The Beat

February 14, 2013

Photograph of Andra Tharp.Last week, we wrote about the dearth of teen dating violence prevention programs that have been shown to be effective. Attempting to fill the gap, especially for young people in high-risk urban communities, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has developed an initiative that targets middle-school students, their parents, their teachers and others.

Local health departments are leading 5-year demonstration projects to test the approach, called Dating Matters, in Oakland, CA, Fort Lauderdale, FL, Chicago and Baltimore. Each project includes evidence-based and evidence-informed curricula for 6th-, 7th- and 8th-grade students and their parents, teacher training, a communitywide anti-dating violence campaign, and policy-making support for health officials.

Andra Tharp, the CDC health scientist who leads the initiative, says Dating Matters’ comprehensive approach sets it apart. Six months into the implementation of the projects, we talked to Tharp about what she and her colleagues hope to achieve.

NCFY: Are there any challenges you’ve seen so far?

Tharp: Schools have so many priorities and so much to accomplish that it has been challenging to negotiate the time in the schools. In a lot of dating violence prevention programs, scientists are looking for new ways to engage youth that don’t add additional burden to the schools. We’re not using it in Dating Matters, but for example, Coaching Boys Into Men uses coaches instead of going through the school day. And Families for Safe Dates [a curriculum used by Dating Matters] engages parents. We have to find these ways of engaging youth outside of the school day because of the burden that it can be to schools and the multiple priorities that they have, but also the idea of layering these messages so that wherever youth are going, they’re hearing the same messages about healthy relationships. 

NCFY: What’s your great hope for the demonstration project?

Tharp: The evaluation will compare the comprehensive approach to a school-based, one-grade-only implementation of a teen dating violence program, because basically we want to know, is there any added value to doing all of these other components. So our hope is that the comprehensive approach will be more effective and that we can move towards making Dating Matters available to other communities.

NCFY: You mentioned there are 40 schools in the pilot. That’s a lot of kids and a lot of parents. What’s the value of trying to reach people on a larger scale like that, of this community approach that you’re talking about?

Tharp: That’s a great question. That’s really one of the reasons that we approached it like this, on this large of a scale. I mean it’s a huge pilot, if you will. And the reason for that is we didn’t just want to see rates come down in youth reports of violence. We really want to see rates of violence in communities and cities drop. And that’s why we’ve chosen to implement on such a large scale and involve so many individuals in these youths’ lives to help continually reinforce this message of healthy relationships.

NCFY: That’s a pretty ambitious goal.

Tharp: It is. It is. But it’s what is necessary. You know, we don’t have excellent data on the problem of teen dating violence at a national level. The best we really have is the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which has one question on physical dating violence. And that survey has shown that there’s been no change over the past ten years in physical dating violence victimization. It’s stayed right around 10 percent.  So that tells us we have work to do. The big problem necessitates a big solution. And that’s what we’re trying to achieve with Dating Matters.

Andra Tharp's photograph from CDC Newsroom.

February 13, 2013

Photograph of a young African American woman with young people training at computers behind her.Having the time to take a hard look at how you do things may seem like a luxury at youth-serving organizations. But a San Francisco foundation is trying to change that for a handful of nonprofits that serve runaway and homeless youth.

The John Burton Foundation’s Homeless Youth Capacity Building Project launched its yearlong Performance Management Training Series in 2011 with a cohort of seven programs serving counties with the highest rates of youth homelessness in southern California. The groups received professional development for staff, and training and coaching on the performance management approach to improving program quality. They also got $1,500 to spend on training, coaching, software or other purchases that might improve their ability to serve young people well. A second cohort of nonprofits from the San Francisco area began in December 2012.

“Our goal is to enable small to medium-sized organizations to better understand the daily activities in their programs, to see challenges and address them,” says Oscar Wolters-Duran, who coordinates the capacity building project. The training series was funded through the Corporation for National and Community Service, as part of its nationwide strategy to build nonprofit capacity in performance management.

Here are three things the series emphasizes:

Customer service—Wolters-Duran says that programs should be asking a series of questions like: Are client-staff interactions high quality and welcoming? Do youth feel comfortable? Are curricula engaging and do they addresses what youth need to be successful? Do staff have a youth-centered focus? Do they take time to assess youth needs?

“We’re really looking at assessing and evaluating not so much the outcomes, though that’s still important,” he says, “but assessing the quality of the activities and programs that lead to the outcomes. Without that high quality, it’s a lot more challenging to reach those outcomes.”

A learning organization—Performance management works best when an organization’s leaders let staff take responsibility for assessing the quality of their own work and identifying areas for improvement, Wolters-Duran says. Staff should feel comfortable trying new things without fear of being blamed if they fail.

“It’s a day-to-day staff-driven process that enables staff to understand what’s working and to be able to create experiments to try new things to continuously improve the quality,” he says. Some of the things they try are going to fail, and that’s ok. But it’s that effort to make small or large changes and observe if that change has an impact that we think creates high-quality programs.”

Theory of change—A theory of change is a tool for program planning and evaluation. It works backward from a goal, describing the ways a program will reach its desired long-term outcomes.

Developed with input from staff, the theory of change becomes the roadmap for the organization, Wolters-Duran says. “We need to make sure that that roadmap is in place, and that it’s the right roadmap. That way you can change direction if something is not working.”

More Information

We asked Wolters-Duran to recommend resources for youth workers interested in learning more about performance management. Here are his picks:

Continuous Program Improvement Tools
Eight worksheets, including one for creating a theory of change, developed by the Homeless Youth Capacity Building Project and Los Angeles Center for Nonprofit Management.

The Center for What Works
This website has standardized outcomes useful for many types of youth-serving organizations.

Usable Knowledge Logic Model Training
A tutorial for creating a logic model – a key tool in performance management for nonprofits.

Performance Management and Evaluation: What's the Difference? (PDF, 302KB)
Research nonprofit Child Trends’ guide exploring the similarities and differences between performance management and evaluation.

Strengthening Nonprofits - Unleashing Teams: A New Approach to Performance Management (PDF, 951KB)
A comprehensive guide to performance management.

February 12, 2013

Scenarios USA logo shows an image of a globe.As Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month continues, we want to highlight a way youth can share how they would respond to relationship violence.

The “You Gotta Do Something!” Youth Video Contest asks young people under age 21 to finish telling the story of Rob and Ashley, a fictional couple who get into a fight at a party. Youth enter the contest by watching a 14-minute video about Rob and Ashley on YouTube before creating their own video to show what happens next.

Young people must be sponsored by a youth worker or teacher to enter. Winning teams receive a set of educational films written by teens and filmed by professionals, or a gift certificate. The deadline to enter is noon Eastern on February 28, 2013.

The event is sponsored by Scenarios USA, which uses writing and film to promote youth leadership and advocacy, and co-sponsored by the Healthy Teen Network and Futures Without Violence. Entries will be judged based on the strength of their message and their creativity.

Read the full contest description and guidelines.
Watch the “You Gotta Do Something!” video on YouTube.

Later this month, we’ll share advice from experts on how you can recognize signs of possible dating abuse, and what you can do to help.

More From NCFY

"NCFY Recommends: Native Youth Harness the Power of Video to Address Teen Pregnancy"

"Young People Focus Through Native Lens"

February 11, 2013

National Runaway SafelineLast month, Chicago's National Runaway Switchboard became the National Runaway Safeline. For nearly 40 years, the Family and Youth Services Bureau has funded the organization to be the federally designated national communication system for runaway and homeless youth.

FYSB's Acting Associate Commissioner, Debbie A. Powell, recently wrote about the name change on The Family Room, the official blog of the Administration for Children and Families. Here's what she said about the long history between the Safeline and FYSB and the importance of the national communication system:

Every year, thousands of young people--and adults who care about them--contact 1-800-RUNAWAY, the federally designated national hotline for runaway and homeless youth. Some of these teens are on the streets. Others are still at home, have had a fight with a parent, and don’t know what to do. Many know someone—an aunt or uncle, a sister or brother, a grandparent—they want to reunite with, but they don’t have the money to get to them.

A Hotline Is Born

Forty years ago, these young people would have had nowhere to turn. Then in 1974, as part of the landmark Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, which established the nation’s system of youth shelters and services, the federal government established a national communication system for runaway and homeless young people.


Read the rest of the post on the Family Room blog.

February 08, 2013

Image of a pyramid with words on it: Safe Environment, Supportive Environment, Peer Interaction, Youth Engagement.Ravi Ramaswamy is a former youth worker who has moved on to help other youth workers improve their programs. As training coordinator at the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality in Ypsilanti, MI, he helps youth-serving organizations implement the evidence-based Youth Program Quality Intervention.

The intervention starts with an assessment that staff themselves conduct to determine how well components of a program -- like a life skills class or a sexual health training, for example -- are promoting safety, support, peer interaction and youth engagement. Then they decide as a group where they want to work on program improvements.

Ramaswamy talked to us about how the Youth Program Quality Intervention gives staff the tools to improve young people’s experiences of those things.

NCFY: Can you name some changes that programs typically go through when they use the Youth Program Quality Intervention?

RAMASWAMY: The changes are always based on the results of the assessment. Based on the data they get back they decide what their goals are going to be for change. As this process really grabs hold and takes root, there's a unifying language around program quality, and people actually start to use the same words to mean the same things. That's actually a huge development for most programs because if you all mean the same thing when you talk about conflict, you can have more productive conversations about things.

We promote with the adults the same positive interaction and engagement values we are looking to see at the point of service between young people and adults. For staff, it can feel really empowering and really legitimizing, too. Like, the work that you're doing is professional work, and here's a set of standards that you can work to meet, and you can get better. It can be a real revelation for staff, and I think that applies as much to those who work in shelters and [teen pregnancy] prevention programs as it does to people who work in after-school recreation clinics.

NCFY: What about the programs serving youth who have experienced trauma? Is work different with these young people?

RAMASWAMY: When I was working for the [youth shelter and drop-in center], we found that our scores were very high in the safety part of the pyramid. Which was great because that was part of our mission, to provide a safe place for young people to come. But our scores kind of tapered off as we moved up the pyramid. Which is fairly typical of any program even if they're not serving runaway and homeless youth.

What I think is really great about the tool is it establishes a set of standards and a way to measure against those standards. But it's not a high-stakes tool. It's not something where someone is telling you, “You have to get a certain score on it to get funding.” It gave us an opportunity as staff to say, "Hey, great, we're doing what our mission says we do,” and, “Do we also want to push in our programs for more, so that we acknowledge that these other scores are lower and we're not necessarily providing all the opportunities for interaction and engagement that maybe we could be?"

In a way that gave us, as frontline staff, total ownership over our own professional development process. And a way to hold each other accountable that felt like we were coming from a place of solidarity, that it wasn't something that was being imposed on us or dictated to us. And this is something that we see in programs again and again.

February 07, 2013

Report cover of Youth and Work, a Kids Count policy report. Photos show young people working on a car, on a building, and on writing.Youth employment is at its lowest point since World War II, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT, an initiative that tracks the wellbeing of children and youth in the United States. That finding might not surprise youth workers who’ve tried to find a job for a homeless young person, but “Youth and Work: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity” (PDF, 2.39 MB) has a lot to say about what we can do to turn things around for young people, especially the more than 6.5 million 16- to 24-year-olds who aren’t in school and don’t have jobs.

We spoke with one of the report’s authors, Associate Director of Policy Reform and Data Laura Speer, about how we can help create more and better education and employment opportunities for our nation’s disconnected young people. 

NCFY: What’s at stake when we talk about youth employment? Why bring light to this issue now?

Speer: A lot of the jobs that were previously available to young people are no longer obtainable, being done by computers, or are being occupied by older people who have been hit by the recession. Employers are more likely to hire the person that has experience rather than a youth who has never held a job. We have a whole generation of young people who are entering the workforce. We need to make sure they are prepared. 

We need to make sure we are helping youth who have gotten off track for many different reasons be able to get back on the pathway to education and employment by being able to offer programs that also have multiple options for attaining their goals. When young people are not on a traditional path, such has having dropped out of school, and are given an opportunity to get on a career path, they take advantage of it and really thrive. 

NCFY:  What does the report say about disconnected teen parents?

Speer: We have found that one-fifth of disconnected youth are parents of young children. Teen parents need to be put on the pathway to be able to support not only themselves but their children.  We interviewed several parenting youth and found that many of them said that the birth of their child was the reason they wanted to return to school or pursue a GED.

In the report we recognized employment options for youth that have multiple pathways in helping them get readjusted with education options and into the workforce. We’ve found that the opportunity to get on a career path while working towards educational goals is more advantageous for disconnected youth. Programs like YouthBuild have worked for those that have dropped out of school and want to get back on track.

NCFY:  What can youth workers take away from this report?

Speer: Youth workers are an important component in building the future success of the United States workforce and haven’t been given the credit they deserve.  Reports show that by 2020, 1.5 million jobs will go unfilled causing the U.S. to face a “skillgap”-- lack of skill and education to meet the needs of those positions. Youth workers have the opportunity to help fill these gaps by encouraging youth to continue to pursue their educations and providing information about skills and jobs.  

February 06, 2013

Photograph of two teens holding hands."Promising Practices in the Prevention of Intimate Partner Violence Among Adolescents" (abstract). Violence and Victims, Vol. 27, No. 6 (December 2012).

What it’s about: Researchers at West Chester University of Pennsylvania looked at programs created to curb teen dating violence and assessed whether they met nine criteria of effective prevention programs. The criteria included promoting healthy relationships, being culturally relevant to young people's lives, and systematically comparing results to the program's goals.

Why read it: Research shows that 25 percent of teens experience dating violence. But few prevention programs have been rigorously evaluated to see if they are making a difference, the authors say. In the article, they take a look at what we already know about what works to prevent intimate partner violence among teens -- and what more we need to learn.

Biggest takeaways for youth workers: The researcher found only one program that met all nine criteria and therefore could be considered a "model program." Safe Dates is a school-based prevention program for 8th and 9th graders. Staff get intensive training and use a variety of tools, including role-play, theater productions and lesson plans, to teach youth about healthy and unhealthy relationships.

Generally, the nine qualities of effective prevention programs can serve as a guiding framework for youth workers looking to reduce teen dating violence, the authors write. (The qualities are listed in the paper and in the abstract of "What Works in Prevention," a 2003 article published in The American Psychologist.) Agencies may find this guidance particularly useful, they say, given a recent push for evidence-based interventions in youth-serving settings.

Additional references: Learn more about Safe Dates and related programs and practices in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices.

(Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children and Families. Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of these and other publications.)

February 05, 2013

Screen shot of web app on a smartphone.February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, a chance for youth workers to teach young people about healthy relationships and how to protect themselves from physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Research shows that teen dating violence not only affects young people while it's happening. It also can lead to health problems like eating disorders and suicidal thoughts later on in life.

We decided to test two smartphone applications designed to prevent dating violence and sexual abuse by quickly connecting youth to emergency help. The apps, Circle of 6 and OnWatch, were winners of the Apps Against Abuse technology challenge issued by the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services in 2011. Although both tools are primarily geared toward college students, we think they may be useful for high-school and out-of-school youth, too.

  Circle of 6 OnWatch

Available For

iPhone, Android

iPhone, Android



Free 30-day trial, $4.99 monthly or $49.99 annually

Number of friends users can select to receive alerts



Emergency numbers

Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence

911, campus police, friends

GPS feature



Sample alerts

"Come and get me. I need help getting home safely" (includes GPS location); "Call me and pretend you need me. I need an interruption"

"I need help" (includes GPS location)

Option to let friends know you reached your destination safely




Link to

Users can set a timer if they're in a potentially unsafe place, like a parking garage; if a password isn’t entered after the time is up, an emergency alert is set off


More From NCFY
"What’s Love Got to Do With It? Stemming Relationship Abuse Among Street Youth"
"Q&A: What Can Be Done to Teach Healthy Relationship Skills to Foster Youth?"
"Youth Speak Out: Chicago Youth Say No to Dating Violence"
"Primary Sources: Why are Homeless Youth at High-Risk for Dating Violence?"

February 04, 2013

In our latest podcast, we hear from Bill Martin, executive director of Waterford Country School, a Connecticut youth shelter that will soon finish the three-year implementation of the CARE Model. He talks about how this evidence-based practice enables Waterford to better serve youth.
Listen to the podcast.

January 31, 2013

Images of social media logos, with a bucket of coins pouring over them.Five values. Five weeks of giving. That’s how Volunteers of America Chesapeake, a human services agency whose work stretches from Baltimore, MD, to Virginia Beach, conceives its year-end giving campaign each December. Each week, the campaign focuses on one of VOA Chesapeake’s core values—caring, quality, trust, faith and respect—and highlights the successes of the organization’s many programs and experts, says communication specialist Danielle Milner.

This past year, the campaign brought in $188,000, nearly two-thirds more than the previous December. Though traditional direct mail and face-to-face marketing played a role, the results wouldn’t have been possible without social media, Milner says. The campaign used Facebook, Twitter, a WordPress blog, YouTube videos, texting, email and the organization’s website to get people interested and convince them to make donations.

“The dynamic of donors is changing,” Milner says, explaining why incorporating social media and mobile technology into the campaign made sense to VOA Chesapeake’s fundraising staff. “They’re becoming younger and they’re becoming more mobile.”

Here are four tips for running a short-term social media fundraising campaign:

1. Simplify your editorial calendar

Choosing weekly and daily themes can make it easier to come up with blog posts, status updates and tweets. In addition to designating each week with one of the five core values, VOA Chesapeake named each day of the week: Motivational Monday, Text Tuesday, Wednesday’s Word, Thank You Thursday and Fun Friday.

Come up with your themes well before the campaign’s launch. That way you can prepare more time-intensive products, like videos, podcasts and staff interviews, ahead of time.

2. Divide the work

A social media fundraising campaign can take up a lot of staff time. VOA Chesapeake divided the work among the five-person fundraising and communication team, assigning each person a day of the week. Even if you don’t have a fundraising or communication department, you can recruit and train social-media savvy volunteers to help out. It’s also a good idea to get influential and inspirational people from your organization to write a few blog posts, status updates or tweets. Milner says some of VOA Chesapeake’s most popular tweets came from their chaplain.

3. More photos, less text

If you have an organizational or personal Facebook page, you may have noticed that photos get more people clicking than other types of posts. “Folks are connected to pictures,” Milner says. “Find pictures that tell a story and show what you’re doing.”

4. Connect your online “channels”

Milner cautions against dumping every bit of information into a newsletter article or status update. Instead, she says, share a photo. Link the photo to a blog post that tells a little bit more of the story. Link the blog post to a Web page where people can read about your program in depth. Spreading information out in that way can turn casual browsers into ambassadors for the cause, she says.

"We want to draw you in,” she says. “Once you’re interested, we want to keep you. And that’s the kind of thing that you tell a friend about.”

More From NCFY

"Right on the Money: Lessons in Social Media Fundraising"

"Right on the Money: 'Crowdfunding' for Youth-Serving Organizations--Indiegogo vs. Kickstarter"

"Right on the Money: Click Here to 'Donate Now!'"

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