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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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Schedule a Visit with your Government Officials

Schedule a visit with your government officials!

As you think about the year ahead, what do you plan? What do you include on your calendar? You probably include financial deadlines: when year-end documents are due, when grants begin and end. You probably have a grants calendar with alerts about when new RFPs will be released. You may have an events calendar and training calendar. What about an advocacy calendar?

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Senators Leahy and Collins Introduce the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (RHYTPA)

Earlier this week, Senators Leahy and Collins introduced the bipartisan Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (read more about the bill and track its progress here: http://1.usa.gov/1JTW89Q). Although there is no bipartisan bill yet in the House, National Network for Youth and partners are working hard to make sure that happens.

This legislation serves homeless youth through the following programs:

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Congressman John Yarmuth Urges Colleagues to Reauthorize the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act

National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month

How do we talk about Human trafficking in 440 words? We admit the topic cannot be fully covered in this limited space AND we encourage you to conduct further research and participate in trainings to further your knowledge and understanding of the topic.

Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery, which includes both sex and labor trafficking, where traffickers profit from the control and exploitation of people. Human trafficking exists throughout the US and around the globe. The use of force, fraud, or coercion is utilized to control people and thereby cause the person(s) to engage in commercial sex or provide labor services against their will. Sex trafficking occurs online, on the street and in places of business. Labor trafficking occurs in private residences, agriculture, sales crews, restaurants, etc.

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Grant Writing Resolutions

January – a time of reflection, new beginnings, resolutions, and preparing for grant-writing season. We are busy preparing for an upcoming webinar for NSPN members on grant writing resolutions. For a preview of the webinar, check out these two grant-writing tips.

Resolution 1: Lose the weight.

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Knowing the Difference Between RHYTTAC and National Safe Place Network

National Safe Place Network (NSPN) operates the FYSB-funded Runaway and Homeless Youth Training and Technical Assistance Center (RHYTTAC). NSPN also offers a unique set of packages designed to meet your needs in ways that make sense for your organization and community that differs from the technical assistance and training provided by RHYTTAC. Do you know how to tell the difference between NSPN and RHYTTAC services?

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What do New Year’s Resolutions mean to you?

What is a resolution?  I asked this very question to a couple people and received the same initial response from all.  I received a “look”, a look that implied “I know the answer to this but I have to think about how to verbalize it.”  They had to think about what a New Year’s Resolution really was.  After thinking for a moment, they shared replies such as “it’s something new someone wants to do for themselves”, “a new beginning”, and “putting something into motion”. What if I told you a resolution is as simple as a promise.  A resolution is a promise that you make to yourself (and work hard at keeping)!

Year after year, resolutions are made; yet, you find many are broken.  Why is it so difficult for people to follow through with their resolutions?  Perhaps the reason that they are so easily broken is because they are not thought to be actual promises, but instead ideas.  People like the idea of something, but it is expected that not all ideas come to fruition.

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Why Safe Place Matters

At National Safe Place Network, we believe in the power of community and the incredible effect one community can have on a young person’s life. Safe Place is an outreach and prevention program for youth in need of immediate help and safety. Businesses and community organizations, such as libraries, youth service agencies, public transportation vehicles, YMCAs, grocery stores, and more, display the Safe Place sign – making help readily available for youth. Safe Place simply cannot operate successfully without community buy-in and support.

We are grateful to be able to share the following story with you, a story that exemplifies what it means to be a Safe Place community.

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Tips for Dealing with Holiday Stress

The holidays can be a stressful time for people of all ages, at home and at work. Families are juggling additional obligations, travel plans, and financial commitments. This stress can be compounded by the fact that many agencies face end-of-year deadlines and financial requirements and youth service workers are helping young people also facing stress and possibly dealing with loss and grief. December’s tip sheet (available to National Safe Place Network members) highlights the ways you can support your employees and colleagues during this time of year, and how you can support the youth you serve.

Express gratitude. Simply saying “thank you” to staff and colleagues and offering words of encouragement can go a long way to increase morale during the holidays. It may also help to highlight achievements of colleagues and staff during the previous year since some may be facing anxiety about finances and person accomplishments heading into the new year.

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Reflecting back on the 2014 National RHY Grantees Conference

Often times we have a moment that we find ourselves reflecting upon the furthest and most recent moments of our lives.  These moments can make us smile, laugh, cry… but most of all, they can remind us of our gratitude towards someone. Each year, we (the NSPN/RHYTTAC staff) have such a blast planning and hosting the National RHY Grantees conference for you.  As the time grows closer, we become very eager to see the hard work come to fruition.  The thing we are most excited for however, is seeing and connecting with each of you.  We see you arrive to the conference, excited to be in a new place, excited to see old friends and meet new colleagues, and exited to learn!  During the first day we see it… the SPARK. It’s a contagious spark that spreads like wildfire through each and every one of you. This SPARK is INSPIRATION.  During the end of the conference, yes, you are tired from all the great activities and intriguing training workshops, but during the end of the conference you can’t help but to see, hear, and FEEL the inspiration that flows through you.  What you take back to your fellow staff, organization, and community is something that can change lives. Yes, our friends – what we look forward to the most is you and your inspiration to make a difference in the RHY world!  Thank you for allowing us to be a part of the difference you make in so many lives.  

If you missed the conference or would like a reminder of how much fun we had… here are a few videos created during the conference, including our Video Blog from the night of the RHYA Anniversary Celebration! 

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Tips for Becoming an Authentic Speaker

Authenticity has become a bit of a buzz word in recent years. From “authentic leadership” to “authentic communication,” you may have noticed the word being used more and more. We have created a tip sheet that describes authenticity, outlines why it’s important in training and presenting, and provides some tips for achieving authentic communication. Here’s a tip from the document:

  • Speak confidently. Avoid getting softer at the end of sentences. Try to start and end strongly. Also avoid raising your pitch at the end of sentences, turning it into a question.

National Safe Place Network members with Training Center access can read the entire document, “Tips for Becoming an Authentic Speaker,” by logging into your membership account at www.nspnetwork.org and accessing the NSPN resource center.

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A Letter from the NSPN Advocacy Committee