PDF, 1.8MB) gives information on how to begin the conversation with teens, where to hold community events to engage teens, and how to empower teens to speak on teen dating violence issues. The guide also includes activities to engage youth and community members as well as printable marketing materials and handouts.

Youth across the nation in grades 6 through 12 are encouraged to participate in the #OurRevolution Challenge social media contest until March 1, 2014. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top submissions. Please go to the contest website for more information.

Runaway and Homeless Youth Act Turns 40

The Family and Youth Services Bureau is pleased to recognize 2014 as the 40th anniversary of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act. Over the decades, hundreds of thousands of young people and their families have been helped by programs funded by Runaway and Homeless Youth Act appropriations, says Bill Bentley, FYSB’s Associate Commissioner.

“Our sincerest thanks go to the many community-based organizations and local health and human services departments that have worked with us over the years,” Bentley says. “We look forward to another 40 years of working together to realize Congress’s original intent of keeping young people safe and enabling them to successfully transition to adulthood.”

Congress first passed the landmark Act in 1974, as part of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, in an effort to keep runaway and truant youth out of the juvenile justice system.

“Before the Act, young people under 18 were being locked up for being runaways,” says Curtis Porter, director of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Program. “The Act created a system of emergency shelters that helped minors on the run from family conflict get what they really needed—food, shelter, and the counseling required to get them back home or to another safe place.”

Today, FYSB’s Basic Center Program funds 303 emergency shelters across the country that serve more than 34,000 young people.

Over the years, the services made possible by the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act have expanded. The Transitional Living and Maternity Group Home Program gives more than 3,200 older homeless youth each year the housing, education and career preparation, and life-skills training to succeed into adulthood.

And in the last year, grantees of the Street Outreach Program made contact with youth who were living on the streets or in other unstable situations more than 660,000 times to connect them to food, shelter and referrals aimed at keeping them safe and away from human traffickers.

Building on the success of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Program, FYSB is committed to providing leadership on two key federal initiatives now and in the years ahead:  the Opening Doors Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness and the Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking.

“FYSB and our federal partners are building strong momentum toward ending youth homelessness and the commercial sexual exploitation of young people,” Bentley says. “As they have for the past four decades, the Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs will play a major role in our ongoing efforts to create a better future for the young people of our nation.”

Crossposted from the Family and Youth Services Bureau website.

Primary Sources: Reducing STI Risk Among Youth Leaving Foster Care

“Psychosocial Pathways to Sexually Transmitted Infection Risk Among Youth Transitioning Out of Foster Care: Evidence from a Longitudinal Cohort Study” (abstract). Kym R. Ahrens, Cari McCarty, Jane Simoni, Amy Dworsky, Mark E. Courtney. Journal of Adolescent Health, Vol. 53, Issue 4 (2013).


What it’s about: Researchers wanted find out what puts youth aging out of foster care at risk for getting sexually transmitted infections, and what factors protect them from STIs. To do this, they examined potential "pathways" for STI risk among 713 young people, including their number of foster care placements and history of physical and sexual abuse. Participants, who were part of a longitudinal study known as the Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth, also answered questions about their sexual health behaviors, like how of they used condoms and whether they had had sex for money.

Why read it: Youth in foster care report having sex earlier and with more people than their peers, as well as selecting partners who already have STIs, the researchers write. Foster youth are also more likely to have been physically and sexually abused, and to battle substance abuse and mental health problems that affect the way they connect with others, they say.

We still don't know enough about how to prevent STIs among foster youth and improve their sexual health generally. This study aims to begin to fill that gap.

Biggest takeaway for family and youth workers: Of the factors the researchers studied, a young person’s history of physical or sexual abuse was most closely associated with his or her risk for getting an STI. Youth who reported having been abused said they also got into trouble by doing things like getting into fights and stealing. These kinds of behaviors have been linked to not using condoms consistently and having a high risk of infection. Connections to caring adults made a difference for youth in this study, with young people who were very close to their current foster caregiver being less likely to get in trouble.

The study's results suggest that focusing on the way youth behave with others may also help keep young people from getting STIs, the authors say. Sexual health educators who work with foster youth may want to supplement traditional STI curricula with therapies that help young people learn to regulate their emotions and build relationships with others.

Additional reference: Learn more about the Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth and see outcomes from each phase of the study.

Family and Youth Services Bureau-funded Project Paves the Way for Serving LGBTQ Homeless Youth

A new project funded by the Family and Youth Services Bureau will help transitional living programs provide safe and affirming services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.

Launched in fall 2013, “3/40 BLUEPRINT: Creating the Blueprint to Reduce LGBTQ Youth Homelessness” is a collaboration among the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Jane Addams College of Social Work, the Center for the Study of Social Policy and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. Researchers from the three organizations will, over the course of three years,

  • review the social science literature on LGBTQ youth and homelessness;
  • assess the needs of LGBTQ youth in transitional living programs as well as programs’ need for training and support; and
  • identify and analyze screening and assessment tools, existing and emerging practices, and trainings for social service providers that serve runaway and homeless youth.

Need for Policies

“The goal is to gather everything we know about LGBTQ youth and best practices for serving them, and disseminate that information to all the transitional living programs in the country,” says Principal Investigator Alan Dettlaff, associate professor in the Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“There’s a lot of information out there about LGBTQ runaway and homeless youth, both in the literature and among service providers,” Dettlaff says. “There are a lot of agencies that have been doing this for a long time and have developed a lot of resources. But many agencies are still struggling with so many of these issues, especially how best to serve transgender youth. Which bathrooms should they use, which staff should work with them, how to talk to staff and other youth about them. There’s a need for policies in a lot of agencies to create a safe space for these youth.”

Input From the Field

A technical expert group of runaway and homeless youth program staff, youth and researchers will provide advice and direction for the project. In addition, project staff will visit a handful of transitional living programs and conduct focus groups with youth and staff.

“I would like ideally to be able to go to all 200 transitional living programs across the country, but we’re not going to be able to do that,” Dettlaff says.

Hearing from youth will be key to the project’s success.

“Not only about their experience of being homeless, but also their experience in transitional living programs,” Dettlaff says. “If the goal is to build capacity, it’s youth who will tell us what needs to be built, what needs to be improved. What are things that happen within transitional living programs that don’t make them feel safe or welcome or affirmed? And what needs to happen in transitional living programs so that they do feel safe and welcome and affirmed?”

Informing Programming

The Center for the Study of Social Policy, a policy development and technical assistance organization, will facilitate the technical expert panel and connect the project to its get R.E.A.L. initiative, which aims to improve the healthy sexual and identity development for all children and youth in the child welfare system.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the research arm of the national advocacy group for LGBT people, will help create products based on the findings of the project and disseminate those products to FYSB grantees.

“We’re hoping to put things together in nice packages that summarize the main issues, the main points, so we can improve the uptake of this information” among transitional living program staff, Dettlaff says.

Primary Sources: LGBTQ Youth at Higher Risk for Dating Violence, More Likely to Seek Help

Dating Violence Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth” (abstract). Meredith Dank, Pamela Lachman, Janine M. Zweig, Jennifer Yahner. Journal of Youth and Adolescence (online, July 2013).

What it’s about: This study from the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute, a Washington, DC, think tank, explores dating violence and abuse among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning teens. The researchers analyzed data from surveys with 3,745  New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania high school and middle school students who were in a dating relationship in the prior year, and compared the dating violence rates and experiences of LGBTQ youth with those of their heterosexual peers.

Why read it: In recent years, researchers and the media have shed a lot of light on the high rate of hate crimes and bullying LGBTQ youth experience. The authors of this study write, Although important, such attention masks the fact that youth who are vulnerable to violence from others may be at increased vulnerability for experiencing and perpetrating violence among themselves, particularly in their dating relationships.” This study adds to the literature about the extent of dating violence and abuse among LGBTQ teens.

Biggest takeaways for family and youth workers: Compared to their heterosexual peers, lesbian, gay and bisexual youth had higher rates of experiencing and perpetrating all forms of dating violence and abuse. These included physical violence, psychological abuse, cyber abuse and sexual coercion. Among the study’s other findings:

  • Though there were few transgender teens in the study, they were more likely than non-transgender teens to experience dating violence and abuse.
  • Lesbian, gay and bisexual dating violence victims were more likely to be girls or transgender youth who had higher levels of depressive symptoms, got lower grades, got into more trouble at school or with the law, and had been sexually active.
  • While lesbian, gay and bisexual teens report these negative outcomes, they were also about twice as likely as heterosexual teens to reach out for help.

The researchers write that their findings support the need for dating violence prevention and intervention programs that specifically address the needs of LGBTQ youth. Previous research has found that a positive school climate buffers LGBTQ youth against bullying, and that may also prove true for dating violence, they say.

“Having a counselor at the school who is trained on how to identify signs of dating violence and how to handle such incidences (e.g., when to report, whom to report and how to report), particularly among [lesbian, gay and bisexual] youth, would be key to addressing this issue,” they write. “Additionally, because [lesbian, gay and bisexual] victims of teen dating violence and abuse are more likely to seek help and advice than heterosexual youth, particularly from friends, schools might consider creating peer-led groups to build awareness around the issues of teen dating violence.”

Additional references: LGBTQ youth dealing with dating violence can contact the GLBT National Help Center or the National Dating Abuse Helpline.

(Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children and Families. Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of this and other publications.)

This Podcast Series Can Bring You Up to Speed on Human Trafficking

Vanguard University's Global Center for Women & Justice has over 70 award-winning podcasts on human trafficking.

Each podcast, hosted by Sandra Morgan, director of the center, and board member Dave Stachowiak, tackles a specific subject related to human trafficking.

Most of the podcasts also include additional resources you can use to further your knowledge.

Podcast 15, "Homelessness and Human Trafficking – How They Connect," will be of particular interest to people who work with runaway and homeless youth. In the podcast, Morgan and Stachowiak discuss community engagement and initiatives that help homeless youth and victims of trafficking. They even mention NCFY!

How To Keep LGBTQ Youth From Becoming Homeless: The Evidence

In our recent podcast about runaway prevention for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning young people, Forty to None Project Director Jama Shelton mentions research that has informed her initiative's approach. We asked Shelton to share some examples of the research she and her colleagues have relied on, and she highlighted two in particular:

"Supporting LGBT Youth and Their Families: The Family Acceptance Project." How do we prevent homelessness among LGBT youth?  One approach is to start with families. Researcher Caitlin Ryan and the Family Acceptance Project of the César E. Chávez Institute at San Francisco State University recently completed the first empirical study of how families respond and adapt when LGBT youth come out during adolescence. The authors found that 20 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT (nearly double the general population), and that 30 percent of those homeless young people say that family rejection played a role in their running away.

"Seeking Shelter." Youth are coming out to their families at younger ages, and all too often are being met with family rejection or abusive responses that force them out of their homes. In fact, the most common reasons that LGBT homeless youth cite for being out of their homes are family rejection and conflict. The authors of this report from the Center for American Progress recommend anti-bullying policies and reforms to the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, interaction with which disproportionately leads to homelessness for many young people.

Q&A: In Georgia, a Collective Focus on Ending Sex Trafficking

When it comes to combatting sex trafficking, experts and advocates agree that no one organization, program or government agency can solve the problem alone.

Recognizing that fact, the state of Georgia has taken a collaborative approach to ending the commercial sexual exploitation of young people. A statewide taskforce on the issue, led by the Governor’s Office for Children and Families has put in place a unified protocol for identifying and serving sexually exploited children and youth. The task force and its 30 partner-level members and 32 affiliate members are also educating the public about the realities and effects of sex trafficking and working toward ending demand for paid sex in the state.

We spoke to Katie Jo Ballard, executive director of the Governor’s Office for Children and Families, and Katherine Peterson, grants specialist, about how the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Task Force got started, the challenges of staying focused on a shared mission, and what runaway and homeless youth programs can do to prevent trafficking and identify victims.

NCFY: What are the key things needed to launch a collaboration to combat [sex trafficking]?

Ballard: The [anti-sex trafficking] movement in Georgia was grassroots driven. It started with a few advocates educating the general assembly about what was going on in the state. The assembly decided to dedicate funding for services to victims. Once dollars are allocated towards that -- once you have support – the next challenge is to build infrastructure. We know we’re not the experts, so we went to recruit community members – that’s how the task force was born, in 2008.

NCFY: What challenges did you face and what did you learn from them?

Ballard: The Georgia Governor’s Office for Children and Families came up with projects. Things went smoothly for a while, but then people started to get burnt out, so we had to rethink how to work this. We drew on the collective impact model. We knew [the initiative] really needed to be community-driven, not driven by a single entity. Our agency could be the backbone, but it was really something driven by the community members.

We came up with a common mission for the task force that everybody believed in. But these are all different agencies, and everyone has their own mission and agenda for their agency. We learned that agreeing to a common mission means that sometimes we have to set aside our own priorities at our organization to see how we each fit into the puzzle of how to solve the problem.

We decided to establish working groups and hire a dedicated full-time person to oversee that. That’s where Katherine comes in.

NCFY: What roles can youth workers at programs serving runaway and homeless youth, a population often involved in sex trafficking, play?

Peterson: Educate your youth on what this is, what a pimp could look like and what risk factors look like. For example, one of the risk factors is that if a child has run away more than four times from a foster care placement, he or she is at risk of being exploited. Both youth and staff need to know what [sex trafficking] is and how to prevent it.

Ballard:  If it’s the fourth time a young person has run away, we conduct a biopsychosocial assessment to determine whether or not they’ve been exploited. It is conducted by a licensed social worker through the Georgia Care Connection Office--the single point of entry for sexually exploited children--who goes to the home or wherever the young person is located, and conducts a series of interview-style questions to help identify if he or she is exploited or not. This type of assessment meets them where they are and helps them figure out where they need to go.

Primary Sources: Before We Can Help Trafficking Victims, We Have to Identify Them

"Identifying Domestic and International Sex-Trafficking Victims During Human Service Provision" (abstract). Rebecca J. Macy and Laurie M. Graham. Trauma, Violence & Abuse, 13(2) 59-76 (April 2012).

What it’s about: In an effort to help service providers identify and assist sex trafficking victims, the authors culled through 20 documents -- research, government reports and documents produced by organizations that work with U.S. and international sex-trafficking victims. 

Why read it: The authors of this article say service providers in a variety of settings, including domestic violence and homeless shelters and community clinics, are likely to encounter sex trafficking victims. Knowing how to identify victims will help providers offer culturally competent services that help exploited people heal from the complex trauma they've gone through.

Biggest takeaway for family and youth workers: Because they may be unaware that there are protections for trafficking victims, survivors of trafficking may not mention their situation, and as a result, providers may not meet all of their service needs.  “In light of this serious knowledge gap, providers need a set of practice protocols and screening questions to help identify sex-trafficking victims, regardless of where and when they appear in the human services system,” the authors write. Based on their review of the literature, they compiled screening strategies and questions to help identify sex-trafficking victims.

For example, the authors found that common red flags that someone has been trafficked included a lack of family support, a history of sexual or physical abuse, or signs of fear, depression or submissiveness. If a youth or family worker notices any of those red flags, the authors write, there are a number of steps they can take to help:

  • Interview the potential victim alone
  • Report to local authorities
  • Be aware of relevant trafficking policies and services
  • Call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline
  • Give victims multiple opportunities to give information during the intake process
  • Use an interpreter, if necessary
  • Maintain confidentiality

Additional references: For more information, check out this Ask NCFY piece on helping victims of trafficking. Our downloadable brochure “Bought and Sold” also provides helpful information about what victims need and when to involve the police.

(Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children and Families. Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of this and other publications.)


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