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.

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.

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 easier. Romney is hoping to reach disaffected college students by arguing that their job prospects will improve under a Republican administration. All of this discussion about the youth vote should make those of us in the youth field ask a few questions: Why aren’t the presidential candidates pushing proposals to benefit young people who are not in college — the kind of young people we see in human-services programs every day?

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.

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. Romney and Paul Ryan’s vision for the country is “scary,” Goertzen said.

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.

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. Less than 43 percent of the 50 million Latinos in the nation are eligible to vote, mainly because so many Latinos are under 18 years old, according to data from the Pew Hispanic Center.

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.

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.

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.