Protect the Child: A How-to Guide

Accept that someone you work with could molest a child. Develop written rules and make sure everyone sticks to them. If a child is abused, counsel rather than fight with the family.

These are among the common guidelines of child protection plans in youth-serving organizations – and they illustrate a significant change not just in rules, but in a way of thinking.

The youth field has come a long way in recent years in confronting sexual misconduct among adults and youth in their programs. “More programs are putting into place really strong prevention steps,” said Sarah Kremer, who leads mentor screening and youth safety training as program director of the Mentoring Institute.

“Anybody who does capacity building and training in mentoring is spending a lot of time on screening and child protection,” says David Shapiro, CEO of MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership. 

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Impact of Social Media Reverberates

Social media seem to be everywhere these days, and it’s not just kids in skinny jeans and hoodies typing madly on their smartphones. For instance, almost three-quarters of foundation leaders surveyed by the Foundation Center in 2010 thought that social media were useful in furthering philanthropic work in general, and half thought social media were useful in furthering the work of their own foundation.

Social media can advance the work of youth-service professionals in many ways. It’s a great way to engage young people who have grown up with mobile phones and the Internet, and may find them more natural sources of information and communication than landlines or newsprint.

It’s a good tool to foster community building, because social media use is increasingly common among people of all ages. It’s an efficient way for professionals to connect with others working in their field and to facilitate collaborations among people located all over the world. Finally, social media plays an increasingly important role in the employment and professional communications processes, so it’s worth knowing how to use social media skillfully.

The key aspect of social media is that users are actively engaged with the media, creating new content rather than simply being passive recipients. Using social media is part of what’s often referred to as “Web 2.0.” If Web 1.0 is reading information online, Web 2.0 is creating your own blog, joining an online community, posting a video on YouTube, or tweeting your news to the world.

Although the name “social media” may imply recreational use, this tool is not just about leisure activities: Social media played such an important role in the 2011 Egyptian Revolution that some have dubbed it the “Twitter Revolution,” and social media has played a key role in the Occupy Wall Street movement, among others.

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Can Youth Programs Boost Non-College Vote?

Everyone is talking about the importance of the youth vote in this year’s race for the White House. Pundits and pollsters are speculating that the harsh economy and disillusionment with President Obama — and politics generally — will keep voters under the age of 30 from the polls.

Both Obama and Mitt Romney are working hard to appeal to this population. In an attempt to repeat the historic support he got from young people in 2008, Obama is touting plans to make college more affordable by increasing Pell grants and making student loan repayment . . .

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Violence Prevention Programs Move Beyond ‘Scared Straight’

Miriam Krinsky believes that, in order to change a young life in a positive way, threats don’t work. Teens need solutions, not fear, she says, and intervention programs for teens like those featured on the A&E Network’s controversial series “Beyond Scared Straight” only provide fear.

Without “filling the void in that person’s life with a positive solution, you’re not going to be able to address the root causes,” said Krinsky, a policy consultant on youth violence prevention and juvenile justice issues for The California Endowment and a lecturer at the University of California Los Angeles’ School of Public Affairs.

“Many who end up in the [juvenile] justice system … have challenges in their home life,” Krinsky said. “They often turn to drugs or gangs as an outlet. … And if you really want to change that individual’s behavior and their inclination to engage in criminal activity, you have to try and look for a lasting remedy.” In Krinsky’s opinion, Scared Straight-style programs don’t do that.

For the third season in a row, “Beyond Scared Straight” is disregarding experts such as Krinksy and even the U.S. Justice Department, which discourages the use of the so-called prevention methods the show highlights.

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Women’s Health Remains a Hot Issue

The Republican Party has taken a public beating on the issue of women’s health in recent months. In interviews with more than a dozen young people from around the country, Youth Today found that of the seven women, all supported President Barack Obama’s reelection bid, and nearly all mentioned abortion rights or women’s health as one of the reasons why.

“The idea that a woman would have to pay more for insurance just because she might choose to have a child some day is unjustifiable and simply not OK,” said Kate Goertzen, a 25-year-old policy analyst whose family is from Louisiana but who works for a public health nonprofit in Washington, D.C. She volunteers for the Obama campaign, registering voters at D.C. subway entrances, and feels passionately that Obama’s health-care reform bill is a major victory for the president and the public.

“As a young woman, I care about women like me being able to get the preventative and annual health-care services that they need and deserve without jumping through unnecessary and unjustified hoops,” Goertzen said.

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Who are the Millennials?

People between the ages of 18 and 29 make up more than one-fifth of all U.S. voters, according to Tufts University’s CIRCLE. Numbering about 46 million, those born after 1980 are the most diverse in race and ethnicity than any previous generation in the United States.

In 2009, some 61 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds in the nation were white, 19 percent were Latino, 14 percent were black, and 5 percent Asian, according to Pew’s Millennials report, which relied on multiple surveys, each of about 1,000 to 2,000 young adults.

The proportion of minorities in this age group is expected to keep growing, even as the share of whites shrinks. As a whole, Millennials are less religious than their parents or grandparents, highly comfortable with technology, and on track to become the most educated of U.S. generations, according to Pew.

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Latino Voters Offer Untapped Potential

A wave of 50,000 Latinos turns 18 every month, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Those young people join the ranks of about 6 million Latinos between the ages of 18 and 24 in the United States, comprising one-fifth of that age group within the total U.S. population.

“The importance of the vote, the Hispanic vote, is only going to continue to grow,” said Serena Davila of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.

She pointed to a Pew Hispanic Center study released in August that found that for the first time, Latinos make up the largest minority group on campuses in the nation — about 16.5 percent of all college students in the United States, proportional to the number of Latinos in the general U.S. population.

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In Youth Vote, Turnout is Key

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Growing up in an abusive household in South Carolina, Harold “R.J.” Sloke spent days locked up like a prisoner in his room. Isolated, scared, and forced to miss school, he sought solace in the Bible and in a set of encyclopedias that he read over and over again. That early experience taught him to rely upon two things: Christian morals and independent study, two values he says he continues to hold dear as a young Republican voter.

Now a U.S. Army Reservist in the battleground state of Missouri, Sloke, 22, prides himself on doing his own research into political issues. He cares about cutting the national debt, reducing unemployment, supporting pro-life policies, and protecting defense spending. In 2008, he voted for John McCain but wasn’t too unhappy when the presidency went to Barack Obama. “I thought Obama was a good guy who would go by his word,” Sloke said. His vote this year will go to Mitt Romney.
Young voters lean left
By Sloke’s own admission, and according to the Pew Research Center, most of his peers don’t share his conservative views. Polls through mid-September have shown President Obama with a consistent lead among voters between the ages of 18 and 29, despite the disillusionment some young voters say they feel since they came out in droves to elect the country’s first black president.

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Lessons Nonprofits can Learn from Demise of Noted Agency

During the course of its 35 years, Public/Private Ventures — a well-regarded nonprofit that combined practice and research to learn the best ways to serve youth from high-poverty communities — taught its share of valuable lessons.

But in its last weeks of existence, one of the Philadelphia-based organization’s final reports, titled “Building Stronger Nonprofits Through Better Financial Management,” offered several lessons that were applicable to the organization itself.

The agency issued the report full of advice on how nonprofits can survive just weeks before it closed its own doors, shut down its website and turned off its phones in late July.

Now, its many publications, or at least the titles, are archived at Foundation Center and searchable by the agency’s name.

Former insiders saying the organization’s practices were to blame for the organization’s demise, while the organization itself blames the economic downturn.

Regardless of which explanation deserves the most merit, the organization’s departure has left former executives, ex-employees and others in the youth-work field speculating about whether anything could have been done differently to keep the organization afloat.

Irv Katz, president and CEO of the National Human Services Assembly, a Washington, D.C.-based association of nonprofits that work in human services and related fields, is among those who wonder if things could have been done differently to salvage P/PV.

He called P/PV a “go-to resource for evidence about the effectiveness of social strategies.”

Katz said while he had no direct knowledge of the circumstances that led to P/PV’s closure, he was not completely surprised, either.

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Similar patterns of behavior emerge in sex abuse scandals

How organizational practices enabled molesters, until victims forced changes
One morning in 1969, a boy nearly ignited a sex abuse scandal in Wilmington, Del., by showing up late for school.

“This has gotta stop,” the middle school’s assistant principal, Robert Cline, said as he walked the boy to his office. The boy explained that he’d overslept again because he had stayed late at a teacher’s apartment. That set off a string of questions from Cline for which each answer got worse: Mr. Bittenbender helps us with homework. Yes, other boys go to his apartment. Well, he also gives us massages. Yes, the massages go down there.

Cline summoned more boys; they told the same story. Then came Carlton Bittenbender. He said he was just trying to befriend some neglected kids. Then he signed a resignation letter.

On his way out of town, Bittenbender dropped by an Episcopal church that sponsored the Boy Scout troop for which Bittenbender was Scoutmaster. He told the pastor about the trouble at school and that he’d done the same thing with a couple of Scouts. The pastor told the troop leaders, who confirmed the story with the boys.

No one talked to other students or scouts to see if they’d been molested; no one called police, and no one informed Boy Scout headquarters. Bittenbender went on to teach in Connecticut and to lead Scout troops in Rhode Island and Virginia. At each of those last two stops, he was later convicted of molesting Scouts.

While that chain of events might seem shocking today, those school, church and troop leaders acted in the typical fashion of the time. As for today, although the Penn State and Catholic Church sex-abuse scandals compel people to demand, “How could this happen?”, what happened in those institutions is not so unusual.

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