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

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

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

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Mother's Day

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

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

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

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

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

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Alleviating Stress

Quiz time!

I know you are probably thinking, “What can one more quiz tell me about myself? Haven’t I already learned everything I could possibly need to know about myself from Facebook?” I’m confident you already know what breed of dog you are, what your Smurf name is, and what your spirit animal is…but indulge me and take a moment to answer the following questions:

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

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

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

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Earth Day: Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose

I have been recycling for a long time and around our office I’m affectionately known as the “Recycling Queen.” I’m not ashamed to say I occasionally rummage through the garbage when I see recyclable materials in the can. This all started because my neighborhood was part of a pilot recycling project in Louisville and we became fanatics about how to reduce, reuse and repurpose. At home, my husband and I produce less than one bag of trash each week and we even purchased a larger recycling can from the city to pick up each week. We would have even less to throw away if we had a way to easily dispose of or compost organic trash – coffee grounds, old flowers, egg shells and other kitchen garbage.

If you’re not quite into recycling yet, it’s OK – it’s not too late to start! Here are a few recycling and reusing tips I’ve picked up over the years:

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

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

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

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National Child Abuse Prevention Month

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

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

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Spring Forward with National Safe Place Network

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

We mark this time of year at NSPN by launching our annual membership and licensed agency renewal drive. In case you missed the launch, you can read more here: http://www.nspnetwork.org/join-the-network.

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Don’t be Fooled, NSPN has you Covered

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

RHYTTAC Support

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Time for a Brain Break!

It’s Tuesday and it’s been a while since we have shared a Brain Break with you. We get it… Brain Breaks can be “Downright Distracting”! BUT who doesn’t need one every now and again? You can do a number of things while taking a Brain Break!  Brain Breaks can be energizing, social, productive, they can even benefit your career!

“Take Five” and check out these 51 things to do when you need a break at work.
https://www.themuse.com/advice/take-five-51-things-to-do-when-you-need-a-break-at-work

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Your Needs. Your Network. Together We Can.

NSPN Membership & Safe Place License Renewal Drive Kicks Off April 1, 2015

It’s that time of year again – time to renew or begin your membership and Safe Place license with National Safe Place Network (NSPN). We’ve enjoyed offering benefits and services to our members and licensed agencies this past year and we hope you will join us for an exciting, eventful 2015-2016.

For more than three decades, NSPN has provided services and support to agencies like yours, serving youth and families. Hundreds of thousands of youth have benefited from your work and involvement as a youth service provider. You are the Network’s most important asset – without youth and other agencies who believe in participating in and learning from an experienced community, there is no Network.

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TXT 4 HELP Service for Youth in Crisis

This week, communities across the country are celebrating National Safe Place Week (#NSPWeek2015)! This nationally-recognized week honors the Safe Place program, which brings together businesses and volunteers to provide immediate help and safety for teens facing abuse, neglect, homelessness or other crisis situations. It’s also a time to show appreciation for the many businesses and volunteers that participate in the Safe Place program to support youth.

Today is TXT 4 HELP Tuesday during NSP Week! TXT 4 HELP is a 24/7 text-for-support service for youth in crisis. Check out this new video to learn more about TXT 4 HELP and to watch a real-life texting exchange take place.

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Women’s History Month Recognition: Celebrating Strength, Courage and Positive Self-Esteem

On Thursday, March 12, 2015, the NSPN Communications Team (Elizabeth Smith Miller and Hillary Ladig) hosted RHYTTAC’s weekly-scheduled Talk it Out Thursday call. This week’s topic was, “Women’s History Month Recognition: Celebrating Strength, Courage and Positive Self-Esteem.” Many girls (and boys, for that matter) will enter your program having survived events that can tear anyone’s esteem down. It’s important to recognize low self-esteem and identify what factors that may be causing it. There are many types of issues and many reasons that cause them. There are also many ways to help boost esteem, build courage, and encourage strength.

We have compiled a list of resources related to this topic that we hope you find to be helpful.

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Helping Teens File Their Taxes

Whether its approach fills you with anticipation or dread, tax time comes every year. Employers must produce and mail W-2s and other tax forms by January 31, and individuals have to file (and pay any taxes owed) by April 15. As you work with youth to develop life skills, here are some ideas and information to help them prepare for tax season:

  • FREE stuff! Most youth workers, transition age youth, and low income families can file taxes electronically and even get tax preparation assistance at no cost. If you annual income is less than $53,000, you are eligible for two benefit programs available through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) with no fees.
  • Get Organized. Interpreting tax documents can be tricky, but experienced preparers and online software can help. However, if documents are missing it can cause a headache for everyone involved and may result in an audit. Before you file, think back to the last year and make sure you have everything you need. Don’t ignore any tax documents! Once you have filed, be sure to store all of your documents and returns in a safe place. The IRS has put together a checklist of things to bring to a tax preparation appointment: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Checklist-for-Free-Tax-Return-Preparation. Common tax documents include:
    • W-2 Earned Income
    • 1099 Miscellaneous Income
    • 1098-E Student Loan Interest
  • Host a Tax Party! If the scale works for your program, it may be wise to bring volunteers on site. Have fun games like monopoly, tax jeopardy, or tax bingo and snacks to entertain youth while peers meet 1:1 to prepare their taxes. Assist youth in gathering their tax documents by providing checklists in advance and offering secure storage until the big event.
  • Money, Money, Money!! Tax refunds may present a rare opportunity for young people or families who struggle to make ends meet. It is so tempting to splurge a chunk of money and so easy to let it slip through your fingers. The best way to get the most out of that opportunity is to make a plan for those dollars before you spend them.
    • Beware of Refund Anticipation Loans (RALs). Interest rates are absolutely despicable, and getting less money two to three weeks earlier (if you e-file with direct deposit) probably isn’t worth how much of your refund you will have to give up to do it. Having some time between learning how much is coming and actually getting it only increases your power to contribute to your financial goals.
    • Help youth define their goals. They might be saving move-in costs for their own apartment (security and utility deposits, first month’s rent, furniture and household supplies) or start-up costs for buying a car (down payment or cash purchase, tags, title and insurance). Some youth are already buried in debt from predatory pay day loans and are working to free themselves from that burden. Perhaps a young person needs to buy a computer to finish high school credit recovery or facilitate post-secondary studies.
  • Dependent Status. Determine whether or not someone plans to claim you as a dependent. Filing incorrectly could result in problems for you or your parent/guardian. There are four basic tests to establish dependency. According to the IRS, they are:
    • Relationship: Taxpayer’s child, stepchild, foster child, sibling or step sibling, or a descendant of one of these.
    • Residence: Child has the same principal residence as the taxpayer for more than half the tax year. Exceptions apply for children of divorced or separated parents, kidnapped children, and temporary absences.
    • Age: The child must be under the age of 19 at the end of the tax year or under the age of 24 if a full-time student for half of the year, or be permanently and totally disabled at any time during the year.
    • Support: Child did not provide more than half of his/her own support for the year.
    • For more information on qualifying factors, visit the IRS website: http://www.irs.gov/uac/A-%E2%80%9CQualifying-Child%E2%80%9D
  • Extensions. If necessary, a six month extension can be granted by filing form 4868. That will extend the deadline to October 15. This can be helpful for youth who are in the middle of a difficult situation and do not have access to necessary records or other information. However, even if you request an extension, you will still need to pay any taxes you owe by April 15.
  • W-4 allowances: to take or not to take. The number of people (including yourself) supported by your wages affects the amount of your income that is taxed. Most W-4 forms include instructions and a worksheet to help you identify how many allowances apply to your circumstances. When determining how many to claim with your employer, consider the following general guidelines:

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March is Women's History Month

Last year, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation sayingduring Women’s History Month, we recognize the victories, struggles, and stories of the women who have made our country what it is today.'”  Earlier this week, the NSPN team took a moment to reflect on some historical or encouraging women who have made a difference.  Here’s a few of the inspirational quotes shared by the team:

Hillary Ladig shared a Maya Angelou quote:  “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

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What’s for Dinner? Group Meal Planning for Youth in Your Programs

On Thursday, February 26, 2015, the NSPN Communications Team (Elizabeth Smith Miller and Hillary Ladig) hosted RHYTTAC’s weekly Talk it Out Thursday discussion based conference call.  The topic… FOOD!  It’s cold outside and many folks are thinking ‪about and eating a lot of it! Why not talk about it? The goal of the topic was to share and hear what others are cooking, ‪life-hacks for the kitchen, recipes, tips and tricks of saving money at the store, and other stomach worthy ideas. We have some resources we put together from the call including some great ideas from RHY Grantees. We hope you find the following information useful. We invite you to join us every Thursday at 1pm ET. No need to sign up!  Just call us at 1-605-475-5950 and enter passcode 4560151# when prompted. Be sure to check your weekly TIOT email for the topic. Check out rhyttac.net to learn more about Talk It Out Thursday. Feel free to connect with us at [email protected] to share your ideas or learn more about NSPN, Safe Place, RHYTTAC, and HTR3!

What’s for Dinner? Group Meal Planning for Youth in Your Programs

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It’s Time to Protect Young Victims Where Protections Don’t Exist

Imagine a kindergartner being fearful at home because he’s afraid his mom’s ex-boyfriend is going to show up at the door and hurt his mom like he said he would. Imagine a senior in high school who is a victim of stalking by her former boyfriend and doesn’t feel safe leaving a friend’s house to go home. Right now in Kentucky, these victims cannot seek immediate protections through protective orders.

Current Kentucky statute only allows protective orders for those who have been married to, lived with, or had a child with the offender. This leaves many people, including many teens without one of the most effective forms of protection from being exposed to or experiencing violence – protective orders. Research from the University of Kentucky shows protective orders work – victims that received a protective order reported a significant reduction in violence and fear of future harm.

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Dear Valentine – Beware the Love Bug’s Sting!

It’s February – that magical time of year when love is in the air, or at least on every commercial and greeting card. With the onslaught of hearts and flowers come the not-often talked about negative consequences of love: heartbreak, mistrust, despair, and no one’s favorite, emergency clinic appointments. As we think about how love, sex, romance, and intimacy permeate the minds of our youth during Teen Dating Violence Prevention Month, here are some strategies to support our young people as they navigate the waters of interpersonal relationships:

  • Model what you want to see. One of the first ways in which we all learn is by observing and mimicking what we see. Young people pay attention to how the adults in their lives handle relationship stress, conflict, and communication in difficult situations. Be mindful of what you project that your young people can see/hear.
  • Building the all-importance self-esteem. We ask our youth to be brave in many situations, and to advocate for themselves in difficult situations. What we must not forget is to instill in our young people the skills and confidence it takes to be your own advocate, stand up for yourself, and know that your voice – in ANY relationship – is important.
  • Expertise is not necessaryAre you stumped as to which STIs are bacterial and which are viral? Not well versed in the four steps of decision-making? Don’t be discouraged. You don’t have to be an expert in sex & healthy relationships to be a caring, trusted, and genuine support to a young person. Unconditional positive regard goes a long way. Still nervous about finding information? You’re in luck; there’s this thing called the internet. See some of the resources below.
  • Teach what love isn’t – Love = respect. Relationships are not easy. They take commitment, patience, conflict skills, and trust. Youth – and adults for that matter – often struggle to identify the difference between love, desire, and affection. What does a healthy relationship look like? Should you be happy all the time? Is it a good relationship if you argue all the time or if you never argue? What does respect look and feel like? How do you know when you’re ready for sex? How do you communicate that you’re not ready? Young people are eager to seek the answers to these questions. However, they’re often not readily available or found in a textbook. Be open to having honest, meaningful conversation about the realities of relationships which, in this lady’s opinion, can be the best Valentine’s Day gift you could give a young person.

Life is Like a Box of Chocolates

Truly. Even if you don’t like chocolate, it is hard to bypass a Valentine’s heart filled with a variety of choices. If it is your box, and you are patient, you look at the candy chart and based on the descriptions, you prioritize and dive deep. If you do not have a chart and you are forced to guess, you rely first on the touch test (to see if pink or white comes out) and then the taste test (a little nibble is enough). Though you might be left with a package that looks as if it has been ravaged by hungry squirrels, you are satisfied that you have made the most of your chocolate gift. Your tummy is happy. Your brain is happy. Life is good. Note – if it is not your box of chocolate, your temptation may get the best of you and anyone who left the box lying around, well – consequences.

Our work is like a box of chocolates. The youth may or may not come to us with a chart. When we see the description, it is far too easy to compare those words in search of those youth we know are easiest to help. Or, the ones “I like best.” Although we know all youth are different and wonderful and filled with goodness, these characteristics are often hidden underneath a shell that is difficult to crack with squeezing a bit. Metaphorically, we squeeze youth with our intake processes, our rules, our assessments and our interviews. Sometimes, we see a youth start to crack open – and much too late – we may realize we didn’t need to squeeze so hard and once cracked, no one else may be willing to give helping this youth a try. Why? Because sometimes it is only when we can see the inside of a youth that we are willing to make a commitment.

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