Seems like there’s never enough time to do all the things that need to be done to make the world a better place. Maybe that’s why Global Youth Service Day -- the largest and longest-running service event in the world, and the only day of service dedicated to children and youth -- is actually a weekend. Mark your calendar for April 20-22, 2012.
But don't stop there. Here are three things you can do to use Global Youth Service Day as a springboard for a year's worth of community service:
2. Learn about the best ways to engage youth in community service. NCFY recommends civic engagement resources from FindYouthInfo.gov, community service toolkits from the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse, and recent research on how youth benefit from serving others.
In honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, here are five NCFY articles about how youth-serving organizations can help victims and prevent further abuse:
Every ten seconds, child abuse is reported in the United States. Anonymous help for victims and their families can be found by calling Childhelp's National Child Abuse Hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Recent allegations of child sexual abuse in a youth-serving organization founded by a coach at Pennsylvania State University highlight the confusion that often surrounds state "mandated reporter" laws. These laws require certain professionals to report instances of suspected abuse. To tease out what youth-serving organizations need to do – both legally and ethically – NCFY spoke with Kathryn S. Krase, who teaches social work at Ramapo College of New Jersey and co-wrote “Mandated Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect: A Practical Guide for Social Workers” (Springer, 2008).
Youth workers spend their days creating safe environments for youth, but one incident of sexual abuse can destroy the community. Darkness to Light, a Charleston, SC, nonprofit that combats childhood sexual abuse, offers resources and training to youth-serving organizations.
For survivors of childhood abuse, injury often adds itself to injury. Researchers have found that young people from abusive families may be more likely than their peers to have unhealthy romantic and sexual relationships as teens and adults.
Staff of runaway and homeless youth programs talk about working with young people who've witnessed or experienced violence at home.
Become a part of the Department that touches the lives of every American! At the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) you can give back to your community, state, and country by making a difference in the lives of Americans everywhere.
As a Supervisory Adolescent Development and Support Program Specialist in the Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Family and Youth Services Bureau, Division of Adolescent Development and Support, you will serve as Director of the Division responsible for performing a variety of complex services related to runaway homeless youth and teen pregnancy prevention programs.
See full job ad.
Deadline for applications: April 4, 2012
Births among African American teens have fallen a whopping 47 percent since the early 1990s. Still, half of all African American girls in the United States will get pregnant at least once before their 20th birthdays.
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy recently teamed up with ESSENCE magazine to survey 1,500 African American youth, ages 13 to 21. The research team wanted to better understand the young people's attitudes on sex, dating, relationships and the media. NCFY spoke with Paula Parker-Sawyers, who directs outreach and partnerships at the National Campaign, about the survey and how youth workers can best help all young people avoid unintended pregnancy.
NCFY: Were any of the findings from the survey surprising?
Parker-Sawyers: I would say they were enlightening, especially what we found out about the degree to which black youth feel under pressure by the more popular media, which they feel portrays them as more sexually aggressive [than their peers]. African American young people see themselves in a much more positive light and have higher expectations of themselves than is often portrayed in the entertainment media. But we see a disconnect between their intentions and their actions. Their intentions often do not match their behavior. In this way, African American youth are no different from other youth. But we’re starting to understand how that portrayal of African American youth might influence their behavior. We know that images stay with us long after we’ve turned off the TV or other media. Young people are clearly affected by that.
NCFY: What can parents of black teens do to help?
Parker-Sawyers: African American teens want what all teens want. Our message to parents is always the same: Talk with your child, not at your child. That means listening as well as transmitting knowledge, being respectful, and being sensitive to the needs of the child to be understood and valued. We hear over and over again that kids want to have these conversations with their parents. They want to know not only what not to do but how not to do it. That is, if they find themselves in an uncomfortable situation, how do they get out of it? Also, parents shouldn’t jump to conclusions. Just because a child is asking about sex, don’t assume a child is engaging in sex.
NCFY: What about teens who aren’t close with their parents or even living on the street or in a shelter? What can youth workers do to help teens avoid unintended pregnancy?
Parker-Sawyers: If a young person can’t go to a parent, they can talk to another caring adult or someone who has helped in other troubling circumstances.Youth workers can certainly play a very important part in a young person’s life. Youth service agencies should provide training to youth workers about how to talk about sex and sexuality. If the agency doesn’t want youth workers to talk about it, like in some faith-based agencies, they have to decide how they’re going to address the issue and who to refer young people to, but make a commitment not to ignore it. Because ignoring a young person’s questions is certainly more damaging, especially if the young person gets bad information from an unreliable source.
NCFY: What else can youth workers do to help teens make healthy decisions?
Parker-Sawyers: They need to be sensitive to the way in which young people develop mentally and physically and give them as much information as possible. We say, “Repeat, repeat, repeat.” And the message needs to be consistent: abstinence 100 percent of the time or contraception 100 percent of the time. That means, if a young person chooses abstinence, they can’t say, “Oh, I’m just going to have sex this one time” and think they’re not going to get pregnant. And if a young person is sexually active, they need to use contraception every time, no exceptions.
In NCFY's latest podcast, meet Pastor Norman Hicks. Most Sundays, you can find him offering food and smiles to homeless youth and adults in Washington, D.C.’s Franklin Square Park. Hicks knows what an impact a kind deed can have on a homeless person’s life. As a 13-year-old runaway, Hicks lived in the woods for three days before Roy Maas and Anita Johnston, the founders of FYSB grantee organization The Bridge, took him in and changed his life.
Listen to the podcast and read the transcript here.
Domestic violence and other trauma can have significant mental health consequences. The National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health, part of the Domestic Violence Resource Network funded by the Family and Youth Services Bureau's Family Violence Prevention and Services Program, works to provide programs with the tools and training they need to support trauma survivors and their children. You may want to
- Watch free webinars presented by experts in the field. Start with "Understanding Trauma & Mental Health in the Context of Domestic Violence," which provides an overview of how to help trauma survivors heal.
- Take clients' trauma into account in everything you do. The "Creating Trauma-informed Services Tipsheet Series" provides practical advice, with topics that include "Tips for Creating a Welcoming Environment" (PDF, 210KB) and "Tips for Discussing a Mental Health Referral with Domestic Violence Survivors" (PDF, 215KB).
- Provide victims with information about how abuse affects them and how to get help. The "Safety and Well-Being Tipsheet Series" includes tipsheets about how to recognize abuse and how to decide to talk to others about being abused.
More to Read
Based on years of work with runaway and homeless youth and the best emerging evidence about what youth need to succeed, the Family and Youth Services Bureau believes the most crucial outcomes for runaway and homeless youth include well-being, permanent connections, safety and self-sufficiency.
In a new issue of The Exchange, NCFY's e-magazine for youth workers, we focus on ways to achieve and improve permanent connections for runaway and homeless youth. We talk to one organization that has made permanent connections a fundamental goal in all aspects of its services. We also hear about the benefits and challenges of housing young homeless couples together. And we look at how gender-specific programming can help boys and girls express themselves, build camaraderie, and learn to develop healthy, lasting relationships.
Are you evaluating your programs to see whether you are making a difference in the lives of the young people you serve? (Hint: Your answer should be "yes.")
There's help for you as you wade through the many surveys, checklists and assessments that can be used to measure the effectiveness of youth programs. The following guides can help you choose the evaluation tools that best fit your program:
- "Measurement Tools for Evaluating Out-of-School Time Programs: An Evaluation Resource," a new guide from the Harvard Family Research Project, describes more than 100 evaluation instruments. Among the tools included on the list are ones that measure "Academic/Educational Attitudes and Values," "Life Events and Experiences," and "Future Orientation/Future Plans."
- “From Soft Skills to Hard Data: Measuring Youth Program Outcomes,” from the Forum for Youth Investment, reviews eight outcome-measurement tools that can be used to evaluate afterschool programs and other programs for youth. To learn more about the report and about selecting evaluation tools, read NCFY's recent Q&A with FYI's Alicia Wilson-Ahlstrom.
- NCFY's "Assessment and Screening Tools for Measuring Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Independent Living Skills in Adolescents" includes several tools that can be used to measure how well programs are working.
If you’re a young person with gang-related tattoos and you’re looking for a job, even the Army won’t take you.
Such was the experience of a young man who came to Clean Slate, the tattoo removal program at the social services agency Social Advocates for Youth, in Santa Rosa, CA. The Army is generally okay with non-facial body art but prohibits gang-related and racist tattoos anywhere on the body. The young man had to prove he was getting his tattoos removed before he could enlist.
Young people who’ve been in gangs and gotten into trouble with the law face many barriers to employment: criminal records, lack of training, lack of soft skills like knowing how to answer the phone and understanding the importance of showing up on time.
The most visible barriers, though, are the tattoos that mark their former allegiances. Free or low-cost tattoo removal programs like the one at SAY offer these young people a chance to make a fresh start.
Tough to Get Hired
Toni Abraham, who manages SAY’s employment services, says though some businesses will hire former gang members with tattoos, they often want youth to hide the markings under long sleeves and trousers.
Covering up isn’t an option for some former gang members. “It’s really hard to find a job if you have tattoos on your face, your neck and your hands,” Abraham says. “If you’re applying for the same position as 60 to 100 people, if those other people don’t have tattoos, they’re going to be looked at first.”
Other young people want to move up from bank teller to branch manager or pursue a career in nursing without having to worry how they’ll be perceived if someone discovers their tattoos.
Removing tattoos also lifts a psychological and emotional barrier for many youth and marks their gang affiliation as a thing of the past.
“If you’re trying to change, gang tattoos can make you feel bad inside,” Abraham says. When young people have their tattoos removed, she says, “It boosts their self-esteem. They’ll tell you people look at them and treat them differently.”
Clean Slate offers tattoo removal to 14- to 24-year-olds. Youth must do 25 hours of community service and pay an enrollment fee of $50. That’s much cheaper than the $1,000 to $6,000 it might cost them to get their tattoos removed on their own, Abraham says.
The program costs $21,000 a year and is currently paid for by a grant from the City of Santa Rosa. Renting the laser machine is the biggest expense.
Sessions are held at a local health clinic two evenings a month. A paid laser removal technician and a paid medical assistant handle the treatment and the paperwork, while a volunteer doctor offers young people anesthesia or medicine to numb the pain afterward. Abraham also provides baggies of ice, lidocaine to relieve itching, and antibiotic ointment.
Youth go through three to six laser removal sessions of 3 to 10 minutes each. For one young man with tattoos all over his body, the painful process took nearly 4 years.
Most young people who get their tattoos removed also make use of SAY’s job readiness training and other employment services. “It’s very important to wrap it into employment services,” Abraham says.
Abraham is trying to raise the $50,000 it would take to buy a laser machine. If that plan works, Clean Slate will be able to offer sessions more frequently.
“I’ve got 35 people on a waitlist, and I get calls every day,” she says.
Photo of tattoo removal by Erik Castro for Social Advocates for Youth.
Q&A: Lawanda Ravoira of the National Girls Institute on Helping Girls Steer Clear of the Juvenile Justice System
Each year thousands of young women run away from home. To survive, some girls steal. Some sell their bodies for money or a place to stay. Many use drugs and alcohol to cope with life on the streets. Eventually, many girls end up in the juvenile justice system.
NCFY spoke with Lawanda Ravoira, director of the National Girls Institute, about how to keep homeless young women out of trouble, out of jail and engaged with programs that provide support.
NCFY: Which girls are most at risk for becoming involved in the juvenile justice system?
Ravoira: Girls become involved in the system from all over, but one of the first predictors is school failure (uneven grades, suspensions and expulsions). The other big thing is trauma. We know that 92 percent of girls entering juvenile justice have been victims of physical, sexual or emotional abuse. Girls coming into the system have much higher rates of trauma and victimization than boys.
NCFY: How do girls respond to trauma differently from boys?
Ravoira: Girls internalize that pain much more and are more likely to self-medicate for depression and attempt suicide. One of the coping strategies you’ll see is running away.
NCFY: What can homeless youth programs do to keep at-risk girls from entering the system?
Ravoira: We need to break the cycle of what happens on the streets because once she’s on the street, she’s at a higher risk of the behaviors that land her in the juvenile justice system. The longer we can keep a girl connected to the shelter the better off she is.
Girls center everything around their relationships. So it becomes really critical that shelters have a deliberate policy and process and commitment to creating a culture that takes into account girls’ need for connections with others. Because when she doesn’t get that connection in the facility or shelter she’ll often develop unhealthy relationships with another boy in the shelter or someone outside the shelter.
NCFY: How can programs keep girls engaged?
Ravoira: Girls need to have time to talk and process with staff. How are intakes being conducted? Are they just for gathering information, or are they giving girls time to share their story through their lens? Even if a girl finds one person who’s a safe person, you’ll increase the likelihood that she stays [in the program]. Every girl should have a go-to person that she knows she can talk to when she really needs to talk. If that person leaves, it’s important to communicate. Say, "Okay, here is my colleague, and while I’m away she’s going to be your go-to, and she knows that if you have a crisis she has my cell phone number." A girl shouldn’t be told to wait until a counselor gets there or until her appointment tomorrow.
Visit the National Girls Institute website to find resources for girls, people who work with girls, and caregivers. The institute, which is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, also provides free onsite training and technical assistance.