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Celebrating International Youth Day with Youth Focus

About International Youth Day

August 12 is International Youth Day, and we’re looking forward to celebrating this special holiday together.

In the summer of 1999, the General Assembly of the United Nations designated August 12 as International Youth Day.

International Youth Day gives an opportunity to celebrate and mainstream young peoples’ voices, actions, and initiatives, as well as their meaningful, universal and equitable engagement. 

This holiday is typically celebrated by youth with programs for youth. 

In giving our young people a voice and listening to their perspectives, we participate in “empowering the world’s youth to make positive contributions to their communities and nations.”

Supporting Youth

At Youth Focus our programs center entirely on supporting youth, particularly during difficult transitions. 

From our counseling support to our emergency and transitional housing programs, we seek to provide practical, youth-focused services that take into account the specific needs of Guilford County’s youth and families.

One reason we’re able to remain responsive to their needs is that when youth speak up, we listen! Then we work together to meet those needs. 

A perfect way to celebrate International Youth Day is to practice doing the same. 

Getting Involved

Youth Focus brings together medical professionals, therapists, administrators, and volunteers. Together, we collaborate to work in the best interests of the youth we serve. 

There’s always room for more people to get involved!

This year International Youth Day looks a little different for us.  Given the current state and local guidelines for COVID-19, Youth Focus has temporarily suspended all on-site visitors and volunteers. It’s a sad, but very necessary precaution to keep our youth and staff safe.  Gotta #FlattentheCurveNC! 

Volunteer

We love linking people up with volunteer positions that match their unique skill sets.  Once COVID-19 is in the rearview, bring your strength to bear serving the community!

Donate

We’re funded through federal, state, and private funds. Even small donations really add up!

Amplify

Personal connections keep us rooted in the community we serve.

Come, get to know us, see what we do, and help spread the good word in your own personal networks, both online and offline. 

Connect

To hear more about how you can celebrate International Youth Day with us here at Youth Focus, feel free to contact us.

We’d love to connect with you.

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COVID-19 and Teenagers: How to Navigate and How to Help

Despite the belief that teenagers have become entirely dependent on mobile devices, tablets, and other forms of technology, the challenges teenagers are facing during COVID-19 have brought to light the impacts of social distancing, confinement, and quarantine. Teenagers are in the phase of their lives when interacting with peers, and culminating friendships are more important than ever.

While some teenagers have been able to cope with the effects of COVID-19 by turning to siblings or parents, some teenagers have had to face the added challenge of not having a family to turn to during the crisis. 

How COVID-19 Can Affect the Mental Health of Teenagers

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), teens are one of the groups affected the most strongly by a stressful situation, like a pandemic. Technology can help reduce some effects of social distancing and isolation. But, it also creates an environment where teenagers are bombarded with news about COVID-19, case and death rates, and even conflicting stories about how the virus is spread.

Stay at home orders have made it difficult for teens to interact with their friends, and social distancing guidelines have made physical interaction with others nonexistent for some, particularly those that are not living at home with their families. This can lead to teenagers feeling isolated and an increase in poor habits like increased time on social media, increased screen time, and lack of physical activity. These frustrations for teenagers are very real and need to be acknowledged by the adults interacting with teenagers during this time.

For Teenagers Struggling During COVID-19

Reach out virtually as much as possible to friends, relatives, or family members, so you feel supported and connected. Talk to others about how you are feeling and what frustrations you might be experiencing. It may be starting to seem like things will never return to normal, but talking with as many friends and family members as possible can help you continue to experience feelings of normalcy and familiarity. 

Stay as active as possible. Spending as much time as possible outside while still maintaining social distancing is imperative for mental health. Try not to allow yourself to get caught in the routine of remaining locked indoors. Fresh air and physical activity are still as important as ever during COVID-19. Take a walk in a nearby park, or find a shady spot in your neighborhood to read under a tree. Self-care is crucial!

Use available resources if you feel you need help. Youth Focus is a nonprofit dedicated to providing support for youth and their families. We provide emergency housing, transitional housing, outpatient counseling, and multiple other services that can be very useful during this time. If you feel that you need these types of services, reach out right away.

How You Can Support Teenagers During COVID-19

Understanding the effects that COVID-19 is having on teenagers is a critical part of providing the support that they need to navigate during this time. Parents and other adults who interact with teenagers daily should try to empathize with the emotional challenges teens are facing, as well as struggling to understand COVID-19 and what their role is in preventing the disease from spreading.

Many of our area’s youth are not fortunate to have parents or families to turn to for support during this time, and that’s where we can help. Youth Focus has full-time staff who are working to help local youth with the struggles that COVID-19 has brought to the forefront. Consider getting involved with Youth Focus today. We all have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of local youth.

 

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April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

For some children, getting to stay home with their parents or caregivers during COVID-19 is a dream come true and fun for the whole family. But for many children — many more than we’d like to think — being stuck at home is a complete nightmare because they are one of the hundreds of thousands of North Carolina children who are being mistreated or abused at home by a caregiver.  With COVID-19, children and parents are spending more time together cooped up in a house and experiencing high amounts of stress, and that means that cases of child abuse are on the rise.

So it’s particularly important that we raise awareness during April for National Child Abuse Prevention Month

The Prevalence of Child Abuse

Child abuse occurs everywhere in the world — there is not a single society that is exempt from having cases of child abuse, including our own neighborhood, city, and state.

  • Just in 2017-2018, North Carolina had 119,339 reports of possible child abuse and neglect. And while some of those may have been unfounded, we must also consider all the cases of abuse and neglect that were never reported. 
  • The latest report from 2016 alone shows that 27 children in our state were killed at the hand of a parent or guardian. 

The Costs of Child Abuse

There is also not a single community that isn’t affected by the long-lasting repercussions and costs of child abuse:  

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that each year of confirmed cases on child abuse results in lifetime costs of $428 billion when accounting for medical costs, mental health care, emergency housing, education costs, loss of productivity, criminal justice expenses, and law enforcement expenses throughout a lifetime.
  • In America alone, Prevent Child Abuse America (PCAA) estimated in 2012 that child abuse costs our nation more than $80 billion dollars each year.
  • North Carolina’s share?  Over $2,057,467,000 in 2012 alone.
  • Not to mention the increase in mortality, heart disease, cancer, suicide, depression, and countless other illnesses that stem from having a childhood full of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), which include all types of abuse and neglect. 

Prevention of Child Abuse

Who can report child abuse?

  • YOU CAN! Anyone can report suspected child abuse. In fact, it’s the law in North Carolina — all North Carolina adults are required to report suspected child abuse, even if it’s based on suspicion. You do not need to investigate, find proof, or get permission to report.  
  • People who work closely with children, such as teachers, daycare workers, bus drivers, nurses, psychologists, doctors, and social workers are all required by federal law to report any suspected cases of child abuse without fear of retribution. 

How do I report suspected child abuse?

  • To file an anonymous report, contact the Department of Social Services (DSS) in the county where the child lives. Share as much information about the child as possible — name, age, address and parent/caregiver name, if possible – and be sure to explain what makes you suspect abuse, even if it’s just based on the words of a child.
  • Your report may or may not be accepted for assessment by Child Protective Services (CPS), and an investigation may not turn up any evidence of abuse. However, you can at least know with confidence that you did what you could do. 
  • If you are unhappy with the results of contacting DSS/CPS, read about your options and proper protocol here

It’s Up To YOU!

Childhood should be a time of growth and learning and play, not of terror. Our message this month’s campaign is, “Everyone can make great childhoods happen—especially you, especially now!”  

Yes, YOU can be the difference. YOU can make the call. YOU could save a child’s life and protect their future. 

 

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North Carolina’s Homeless Youth

It may be difficult to imagine a youth experiencing homelessness but there are more than four million youth and young adults in America each year and, according to the most recently available statistics, in North Carolina 26,613 public school students were identified as homeless and 3.9 percent of children under age six experience homelessness.

Causes Of Youth Homelessness

For many of us, it’s unthinkable to imagine a child or young adult homeless at such a young and important stage in life. However, it’s a problem that cannot be ignored. While every situation is different, experts have found five main contributing factors to youth homelessness:

  • Lack of affordable housing
  • Poverty
  • Domestic violence
  • Mental illness
  • Substance abuse

Additionally, youth in the LGBTQ community are twice as likely to end up homeless, according to experts, because of family dynamics that may force them to leave their homes. Members of this community which, according to research, represent approximately 20 to 40 percent of youth experiencing homelessness, are also much more likely to experience violence than their cisgender or heterosexual peers.

Reaching Out

For many of today’s homeless youth, reaching out for help is a terrifying concept. Particularly for those who have been ostracized by their families or who have spent most of their lives in ‘the system’. Statistics show that 20 percent of kids who turn 18 while in foster care, will instantly become homeless.

It is difficult for them to trust anyone, so they will often end up victims of violence, substance abuse, or tragedy simply because they feel they are alone. That’s why it falls on organizations and communities to pull together to engage these at-risk youth with healthy, supportive, and safe options so they can develop into healthy adults with supportive relationships.

How to Help

Youth Focus has grown to offer a variety of services and housing options for today’s homeless and at-risk youth. We are proud to serve the families and youth of Guilford County and make a difference in their lives with the services we provide. 

If you would like to be a part of the positive changes we are making, we invite you to donate today or contact us today to find out more about our programs and services and ways you may be able to volunteer.

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Spending the Holidays in a Shelter

Most of us are fortunate enough to have never experienced homelessness. The youth in our shelter can’t say the same. Right now, as you read this, there are local teens who have no idea they’ll spend Christmas with us; that’s how quickly circumstances can change.

Christmas at home is a time for family traditions, gifts, gatherings, and festive foods. Understandably the youth in our care have complex and mixed emotions about spending the holiday season with us. We see an increase in fights, runaways, oppositional behavior, and youth generally acting out as they wrestle with these complex emotions. Imagine being away from your family during the time of year when families are in focus. Kids feel angry, frustrated, and hope that maybe their Christmas wishes will be granted, and they will reunite with their families in time to spend Christmas morning at home. Disappointment is a part of their holiday when those expectations aren’t met.

Temara Carthens, with Act Together, has spent her last two holiday seasons taking care of youth in our crisis care shelter. “It’s an emotional roller coaster for all of us, youth and staff,” she said. “We get so many youths from different backgrounds with different traditions, and we try to make them all happy. Some are happy to be somewhere that cares and tries to provide a loving and positive experience. Some youth don’t care how much you give; they want to be at home with their family.”

“We get so many youths from different backgrounds with different traditions, and we try to make them all happy.”

At Act Together, we take care of kids. We try and offer our youth fun holiday experiences and the opportunity to make new, positive memories. And, of course, wrapped presents for everyone. Christmas isn’t only about gifts, but all kids love presents on Christmas day. Ruben Marion has been working with Youth Focus for over a decade and spent his most memorable Christmas at Act Together. “One year, a 13-year-old boy received an art set. He shouted out; This is the best Christmas I ever had! It reminded me of how easy it is to make a lifetime memory, to give a gift that can help a child cope with what may seem like the worst time of their life.”

Act Together is fortunate to be a part of a community like Greensboro, who is so very supportive of our youth and program. Every year Greensboro opens their hearts and purses to let homeless, neglected, and pushed-out kids know it cares. Greensboro cares so much that even if a kid shows up on Christmas Eve or Day, there are presents for them too. We try and make everyone feel loved and have full bellies, big smiles, and grateful hearts.

We do our very best to make sure that when our youth have grown, the Christmas they spent with us isn’t their worst, and they leave with one or two fond memories. Thank you for supporting us and loving these kids as much as we do.


To learn more about how you can help, please follow us on Facebook. If you’d like to donate to a teen’s Christmas, please visit us online or donate via Facebook.

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35th Anniversary of National Safe Place Week

TL; DR: Safe Place is a national program operated in Guilford County where any youth can walk into a building with a yellow sign on it and say, “I need help.” Within an hour a licensed and trained Youth Focus staff member is on site offering free help, shelter and advice. The Safe Place program is one of the only options for local youth who feel they have nowhere to turn that can connect youth with a continuum of services to take care of their immediate and future needs including emergency shelter, maternity housing, alternative schools and foster care.  We need your help publicizing this program so we can help more kids and enlist more Safe Place locations. 

If you’re a member of the media, we have a Program Director and youth who would love to speak with you!  You can check out a video of an amazing young lady we had the pleasure of serving here and email us to set up a time to talk more.

WHAT: 35th Anniversary of National Safe Place Week, March 17-23

WHO: Homeless and At Risk Kids (age 11-17) in Guildford County

WHERE: Free and immediate help at designated “safe” locations

Youth Focus, a Greensboro based non-profit dedicated to helping local youth, is celebrating National Safe Place Week March 17-23.

Safe Place consists of a national network of businesses and community locations, such as fast-food restaurants, convenience stores, fire stations, public buses and libraries, which display the Safe Place sign in their windows. As youth enter the designated Safe Places and ask for help, trained staff members connect them to the appropriate youth shelter for assistance. The Safe Place program, operated locally by Youth Focus, partners with businesses and community organizations such as to provide immediate safety and support for local youth. Local Safe Place locations include multiple fire departments, YMCAs, libraries and government buildings, as well as community businesses like Proehlific Park, Friendly Center, Four Seasons Town Center, Celebration Station and the Greensboro Sportsplex.

It is estimated that more than one million youth run away from home each year due to abuse, neglect, family conflicts and other issues. The Safe Place program and Act Together is one of the only options for local youth who feel they have nowhere to turn.

“The Safe Place program helped more than 250 youth alone last year, and Act Together was able to provide emergency shelter to another 183.  These are local youth, children ages 11-17, with nowhere else to go.   Our network of Safe Place locations provides an invaluable service to these children and the community, and National Safe Place Week is about recognizing the importance of their contributions,” said Jennifer Ravenel Lewis, Executive Director of Youth Focus.


If you’re a member of the media, we have a Program Director and youth who would love to speak with you!  You can check out a video of an amazing young lady we had the pleasure of serving here and email us to set up a time to talk more.

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Lost In America

Lost In America is a feature documentary that follows director Rotimi Rainwater’s journey of shining a light on youth homelessness in America. This film takes an all-encompassing look at this pandemic highlighting issues like: human trafficking, the foster care system, youth rejected because of their sexuality, domestic violence, abuse, and more. It also examines what many organizations, politicians and other public figures are doing (or not doing) to help these youth. 

Then moving beyond that – focusing on more than just politics, more than just society’s feelings towards these youth, more than funding and bureaucracy, what lies at the heart of Lost in America is the stories of our YOUTH. These are amazing individuals that are not defined by their circumstance, but are defined by their courage, their resilience, and their desire to grow and succeed.  Their search for love and acceptance,  and need to find their place in this world makes you realize that they are no different from your children. These children who, by a variety of reasons, have found themselves living on the streets and searching for help.

Through Rotimi’s personal connection with these youth, we take an inside look at who they are and what their lives are truly like. We explore the reasons why they ended up on the streets, the issues they face, and the things they have to do to survive. These youth are not outcasts, invisible children that are meant to be forgotten. They are our future, they are our hope, and by illuminating their stories we hope to serve as a catalyst for change, making these youth no longer… Lost in America.

Learn more at http://www.lostinamericafilm.com/

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Given the current state and local guidelines for COVID-19, Youth Focus has temporarily suspended all on-site visitors and volunteers. This does NOT include clients or those accompanying clients to appointments. Those coming on-site will be asked to wear a mask for the duration of the appointment and limit the number of accompanying guests. Thank you for your understanding and commitment to the safety of our youth and staff.
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