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We Help Youth in Crisis.

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.













“Sounds of Giving” Holiday CD benefits The Bridge

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Click to get your Holiday CD today!

Nestled in the heart of Minneapolis’ hip Northeast neighborhood,  RiverRock Studios (formerly WaterBury Studios) houses state of the art recording systems and sound booths.  Owner Joe Morris dreamed about putting that technology to work – beyond the usual recording gigs.

Owners Joe Morris and Eric Blomquist wondered how they could put their technology to work beyond the usual recording gigs. They didn’t need to look far for inspiration.

Joe’s wife, Teresa is a regular volunteer at The Bridge, working as a Family and Youth Counselor  for the past three years.  She plays an important role helping families heal from conflict.  Teresa and Joe combined their interests with a project to support The Bridge.

SOG Back cover

CD includes 10 holiday tracks.

“We had the studio and the technology,” said Joe.  “We thought it would be fun to encourage local musicians to work together on a holiday CD.  That would build awareness of The Bridge and would help raise money for the agency.”

Blomquist, owner and engineer, recruited legendary keyboard player Tommy Barbarella (formerly with Prince) to produce a holiday CD with proceeds benefiting The Bridge.

The musically well-connected Barberella put the word out to local A-list musicians.  Eleven artists, including Voice contestant Nicholas David, signed on to record “Sounds of Giving”, a compilation of holiday classics (Joy to the World, O Holy Night, Merry Christmas Baby) and two original tunes.

“It was really fun to record Sounds of Giving,”  said Barbarella.  “We had such strong talent and every musician supported our vision of giving back to the community,  and helping those struggling with family conflict.”

Barbarella and Blomquist teamed up and created an absolutely wonderful and memorable Holiday CD.

Sounds of Giving is available with a $25 donation to The Bridge.  Order online and the  CD will  ship same day.  CDs will also be available at these musical venues:

Sounds of Giving Musicians Performance.  Thursday, November 12:  Icehouse, 9:30 p.m.

Sarah Morris Holiday Show,  Wednesday, December 18, Dakota Jazz Club

Davina and The Vagabonds, Friday, December 20, Dakota Jazz Club


Record-Breaking Day for The Bridge

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Thank you to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.   Their generous gift 3:1 matching gift, timed to coincide with Give to the Max Day, made for a banner day of support for The Bridge for Youth.

“With the support of the Hilton Foundation, we raised over $50,000 on Give to the Max Day,” said Annie Nelson, Director of External Relations at The Bridge. “This was a record-breaking day for us and for the children we provide service to.”

The record-breaking donation occurred despite a 5-hour shut down from the Give to the Max and Razoo systems.

“We appreciate the support from so many of our steady supporters and from new donors, too, ” said Nelson.

It was no coincidence that the Hilton  gift was announced in November.  Since 2007, the month has been known as  National Homelessness Awareness month, when Congress passed a resolution to bring greater awareness to the problem of  homelessness.  In the U.S. an estimated 1.6 million children are homeless each year, and the majority of these children are 15 and 16.

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation has a long history supporting initiatives that confront American and international youth.  With the start of the new millenia, the foundation has  backed efforts that address foster care and homelessness.

Conrad Hilton III, grandson of Hilton Hotel founder Conrad Hilton, has Minnesota roots.  In a visit to The Bridge last month he commented about the   many challenges can  adversely affect a youth’s transition to adulthood.

” We support the idea that investing in youth today leads to better outcomes tomorrow,” he said.  “For over 50 years, we have supported the work of Catholic Sisters worldwide and  their efficient use of a dollar and their selfless devotion to shelter and care for each individual child.”

“Likewise, it is our pleasure to support The Bridge’s efforts in Minneapolis in looking after and providing shelter to its children,” he added.






City Leaders Gather on Behalf of Homeless Youth

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Panel Discussion Oct 22

Read the report from Southwest Journal about the October 22nd gathering of city leaders at The Bridge for Youth.  Panelists from the Minneapolis Police Department, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Department, Minneapolis Public Schools, Hennepin County Libraries, and MadDads shared thoughts on how these organizations could collaborate to help homeless youth and their families.

Michelle Gerraud from Wilder Research presented the latest data about homeless youth under 17.

Read the full story here.

Restorative Parenting: Re-building Your Relationship with Your Teen

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“I hate you!” How many parents have experienced the sting of these words from their frustrated, angry teen? In heat of the moment, it’s not easy to remain calm. A parent may lash back with equally unkind words or retreat to a corner in shock. Others may react with physical violence toward the child.

 In the aftermath of intense conflict, how does a parent begin to repair a damaged relationship? Restorative Parenting, a proven clinical approach developed by Dr. Dave Mathews, PsyD, LICSW, can help.  In his role as Associate Director of Clinical Programs at The Bridge for Youth, Matthews works with runaway, homeless, and abandoned youth and their families.  He relies on Restorative Parenting to help heal troubled families.   

 “When intense conflict, violence, or trauma occur between a parent and child, an important contract is broken,” says Dr. Mathews. “To restore the wholeness between the parent and child, the contract must be strengthened, the relationship rebuilt, and work towards healing must take place.”

 Mathews is clear how to begin. “It’s the parents’ job to initiate the repair process” he says. To jumpstart the effort, Mathews encourages parents to review a document: The Parent-Child Contract. “This is the unwritten, unspoken contract all parents sign up for when their child is born.”

 Next, Dr. Mathews encourages parents to build empathy for their child. “Developmentally, teens are wired to be emotional,” says Mathews. “They don’t have the same decision-making tools as adults”. He steers parents toward viewing the conflict from the child’s perspective, focusing on thoughts and feelings a child may have about the conflict and other situations going on at home or in school. Developing empathy is an important step toward restoring a healthy parent-child relationship.

 Parents then need to develop self-understanding as part of the healing process. What teen behaviors drive a parent crazy or are unacceptable? What feelings does a parent have when these behaviors occur? Mathews invites parents to fill in the blanks to these statements:

“When I see these behaviors (name the behaviors) from my child, I feel _____________ and I tend to ____________.”

 If parent behavior is inappropriate in a conflict, what alternative behaviors can a parent employ? What strengths does the parent have? How can these be used so that a parent responds to their teen rather than reacting? Reflecting on these questions will better equip a parent to sit and talk with their child.

 Once a parent feels ready to talk with their child, Dr. Mathews encourages use of a 3-step communication process: “Acknowledge, Accept, and Affirm. Acknowledge that the conflict happened and acknowledge your child’s feelings. Accept that the child has these feelings. Affirm your commitment to your child.

 Mathews models this. (Acknowledge): “I can see that you are angry. “(Accept): It’s okay to have these feelings about this experience and about me. (Affirm): “I will always love you even when you feel this way.”

 With Restorative Parenting, it’s important that the parent affirm the feelings and offer the child alternatives.

“When you are angry, I feel ___________. I would prefer that you _______.” The process restores the parent’s role in the child’s life, reaffirming love, connection, safety, boundaries, and guidance.

 “Be prepared that your teen may not be ready right away to restore the relationship,” cautions Mathews. He points out, “the child’s readiness may differ from that of the parent. With over 30 years of counseling experience, Dr. Mathews knows this is not the time for a parent to give up. “Be consistent with this approach and it will work.”

 The Bridge for Youth provides free counseling services to youth and their families. Call (6123) 377-8800 to schedule an appointment. Walk-in counseling is also available.





The Parent-Child Contract: An Effective Tool for Families

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son and mom 

The Parent-Child Contract is a tool used in Restorative Parenting, designed to strengthen or repair the relationship between a parent and a child.


As a parent I agree to the following stipulation (including others to be added) and commit to my child(ren) that:


I will always be with you.

I will keep you safe from all harm.

I will respect you as a human being.

I will attach to you for the rest of our lives.

I will view you as my life extension.

I will notice, acknowledge and accept you for who you are.

I will respect your decisions and opinions.

I will guide and influence the formation of your values and behaviors.

I will always support you as a person.

I am responsible to you.

I will provide you with the nurturance to grow and develop.

I will work for your best interests.

I will plan for you to succeed.

I will never leave or abandon you.

I will make the best decisions for you that I can, until you can increasingly make those decisions for yourself.

I will increasingly provide you independence as you develop.

I will allow you to make mistakes.

I will never hurt you directly or indirectly.

I will be responsible for myself and my own behaviors.

I will offer praise, encouragement and support unconditionally.

I will offer suggestions, ideas, opinions and options.

I will love you unconditionally.

I will be sensitive to and considerate of all your ideas.

I will be sensitive to and considerate of all your feelings.

I will accept your limitations and focus on your strengths.

I will accept it when you disagree with me.

I will allow you to know when I make mistakes.

I will seek to understand you more than be understood.

I will let you experience your childhood.

I will give you opportunity to play.

I will love you when you don’t feel you love me.

I will focus more on changing me than you.

I will learn from you.

I will set limits for you.

I will be a role model to you.

I will provide you discipline.

I will provide freedom for you.

I will listen to you.

I will make decisions at times, which will anger and frustrate you.

I will be open to be confided in.

I will work hard to maintain our relationship.

I will always include you.

I will say I’m sorry when I mean it.

I will be proud of you for your accomplishments.

I will be supportive when you experience hardship.

I will encourage your contact and relationship with other supportive adults.

Add your own.

The Bridge for Youth provides free phone, walk-in, and appointment counseling services for youth, parents and families. Call (612) 377-8800 to speak with a counselor.


Intern Experience

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Emily Munson is a senior majoring in Social Work at St. Kate’s University.  When it came time for her to find an internship to meet her academic requirements she turned to The Bridge for Youth.

“My mentor, a faculty member in the Master’s Program, completed her internship at The Bridge a long time ago and had a great experience,” said Emily. “I also knew a classmate who interned at The Bridge as recently as a year ago.  She gained a lot of experience”.  Those testimonials, plus the good reputation of The Bridge helped seal the deal for Emily.

Emily applied and was one of two students from St.Kate’s accepted into the program. Shirley Carter, a warm, energetic, and charismatic veteran at The Bridge, manages the Education Program and the interns.  A ten-year veteran at The Bridge, Shirley has an industry-wide reputation for being the best.  Her three-week sessions are invaluable for those entering the world of social work or counseling.  Her ongoing support and commitment to interns is what makes this program standout from others.

“I don’t think I could have asked for a better training,” said Emily.  “It prepared me for what I was going into.”  Carter makes sure that interns role play with crisis calls, practice conflict de-escalation, dig into cultural issues, and understand all protocols.

Interning at The Bridge for Youth requires taking crisis calls from youth and parents.  Counseling youth, working with youth and their parents when they’re at odds can be challenging. It’s also rewarding.

“I’ve learned how important it is to learn from your clients,” said Emily. “The clients are the best advocates for their situations and it’s essential  to listen to them.’

As an intern, Emily worked eight hours shifts two days a week.  Juggling school, her internship, and her personal life was tricky.  “I actually liked working eight-hour shifts.  It gave me the time I needed to build a relationship with kids that are here at The Bridge.”

Emily graduates this May.  She shared a favorite quote from Gandhi, one that she has inscribed on a pendant worn around her neck: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

We thank the many interns who served at The Bridge this past year.  If you’re interested in an internship for Fall, 2013, please contact Shirley Carter.



One of the Many Faces of The Bridge: Nikki VandenBerg, Volunteer Doctor

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Clinic PhysicianNikki VandenBerg, third year resident and physician with Broadway Family Physicians, is a familiar face at The Bridge for Youth. Nikki, along with six other physicians from Broadway and community volunteers, staffs the medical clinic located on the first floor of the red brick building on West 22nd Street.

The clinic is small, just two small rooms. Yet, lots of work takes place when the doors open every Tuesday.

This Tuesday afternoon a tall teenage boy exits the exam room after spending about 30 minutes with Dr. VandenBerg. The boy arrived at the Emergency Shelter three days ago. His health assessment revealed that he has not seen a doctor in a long time. A second boy, about 15, completes his health intake form, awaiting his turn with the doctor.

VandenBerg specializes in family medicine and has an interest in working with underserved youth. The clinic at The Bridge gives her a chance to work with young people in a setting unlike that of a busy clinic. Without a long line of patients and general “hustle and bustle”, VandenBerg can take the time to listen to what’s on kids’ minds.

“I see a lot young males here,” she said. “Typically you won’t get this population walking in to find out information about STDs or sexual health or mental health.” At The Bridge, teenage boys seem to seize the opportunity to talk with a doctor. VandenBerg’s approachable manner seems to make that easy.

In a typical visit, VandenBerg takes vital signs, checks blood pressure and weight, and refills prescriptions. Education is always an important component of each visit. “While some kids have good information, there are still a significant amount of myths out there,” says VandenBerg. She adds, “Teenagers think they are invincible. It might not seem like a big deal to a kid that they’re using marijuana. It’s important to review with kids what can happen to you over time with prolonged use.”

VandenBerg also dispenses career advice to the many young people who express an interest in the medical field. She has a list of resources where kids can connect with mentors and gain work experience.

You can support the health clinic at The Bridge for Youth by donating gently used household items to our yard sale. Donations will be accepted beginning May 7. Drop off at 4249 Linden Hills Boulevard, Minneapolis. Sale date is May 18.

Taming of the Shrew: A Modern Tale

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Shrew1600This weekend I attended the Propeller Acting Company’s  production of Shakespeare’s Taming of The Shrew at The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.  I was unfamiliar with the play.  As with most Shakespeare productions, I made a deliberate attempt to sit up upright in my seat, better equipped to adjust my ear and brain to Elizabethan English.  Propeller’s all-male cast required a bit of a brain shift, too.

In the play, the drunken and broke Petruchio finds opportunity to line his pockets with wealth.   If he “tames’ and marries the ill-tempered  Kate, eldest daughter of a wealthy lord, he will receive an abundant dowry in return.

The play unfolds and action and emotion intensify.  Petruchio and Kate’s father, Baptista, negotiate the dowry or price of Kate.  Once agreed, Kate’s father hands Kate  over in marriage.  Petruchio’s “taming” or campaign of terror begins. He refuses to clothe her, servants deliberately withhold food to the starving young women, treachery reigns.  Petruchio torments Kate with psychological terror. The audience is pulled in to Kate’s transformation from a belligerent, cocky young woman to a withering mess. Petruchio’s domination intensifies and Kate looses all sense of humanity.  (By now, I believe no one in the audience is aware Kate is played by a male actor.  Gender is irrelevant as once is drawn in my the human-ness of Kate.)

Taming of the Shrew debuted in the 16th century.  Its story is relevant today.  Two days prior to this performance,  staff at The Bridge attended a 3-hour training session about sexually exploited youth.  The graphic session affirmed that Kate’s story indeed plays out every day in Minneapolis where young girls are bought, sold, and tortured into submission.

The training session, led by a former prostitute, informed staff how young girls move into “the life”, the code word for prostitution.  Vulnerable girls, many lacking a safe place to sleep or food, may trade sex for basic needs.  The longer this continues, the greater the opportunity for further exploitation.

Predators, seeing an opportunity for financial gain, offer “free” gifts like fancy clothes, cell phones, or meals.  Later, pressure may build when a girl is invited to “just dance’ at a house party.  Dancing may lead to an “invitation” to perform at  Amateur’s Night  at a strip club.  “Family members” offer cash and adulation.  In a carefully plotted plan, a predator will eventually take “ownership” of the girl, branding her with a carefully chosen tatoo.   The cycle begins.

In Taming of The Shew, Kate is completely broken.  With no chance of changing her life, she submits to the  most base requests.  Hope dies.  Here at The Bridge, young girls with similar situations land on our doorstep.  The difference is caring counselors are trained to spot warning signs of exploitation.  With careful counseling, intervention can take place.  while not every young person is saved, many do get connected with the right services to  ward off what can become a lifetime of horror and mistreatment.