Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Where Kids Get Help...FAST

This summer, I'm working with National Safe Place. NSP is a national, non-profit organization aimed at creating a national network of 'safe places' where kids can readily go to in a crisis situation. These situations can be anything from being lost or separated from a parent, being a runaway, getting kicked out of the house, escaping an abusive (physical, sexual, emotional) household, etc. These sites, which range from fire departments to libraries to fast food places, are marked by the black and yellow Safe Place sign. There, the personnel contact the local agency (or 911 depending on the immediate severity of the situation), who sends a volunteer or staff to meet with the kid and, if they want, bring them back to the agency (usually an organization with youth-orientated services and programs - like a runaway shelter or YMCA - that was recruited to double as a Safe Place agency/shelter). Through Project Safe Place, kids can receive immediate shelter and protection, counseling if they just someone to talk to, and services to help mend situations in the home. Project Safe Place is currently in 41 states with 144 agencies with their share of 17,000 safe place sites.

Safe Place was originally a program started by the local YMCA of Louisville, but has become its own non-profit organization that still has ties to the YMCA of Greater Louisville. Within Louisville in particular, Safe Place (i.e. the YMCA shelter house) is an alternative to the detention center to bring kids for non-violent offenses. NSP, where I work, is located next to a YMCA shelter house that serves as the agency for Louisville. I've been around the facilities (I don't think any of its current residents - kids - are there for Safe Place specifically, but by other means - voluntarily/through the state system - for family counseling, etc.), but I mostly work in the NSP building where the program itself (on a national scale) is monitored rather than at an actual Safe Place agency. I did sit in on the weekly case meeting at the YMCA, where they go over the case files of all dozen kids that are living in the shelter. It was very interesting to listen to the problems a lot of these kids have in their homes, especially how the case managers (out of public ear) talk so frankly about the problems of these kids, their parents, and the system.

While social work in particular isn't what I see myself doing (or, at this point, dream of doing), being involved in this type of organization is good exposure to youths whose development are affected by a multitude of factors and what kind of work is being done to prevent and address these issues. Though my principle interests lie in the realm of developmental psychology and developmental disorders, society is hardly a sterile, controlled laboratory setting, but rather a dynamic entity whose components and problems cannot possibly be teased apart from one another.

And yes, Chris worked this job the last time he was down here. And yes, they've stopped talking all about him all the time. But he should come visit so they can stop asking me when he's gonna stop by and say hi to his former employers. Ok, Chris? Good.



Elliot said...

I think they just expanded to my city, Spokane, this year. I've noticed a whole bunch of those NSP logos around, like at the library and a firestation near where I live, that definitely weren't here last summer.

TTran21 said...

the organization sounds AMAZING, though I'd say that sign looks questionable...