National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, marked each March 10, is a nationwide observance coordinated by the Office on Women's Health, within the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health. The day’s goal is to encourage people to take action in the fight against HIV/AIDS and raise awareness of its impact on women and girls.
Activities and events take place on March 10 and throughout the month.
Want to take part? On the official National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day website you can
- Find an event in your area
- Get tips on how to put together your own activity or event, like a candle light vigil, HIV testing, or a movie night
- Register an event and list it on the website
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If you work with young people seeking their high-school equivalency diploma, help them prepare by learning about upcoming changes to the GED high-school equivalency test. Beginning on January 2, 2014, test-takers will encounter a new, computer-based version of the exam available only at approved testing sites.
According to GED Testing Service, the company tasked with creating the new assessment, their modifications will help the GED stay meaningful to employers, training programs and institutions of higher education. GED Testing Service recently held a webinar for educators and other support professionals to provide an overview of the new exam. Here are some upcoming changes we think youth workers will want to keep in mind:
- Four, rather than five, modules: The former reading and writing sections have been combined into a single section called Reasoning Through Language Arts.
- Questions that demonstrate knowledge and computer skills: Test-takers may be asked to type a short response to a question to demonstrate keyboard skills, for example, or to select a correct answer from a dropdown menu.
- Tiered scoring: GED Testing Services is developing a new scoring system, including the addition of a second, higher ranking that demonstrates career/college readiness in addition to basic competency.
- For some repeat testers, a clean slate: Students who pass one or more sections of the current test, but not the whole thing, will not be allowed to transfer those scores once the new test goes into effect.
- Revised support materials: GED Testing Service plans to release English- and Spanish-language practice tests in fall 2013, as well as a video teaching test-takers how to use a new computer-based calculator tool.
Want to learn more? You can watch the full webinar or read the center’s "Assessment Guide for Educators," which includes an appendix outlining the key differences between the 2002 and 2014 versions of the test.
Last month we shared advice from two runaway and homeless youth programs about how to look for signs of sex trafficking when young people come to your organization for shelter and support. We also listened in on a Web forum cosponsored by the Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime and its Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Fiona Mason and Danny Stewart of Safe Horizon, a New York anti-violence organization, co-hosted the one-hour session, which discusses best practices for providing services to runaway youth and victims of human trafficking session. Here are a few tips from the forum that we think you might find valuable:
- Document the need to help young victims of human trafficking. Data from the National Human Trafficking Hotline provides an idea of the types of calls they receive regarding potential victims. NHTH breaks down the data by state. If your program is already dealing with victims of trafficking, you may want to team up with a researcher or evaluator to help quantify the problem. You can collect your own data from trafficked youth with whom you work, and use this information to support applications for funding.
- Understand that trafficked youth may not see themselves as victims. Runaway and homeless youth are dealing with issues of survival, like food, shelter, and safety. The person who provides them with housing, food, and clothing is not necessarily someone they will see as an abuser. Also, the trafficker may be near their own age, someone they consider a romantic partner or friend.
As in all your relationships with young people, develop trust over time and don’t be parental or authoritative. Keep in mind that trafficked youth do not have a great deal of control over their lives, so information about themselves is something they may be reluctant to share at first.
- Help your local authorities take a ‘victim-centered’ approach. Advocates for trafficked youth stress that these young people should be treated as victims of violence and coercion, rather than criminals to be prosecuted. To protect young people, you need to know the laws, and you may need to educate local law enforcement. For example, Safe Horizon works with the New York City Police Department and provides training about how best to help runaway and homeless trafficked youth. (We recently wrote about an anti-trafficking partnership between service providers and the police in Dallas.)
It also helps to build alliances with local child protective services, departments of juvenile justice, and state governments.
Read the transcript of the Web forum “Providing Services to Runaway Youth and Victims of Human Trafficking.”
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Everyone knows that dating violence harms young people. But which negative experiences are most likely to go hand-in-hand with dating violence? Knowing what else youth in harmful relationships experience might help youth service providers stop dating violence before it starts.
Two recent longitudinal studies, in which researchers track a cohort of young people over time, look at what other risk factors tend to come with the package when youth experience dating violence, and what negative impacts teen dating violence has on young people's overall health.
The first, by researchers from Northwestern University, used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, or Add Health, the largest and most comprehensive nationally representative survey of adolescents, to study the links between various relationship problems during the teen years and health in young adulthood. They looked at intimate partner violence along with being accepted by one’s peers, having other unhealthy relationships with parents or peers, and experiencing the death or loss of a close friend or relative. The researchers found that intimate partner violence was the factor most likely to be associated with risky behaviors like smoking and binge drinking. Young people who had more than one of the negative experiences studied, including dating violence, were less likely to be physically healthy. Young people who experienced at least four risk factors were more than twice as likely to have reduced physical and mental health.
The second study, conducted by researchers from Cornell University, also using data from Add Health, looked at the differences between boys and girls who have been victims of dating violence. The researchers found that compared to those who did not report teen dating abuse, both young men and women who had been abused by a partner were more likely to report having suicidal thoughts and later involvement in adult dating violence. Young men also reported feeling withdrawn or isolated, and using marijuana. Young women with these experiences tended to report binge drinking, feeling depressed and smoking.
Connection to Suicidal Thoughts
A third study, by researchers from the University of North Texas, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, University of Cincinnati, and PrairieView A&M University used data from the 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a national school-based survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, to learn more about the links between dating violence and suicidal thoughts. Youth who reported relationship violence were more than twice as likely to consider or attempt suicide as those who did not. According to this study, only sexual assault and heroin use were more likely than dating violence to be associated with a young person having a suicide plan.
The researchers studying the YRBS data suggest that schools are in a position to spot potentially harmful behavior, and should take on a more active role to engage youth on topics of relationship violence and coping strategies. Researchers from the Cornell study emphasized the need to screen teens for dating violence. Researchers from all three studies agreed that while relationship violence is clearly related to poor health and suicide in young people, further research is needed to determine cause and effect.
Read the Articles
Adverse Adolescent Relationship Histories and Young Adult Health: Cumulative Effects of Loneliness, Low Parental Support, Relationship Instability, Intimate Partner Violence, and Loss (abstract). Journal of Adolescent Health, Vol. 49, No. 3, September 2011.
Longitudinal Associations Between Teen Dating Violence Victimization and Adverse Health Outcomes (abstract). Pediatrics, Vol. 131, No. 1, January 2013.
The Relationship Between Dating Violence and Suicidal Behaviors in a National Sample of Adolescents (abstract). Violence and Victims, Vol. 27, No. 4, 2012.
(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.)
Q: I work with young people who often confide to me about their boyfriends or girlfriends. Sometimes the details don’t sound healthy to me. How can I know if a young person is in a violent dating relationship? And what can I do to help?
A: Dating abuse can be difficult for outside observers to detect, says Megan Belden, a staff attorney in the Washington office of the anti-dating violence group Break the Cycle. Belden, who provides legal aid to Washington teens in violent relationships, says to look for a partner who checks the young person’s phone or email without permission, puts them down regularly, isolates them from family and friends, falsely accuses them of dishonesty or infidelity, or tells them what to wear or where to go.
Belden says unhealthy behaviors don’t always mean there is abuse, but they can be warning signs. In an abusive relationship, they will escalate over time, so keep an eye and ear open for a worsening situation, she says.
Abusive relationships often start intensely and move fast, says Lynne Russell, president of Dating Abuse Stops Here, or DASH, an advocacy group in Oak Hill, VA. “There’s lots of gifts and talk of future plans. Oftentimes, the girl doesn’t realize that it’s an abusive relationship.”
Some abusive partners, Russell says, might have a history of discipline problems, have difficulty sticking to rules, abuse drugs or alcohol, or show anger towards other people in addition to their romantic partner. But that’s not always the case.
When you see things that concern or worry you, talk to the young person, Belden says. “A lot of young people don’t know what a healthy relationship is, so it’s important to say, ‘It’s not cool when she’s calling you that name or when he’s telling you what to wear. You can make those decisions yourself,’” she says. But don’t judge, and don’t try to make decisions for the youth.
“It’s important to see that [the abuser] may be a person the young person loves,” Belden says. “A lot of times [victims] just want the abuse to stop” rather wanting the relationship to end.
Russell says being patient is also important. “The hardest thing is getting the person to recognize that the relationship is toxic,” she says. And even when they do, “It can take seven attempts to leave an abusive relationship. Hang in there because that person will need your love and support.”
Check in with the young person regularly, even if they don’t leave the abuser. Encourage them to see a peer advisor or call a dating violence hotline. When a young person does break off an abusive relationship, help them devise a safety plan and tell them what resources are available at nearby domestic violence agencies.
Most important, whatever the situation, support the young person's decisions and don’t support self-blame, Belden says. “It’s important to speak up and say, ‘I care about you, I’m worried,’ to say you’re there for them.”
Grant writer Jim Garrett knows a good funding opportunity when he sees one. In 2011, he zeroed in on a Department of Justice opportunity that could enable his Wichita, KS, runaway and homeless youth program to provide a new service to the community. But the grant’s terms—three years of funding from the Office on Violence Against Women for programs to help youth victims of sexual and dating violence—were too much for his organization, the Wichita Children’s Home, to attempt on its own.
Executive Director Sarah Robinson says she and Garrett realized, “We can’t provide all the services ourselves, but referring victims to other agencies can help them get timely care.”
The happy ending: Together with two other Wichita organizations, the Children’s Home got the grant, which they are using to assist young survivors of sex trafficking. Their experience applying for the money exemplifies the benefits of collaborating with other nonprofits on funding proposals. Joining forces can enable you to address new issues that fall within your mission but don’t completely fit your staff’s expertise. Plus, joint applications make the most of a community’s existing resources, rather than creating new programs out of whole cloth.
“Applying together made our application more attractive than our individual organizations’ would be,” says Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center Executive Director Kathy Williams, one of the collaborators on the Department of Justice grant. “The grant addresses a complex issue and each of us has expertise in one component of that.”
Here are three tips for writing a grant proposal with other organizations:
1. Treat the grant application as a blueprint for your partnership. Every grant application serves as a blueprint for how you will actually do the project you hope to get funding for. Viewing your proposal as a formative document becomes even more important when you have partners.
Start by cataloging everyone’s strength. Then, in your grant proposal, highlight the ways you complement each other and lay out a basic plan. For example, the Wichita partners described how the Children’s Home, attuned to the needs of runaway and homeless youth, would house young women who had run away. Those who had experienced sexual violence would go to the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center for group meetings. The third partner, the Catholic Diocese of Wichita's Harbor House Shelter for victims of domestic violence, would employ a therapist to counsel victims assisted by the other two agencies.
2. Show the funder that you can work together. Funders may be reluctant to green-light an ambitious partnership if it hasn’t been tested in the field already. The Wichita partners emphasized that they already knew how to make their division of labor work because they’d collaborated a few years before on an anti-teen dating violence initiative. In your proposal, mention ways you and your partners have collaborated before, say an event you co-sponsored, a committee you served on together, or a community-wide initiative you participated in together.
3. Do things by committee. Though grant writer Garrett spearheaded the application process, he ensured that things stayed collaborative by organizing and leading a steering committee. The group included one additional staff member from each organization.
Besides representing their organizations in the grant-writing process, steering committee members got other people in Wichita who work with sexually abused youth on board with the proposed project. Robinson says, “We met as the core group, then talked with other community members,” including representatives from the local hospital, the Wichita Department of Children and Families, and the police.
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Ten years ago at a skate park in Orlando, FL, Drew Campbell noticed teens bumming boards off of skaters. Instantly interested in helping the young people, Campbell, a professional surfer, founded the Getaboard Foundation to teach homeless and other at-risk youth how to skate.
The foundation and its staff of professional surfers and skateboarders work with the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida in downtown Orlando. Each Friday the instructors take 20 youth from one of the coalition’s shelters to the local skate park for skateboarding lessons. Once a year, the youth get a chance to learn surfing, too.
We talked to Campbell about his foundation and the difference he’s seen it make in young people’s lives.
NCFY: Tell us about a young person who improved their skateboarding skills and also overcame adversity in your program?
Campbell: We had a youth participant who had some skills in skateboarding, but we helped him develop his skills further. Tank was a trouble maker; once he began participating in the Getaboard Foundation Skateboard Program he became a leader. Tank began to show promise as a great skateboarder and eventually a junior counselor, teaching the younger children the skills he knows. By the end of the program, Tank had done a complete 180. He had a purpose and an outlet.
NCFY: What skills do the youth in your program learn that can be used outside of skateboarding?
Campbell: The participants learn many skills by being in the program, but the most important skills we see are, one, development of self-esteem. When the youth learn how to skateboard and become comfortable with the board it gives them a sense of pride. Two, self-identity. Skateboarding also helps youth create their own identity outside of being in a homeless shelter. Most kids in care don’t have much to do, so this is a great resource that they can not only use to build skills but as a form of transportation. Three, self-discipline, creative problem solving and positive peer pressure techniques. These skills are developed when a youth is unable to master a trick. They must practice. When youth in the program are able to attain new skills, it helps other youth work harder to learn.
Most importantly, we are trying to help the kids we work with to be able to have an outlet and overcome their circumstances through hard work. Our main goal is to work with youth during a six to eight week time span to make an impact in their lives. At the end of the program each participant is given their own skateboard.
NCFY: How can communities replicate this program?
Campbell: We plan to expand the program to implement it in schools, as well as trying to branch out nationally by having communities start Getaboard chapters in their states. That way they don’t have to reinvent the wheel. In order to get supplies, such as skateboards and safety equipment, we set up stations around Florida where the community can donate these types of items. Programs who want to start a similar program can also connect with skateboard shops and local programs for at-risk youth to make the connection.
To learn more about similar programs for youth check out:
Next Up Foundation is a resource for kids and teens who live in underserved communities and helps them to achieve success; located in Orange County, California.
Nashoba Youth Foundation is bringing skate parks to rural Native Oklahoma to help those youth with developing self-esteem, encouraging healthy lifestyle, and diversion from violence.
Just One Board takes used skateboards and refurbishes them and then distributes them to underprivileged youth in California.
As the federal government continues to work to end family homelessness, the Administration for Children & Families has made it a priority for early childhood education programs like Head Start to serve homeless children.
To support this goal, ACF recently shared its top recommendations and resources for Head Start providers. We think youth workers will find this information helpful as they help teen parents enroll their children in Head Start and similar early-childhood programs. We also noticed several recommendations that can help youth-serving agencies join the conversation and advocate for improved access to services.
- Collaboration: Many of ACF’s recommendations focus on partnerships with advocates like school homeless liaisons, local housing authorities and Department of Housing and Urban Development Continuums of Care. Youth-serving organizations can find a seat at the table by sharing their knowledge of federal law and policies as well as the lessons they've learned working with homeless families.
- Innovation: ACF’s suggestions include mobile service programs and improved mental health consultations, but we bet you have your own suggestions to add!
- Flexibility: Early childhood education programs are encouraged to give homeless families more time to gather required documents and, when it doesn’t conflict with state or local laws, extra time for immunizations. Youth workers can help early learning providers develop reasonable timelines by teaching them about common challenges young homeless families face when trying to get records.
- Training: ACF’s resource list includes a number of organizations that provide related training and technical assistance, including Horizons for Homeless Children and Zero to Three. Programs familiar with these organizations can offer their feedback on which trainings they’ve found effective.
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Between 10 and 30 percent of teens say that they have been in a violent dating relationship. But beyond the numbers, not a lot is known about when those relationships start or what causes them. And what does “violence” mean? To develop more effective prevention programs, we need to have more refined snapshots of what teen dating violence looks like and how it develops over time.
When the Behaviors Begin
Three new studies attempt to fill those gaps. The first, "Age and Gender Differences in Teen Relationship Violence," addresses the question of “when.” Researchers surveyed 231 young people in middle and high school on the physical and emotional violence in their dating relationships. They also asked the students about their ability to control anger.
The results showed that dating violence was low in seventh grade, but increased sharply in eighth and ninth grade, before leveling off again. At the same time, the seventh graders generally lacked the conflict resolution skills they needed to diffuse violence -- skills that young people tended to have by later grades. The authors highlighted the need to start prevention programming around age 13 and focus on helping middle schoolers manage conflict peacefully.
Where the Violence Comes From
The second study followed a group of 517 ninth-grade girls until the end of 11th grade to try and figure out what made some girls more likely to be in violent relationships than others. The researchers looked at whether child maltreatment or harsh parenting at home might have a role. They also explored the effects of having peers that were violent or delinquent. The vast majority of girls (367) did not wind up in violent relationships. The second largest group (81) were in relationships they characterized as mutually violent. Smaller numbers were exclusively victims or perpetrators -- 39 and 32, respectively.
The authors found that it was hard to predict who would wind up in a violent relationship. The girls in mutually violent relationships had higher levels of delinquency and were more likely to have experienced parental rejection and sexual harassment. But there was very little that made the girls in the victim-only or perpetrator-only groups stand out. The authors used these finding to stress the importance of educating all young people about how to prevent dating violence.
What the Violence Looks Like
But what exactly should that prevention education be teaching young people to avoid? Dating violence isn't just one thing--it can include a whole host of behaviors that effective prevention may need to address. To figure out what those behaviors might be, researchers on a third study spoke at length to 85 young adults about aggressive relationships they had as teens. The researchers sorted the results based on how frequently violence happened and whether it was mutual or came from one partner.
Based on what they learned in the interviews, the researchers categorized relationships as "turbulent," "maltreating," "brawling," "volatile," "bickering," "deprecating," or "intrusive." In a bickering relationship, for example, both partners are involved in "frequent petulant and peevish arguments" with "some mild impetuous violence or minor impulsive property destruction." A volatile relationship is characterized by one partner exploding in anger that is seen as “coming out of nowhere.”
The authors suggest that these categories, or typologies, could serve as a starting point for further research and as a useful tool for discussing what teen dating violence looks like in its various manifestations.
Read the Articles
"Age and Gender Differences in Teen Relationship Violence" (abstract). Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, Vol. 21, No. 3.
"Longitudinal Prediction and Concurrent Functioning of Adolescent Girls Demonstrating Various Profiles of Dating Violence and Victimization" (abstract). Prevention Science, Vol. 13, No. 4 (August, 2012).
"Types of Aggressive Relationships in Adolescent Dating Violence" (abstract). Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, Vol. 21, No. 5.
“Almost Home: Helping Kids Move From Homelessness to Hope”
by Kevin Ryan and Tina Kelley, with foreword by Cory Booker
The president of an international organization for homeless youth teams up with a New York Times reporter to tell the stories of young people who overcame homelessness. We think you’ll want to recommend this book to people you know.
Four years and eleven stays at a shelter for homeless teens. That’s how long it took for the teenaged Paulie to escape family abuse, drugs and homelessness and to follow his own path in kickboxing and restaurant work.
The ups and downs of Paulie’s story will be no surprise to those who work with homeless youth day in and day out. But people unfamiliar with youth homelessness may not understand the persistence it takes—on the part of youth and of the adults who help them—to find stability and leave a traumatic history behind.
“Almost Home” tells that story over and over again with honesty, heart and hope. Authors Kevin Ryan and Tina Kelley have the pedigree to do that. Ryan is president of Covenant House International, a large nonprofit that serves homeless and sexually exploited youth in the United States and Canada. Kelley shared a Pulitzer Prize for the New York Times’ coverage of the September 11 attacks.
The authors interweave the stories of six young people who used Covenant House services with straight talk about the issues that contribute to and exacerbate youth homelessness—and solutions that could end the problem.
In addition to Paulie, there is Muriel, a young woman ensnared by a pimp. Benjamin spent his teen years shuffling through foster homes, psychiatric hospitals and shelters. Creionna is a teen mom bent on giving her son a better life. Keith was abandoned by the mother who killed his father. And Meagan’s grandmother kicked her out for being gay.
Labor of Love
Ryan and Kelley know that, no matter how resilient they are, young people don’t overcome adversity on their own. Every young person’s tale features a cast of supporting characters—the staff members and volunteers who offered patience and love and a helping hand. If you work with homeless youth and have struggled to explain to friends, families and community members what your days are like, Ryan and Kelley sum it up:
Imagine being a residential adviser in a college dorm, struggling to bring order to a crowd of sleep-deprived, hormone-addled, and opinionated young people living away from home, some for the first time. Then subtract most of the high school diplomas and stable family histories, and add trauma to the mix and varying degrees of loneliness, anxiety, and stress. Then put everyone in crisis, perhaps with fresh wounds from fights with family or friends or pimps or recent abandonment by foster care. Add a handful of mental illnesses and addictions, the panic of having no permanent address, and try to make sure everyone gets along enough and keeps quiet enough so that the others can rest. The goal is to do all of this with unconditional love and absolute respect. The work can take its toll.
The authors never let the hard truths they describe take a toll on the reader. They include solutions for every problem they describe and concrete steps readers can take to help. They also profile efforts to change the system and the lives of young people. For anyone wondering how we can end youth homelessness, “Almost Home” makes a good start.
More From NCFY
Visit NCFY's Runaway and Homeless Youth section.