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We Help Youth in Crisis.

The Bridge Adds New Board Members

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The Bridge for youth welcomed three new members this year to it’s Board of Directors.  “These individuals bring a wealth of experience in marketing, business development and technology and will help guide The Bridge as it continues to be a key resource in The Twin Cities for kids in crisis, “says Board Chair Scott Thomas-Forss,” We are excited to have their passion for helping the community and young people on our team.”

Welcome to all!

Amy_Asche (002)

Amy Asche

Amy has been employed at UPS for 15 years with various roles in sales, sales training, customer solutions and sales operations.

“As a board member, its’ important to me that we continue to expand a greater level of awareness to the issues that face our youth in our communities and how the great work that happens at The Bridge positively impacts so many young lives and families, ” Asche says, ” I am looking forward to being a part of an amazing group of community leaders focused on making a difference.”

 

 

 

Zoe Stern

Zoe Stern

Zoe Stern is the Associate Director for WE day Minnesota.  Prior to working for Free the Children she worked at Jewish Family and Children’s Service in fundraising and program development.  As a home grown Minnesotan, Zoe is excited and proud to be a new member of The Bridge board and looks forward to helping Minnesota youth.

 

 

 

 

anna waters

Anna Waters

Anna Waters brings over 15 years of experience in helping organizations enhance the effectiveness of their executives and leaders.  She currently works collaboratively with Korn Ferry’s clients and internal partners to effectively manage executive assessment and development engagements.

“It is a privilege to participate in something so relevant. All kids deserve to feel safe and if they don’t, it is our responsibility to make sure we have the support systems in place for them. I can’t wait to contribute to this endeavor, “says Waters about her new appointment as a new board member.

Meet Bridge for Youth’s LGBTQ Outreach Specialist, Fran Drazan,

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fran

You meet Fran once and you know right away she has a heart of gold and is passionate about her job!
She has such an infectious personality and we are thrilled to have her here helping all our youth, particularly those in the LGBTQ community.  We had a chance to sit down (something she doesn’t do often) and talk to Fran about her background, her mission here at the Bridge and how important the Twin Cities LGBTQ community is to her.
1.  You grew up in a smaller Minnesota town…tell us more about that experience? 
 There were very few resources for LGBTQ kids and families in my hometown.  It wasn’t allowed for our middle school or high school to have a GSA, so there wasn’t much for LGBTQ youth.
Click here to find out how Fran connected the LGBTQ community in her community.
If you would like Fran to come speak to your school, organization or group please feel free to contact her at f.drazan@bridgeforyouth.org

A Day of Thanks and Celebration

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BFY Southwest facility

Youth in crisis can find shelter at The Bridge for Youth’s facility in Excelsior.

It’s a big day here at The Bridge for  Youth!  After two years of hard work, the Open Hands Foundation, Westwood Community Church, and The Bridge for Youth will cut the ribbon to open the first youth shelter serving the southwest metro area.

This is what partnership is all about! Addressing community issues like family instability and youth homelessness is hard work.  Bringing together different organizations with different perspectives and strengths results in better solutions.

Hats off to Westwood Community Church and Open Hands Foundation for identifying a need in the southwest metro.  Teens are on their own every night because of family conflict.  Sleeping at friends houses, outstaying their welcome, they have no place to go.  Some drive around at night with the cops, others sleep outside.  Most are at risk for exploitation.

And, with hard work, Westwood Community Church members and Open Hands Foundation crafted and funded a solution.  They donated space for the shelter, supplies, labor, and two years of operating expenses.  And, they bring a deep commitment to giving back to the community.

The Bridge for Youth is honored to be the service provider to partner with these two fine organizations.  Rob Ward, PhD, will manage our new Emergency Shelter. An experienced social worker and passionate advocate for youth, Rob has hired a terrific team to work with youth and families in need.

The Bridge’s motto is to be a safe and welcoming place for everyone, making no judgments.   We look forward to being a part of the southwest metro community.

For information about youth emergency shelter, teen counseling, parent or caregiver counseling, call The Bridge for Youth at (612)377-8800, text (612)400-SAFE, or drop-in at 3010 W. 78th Street, Excelsior, MN.

Text Hotline for Teens Launches at The Bridge for Youth

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SEPTEMBER 9, 2015–MINNEAPOLIS –The Bridge for Youth launched its new 24-hour texting hotline for teens and families today.  The crisis hotline, (612) 400-SAFE, is staffed round the clock by professional staff and volunteers, trained to de-escalate crisis, provide emotional support, and connect youth and families with critical resources.

Volunteers at The Bridge for Youth provide counseling via text to youth in crisis with “With 400-SAFE, kids can connect with us anywhere, at any time,” said Ali Kier, Youth Response Center Supervisor at The Bridge for Youth.  “They can text us at school or from any unsafe situation at home or on the street.”

The new service gives teens a safe, anonymous way to communicate difficult information  — and get help.  Staff and hotline volunteers are trained to address a wide variety of sensitive topics including bullying, family conflict, homelessness, violence, sexual exploitation, anxiety, depression, gender identity issues, self-harm, and suicide.

With cell phone use at an all-time high for teens, introducing a texting crisis counseling program is well-timed. Pew Research reports in their 2015 study on youth and social media that a typical teen sends 30 texts per day. And, in today’s wired world, only 12% of 10-17 year olds say they don’t have access to a cell phone. Teen cell phone ownership is highest among African American teens, with 85% reporting they own a smart phone.

The biggest challenge facing The Bridge for Youth now is to get the word out to teens about the service. “Our hope is that friends will tell friends and (612) 400-SAFE will get entered as a contact into a lot of cell phones.  It’s a tool that can save someone’s life. We want every kid to know this number,” said Kier.

The Bridge for Youth is seeking volunteers to help staff the crisis line at its Youth Response Center in Minneapolis.  Click here for more information.

Developed by software development firm DevJam, 400-SAFE was funded with grant support from Target, Microsoft, Shavlik Family Foundation, Youthprise, Pohlad Family Foundation, the State of Minnesota, and RBA.

 

 

 

 

KSTP TV – Channel 5 airs Bridge For Youth news segment

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Bridge for Youth board member Ellie Krug shares her thoughts on the need for support for transgender kids and their parents. BFY’s LGBTQ Out Reach coordinator, Alicia Mehle, talks about our newly launched PACE group (Parent and Caregiver Empowerment) for parents who want to understand the issues their transgender youth face. Check out the link in the story to the PACE flyer for more details.  Click here to see the interview.

 

Back to School and Homeless Youth

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getty_rf_photo_of_teen_boy_locker_girlsNew lockers.  New teachers.  Peer pressure. It’s enough to send any adolescent into a frenzy.

For homeless kids, the start of the school year is even tougher.  There’s lot of anxiety about not having new clothes or supplies to start the school year.  And, missing a school day here of there makes it tough to stay on top of school assignments.

Based in Minneapolis, The Bridge for Youth, a 24-hour emergency shelter for 10-17 year olds, is busy.  On a September morning, children in the emergency shelter include a 16-year old who missed the first day of school.  She was abandoned by her parent a few days before school started.  A 14-year old boy, who’s family is homeless, is at The Bridge until his family finds a permanent place to live.  Another teen in residence, awaits a move to another state to live with her Grandmother. Home is no longer safe for her here.

Getting these children off to school is a priority for staff at The Bridge.  “Kids see school as their future,” said shelter worker Debbie Schultz.  “Despite challenges at home, they really want to be in school.”  Shultz spent the morning calling schools trying to track down homework assignments for kids staying in the Emergency Shelter.

The Bridge for Youth meets the basic needs of children in crisis.  Staff greet every child with a warm smile, offering  a snack or something to drink.  Children share a bedroom with another youth and receive home cooked meals.  Transportation is provided to school.

The more challenging work is assessing needs, building repoire, and working with family to repair and mend strained relationships through counseling.  Nearly 80% of youth are reunified with family, and of those, 20% continue to access services after their first visit.

Case managers like Debbie Shultz work extra hard with youth who can’t return home.  Child Protective Services are contacted and longer term options must be explored.  For others, next of kin may might provide an option.

In its 43 year history, The Bridge for Youth has served over 40,000 children. Many return as adults, thanking the organization and its staff for helping ease a difficult adolescence.

Greater Twin Cities United Way contributions provide a significant portion of the agency’s $3 million budget.

 

 

Black History Day at The Bridge

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Black History Day 2014

Black History Day panelists Judge Martha Holton Dimick, Bob Brisco, and Adrian Mack visit on February 27.

Over a soul-food feast of barbequed ribs, black beans and rice, and fresh peach cobbler, employees, youth,  and friends gathered at The Bridge for the agency’s annual celebration of Black History.

The multi-generational event,  marked by traditional food, music, poetry, is one way the agency showcases its  commitment to diversity.

This year’s celebration featured a trio of performance artists.  Poet and playwright Karla Smith performed an original spoken-word performance about songstress and civil rights leader Nina Simone.  A second piece, engaged the audience in rhythmic drumming. setting the stage for a narrative about Harriet Tubman.  A third peformance , “A Rose By Any Other Name is Still a Rose, ” addressed contemporary issues of black identity.

Youth counselor Michelle Hall, always a favorite performer, collaborated with a teen, to read, “A World Without Black People.”

Following the performance, Board Member Tonya Hampton, Senior Director of Diversity at Health Partners, led a panel discussion about civil rights.  Panelists included Minnesota Judge Martha Holton Dimick,  Minneapolis Police Civilian Review member Bob Brisco, and Community Activist Adrian Mack.

Youth Sex Trafficking in Minnesota: How does it start?

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sey_youthIt’s hard not to notice 14-year old,  Jasmine.  With a winning smile and a personality to match,  she lights up a room.

Like other girls her age, Jasmine enjoys clothes, boys, and adventure.  She loves hanging out with friends and dislikes the restrictions her Mother tries to impose upon her.

Jasmine works at keeping things fun.  In a group of friends, she doesn’t have to think about what’s happening at home.

For the past three years, Jasmine’s Mom has struggled with addiction.  In and out of treatment, her Mom has been unable to stay employed.  Jasmine and her two siblings have bounced around from apartment to apartment, and now are doubled up with relatives.

No one’s paying much attention to Jasmine.  Hurt, lonely, and longing for stability, Jasmine runs away, taking refuge at a “friend’s” apartment.  The “friend” is charismatic, good-looking 19 year-old Jay.  Jasmine always felt important when Jay complimented  her on her good looks.   Jay treated Jasmine like an adult and she felt a thrill when she was able to command his attention.

Jasmine stayed for a few days at Jay’s, where she was treated royally.  She returned home but continued to seek Jay out.  Soon, she was bragging to her friends that she had a new boyfriend.  She belonged to someone important.

A few months into their relationship, Jay began testing Jasmine. First, she asked her to dance at a private party.  Jasmine was a good dancer and she didn’t want to disappoint Jay.  She convinced herself that the dancing was no big deal.

The dancing was a big deal.  It marked a change in Jasmine and Jay’s relationship.  Jay began to demand more of Jasmine.  When she tried to refuse, Jay countered with violence and threats.

How many girls like Jasmine seek attention and love while underestimating risks to their personal safety and well-being?  When does a bad situation become life-altering?

In Minnesota, the average age at which a girl commercially trafficked for sex al sex is thirteen.  The Women’s Foundation of Minnesota reports that each month in Minnesota 214 girls are trafficked several times a day through the internet and backpages.com.

Identifying children on the cusp of commercial exploitation is critical to prevention, yet it’s difficult.

“There are a lot of stories that kids want to keep  hidden,”  said David Mathews, Director of Clinical Programs at The Bridge for Youth.  ” Creating a safe environment for kids and building trust are essential to helping young victims.”

In January 2014,  a new Minnesota law, decriminalizing prostitution for children 16 and under, went into effect.  Instead of treating these minors as criminals and taking them to jail, law enforcement now sees these youth as victims.  They are more likely to be returned home or brought to a place like The Bridge for Youth,  a therapeutic shelter just for children ages 10-17.

With the onset of the Safe Harbors Act, David Mathews and his team at The Bridge for Youth developed a new intake procedures to help identify youth at-risk for or engaged in commercial exploitation.  Teams have also developed  new counseling approaches to help with intervention and healing for this target population.

One such approach, Restorative Parenting, aims to re-engage parents with their children despite the presence of significant emotional trauma. “It’s never too late for a parent to re-build a connection with their child, even in the face of something like violence, sexual abuse, or sex trafficking.

For additional information, attend The Bridge for Youth’s educational forum, “Youth Sex Trafficking: Who is at risk? Where does it start?” on Tuesday, March 18 from 2:00 -4:00 p.m. at Temple Israel.

 

 

Program Spotlight: The Crisis Hotline

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A crisis can happen at any hour.   Day or night.

It’s 11 p.m. and your child has runaway…again.

You’ve called the police.  But the worry, the fear, the guilt is overwhelming.  Is it possible to change the family dynamics that continue to pull you and your teen apart?

Calling The Bridge is a place to start.

The Bridge’s 24 hour crisis hotline is staffed by professionals round the clock.  Each caller connects with a live person, not an automated system.

In 2013, over 4000 people in crisis phoned The Bridge.  75% of those callers were adults – overwhelmed, frustrated, and scared parents.  Or neighbors or teachers worried about a child.  Others were likely social workers advocating on behalf of their young clients.

Every calls demands a unique response.  Some parents just need to vent so that things don’t escalate.  Others are desperate for tips and strategies to deploy immediately.

In addition to diffusing immediate crisis, counselors encourage parents to visit The Bridge for free counseling – with or without their kids.  And, when it’s clear that kids and their parents might benefit from time apart, counselors might recommend a teen stay in the Emergency Shelter.

“We’re hear to support parents and kids in whatever way we can,” said Joan Countryman, Emergency Services Supervisor.

Post The Bridge’s crisis hotline number at school, in your place of employment, or at your church.  You could save a life.   612-377-8800.

Seeing the Gift in Every Child

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Jane McDonald, Sister

Along with co-founders Rita Steinhagen and Marlene Berghiini, former Sister of St Joseph, Jane McDonald helped launch The Bridge for Youth in the 1970s. Now 78 years old, McDonald returned for a visit to The Bridge almost 30 years later.

“The kids were wronged.  And, they were enraged.  Many suffered from physical abuse.  And, at the end of the day, that’s what we took home in our hearts.”

That’s  how Jane McDonald, a St. of St. Joseph nun, recalled  her experience working at The Bridge in its early days.   On a sub-zero January day, the 78-year old McDonald  visited  The Bridge.  Nearly 30 years had passed since she worked counseling runaway teens and their families.

McDonald worked alongside Marlene Berghini, who co-founded The Bridge with Rita Steinhagen.  All three were members of the Sister’s of St. Joseph.

Known for their unwavering commitment to peace and social justice, these pioneers launched The Bridge in the 1970’s.  Their legacy is significant.  Since 1970, The Bridge has served over 40,000 children in crisis.

McDonald’s  recollections working with young people mirrored  the experiences of staff working at The Bridge today.

“We used to sit in the kitchen and play cards with the kids,” McDonald said.  “That was a way to get them talking”.

Commenting that most kids stayed for a few days, as they do today, McDonald stressed that listening was the most important thing.  “And, gradually, we felt  our presence made a difference in each child’s life”.

Touring the Transitions program on The Bridge’s third floor, McDonald admired the colorful, multi-cultural mural in the living room.  Her attention, however, was drawn to  three teenage girls sitting in the room.  They eyed the elder entering their space with  suspicion.

With  curiosity, McDonald approached each girl, asking each her name, and  repeating each name.  The introduction was brief but notable for the dignity and care McDonald took with each girl.

Later,  Jane swapped stories with ten-year Bridge for Youth veteran, Shirley Carter.   The conversation flowed easily as the two found much in common.   Yet midstream, McDonald paused.  A thought flickered across her face.

“Those children,” she said,  recalling her tour just twenty minutes ago.   “Each one of them had beauty.”

Perhaps that was McDonald’s spiritual antenna at work.  Her attentiveness to the work of The Bridge did seem fine-tuned.   That’s a lesson that all of us here at The Bridge will try to embrace each day.