'Methland': It's Our Job After All

Writer Nick Reding describes the four square miles that make up Oelwein (pronounced OL-wine), Iowa by making you feel like you’ve been there. He fascinates you with characters who have stayed in rural towns across our country even when the economy sent their neighbors scurrying to locations with some economic bounty. He paints a canvas that lets you see why decreasing population, economic strife,...More

A Gift from Haiti

When I first went to Haiti in 2003, I wasn't entirely prepared -- because who could be? -- for the poverty I encountered. Our pink-painted guesthouse, hidden behind bougainvillea on a crowded dirt road in a middle-class neighborhood of Port au Prince, was next door to an orphanage for disabled children. The orphanage wasn't our reason for being in Haiti, but we were bristling with purpose and a......More

A Young Death, and Unending Grief

Two years ago this spring my son's friend Andrew killed himself. He hung himself in the basement of his house one morning, after arguing with his mother about going to school. The last time I saw Andrew he was standing in his driveway. I had booted him out of our house because my son was late for his guitar lesson, and we had to dash off. Andrew hesitated at first, wide-eyed, a little jarred about......More

Confessions of a Reluctant Grantwriter

In 1981, when I received my masters from Harvard Divinity School, our class of soon-to-be poorly paid pastors, community organizers, theologians and activists found ourselves marching into Harvard Yard right next to the soon-to-be handsomely paid graduating class of Harvard Business School....More

Dispatches from the House of Teens

It has been a humbling time in my household, which is always awash with children, both his and mine. His are with us two weeks a month; mine is back from school most weekends and vacations, often with friends in tow. When I tell people what I do, they jump to the conclusion that I must know something about "handling" teenagers. I assure them that I do not. And here is my proof: Little Miss Little......More

Don’t Just Expand Your Program, Expand Your Thinking

The decision to expand your volunteer program (or start one) can seem overwhelming. “How will I find the people?” you might wonder. “How do we mobilize them? Who’s going to manage all the details?” If you worry that you’re getting stuck in the how-to phase of a growing volunteer project, maybe it’s time to pause. For a moment, instead of focusing on expanding your program, spend some......More

Fostering Motivation & Passion Among Direct-Care Staff

Mike, a drop-in center caseworker, truly loves his job and embodies the passion needed to be able to work with runaway and homeless youth. He uses his sense of humor to build rapport and trusting relationships with youth and puts every effort into guiding them towards stability. Sometimes these youth succeed and gain the safety, well-being, permanent connections, and self-sufficiency that we hope...More

Grappling with the Sexualization Issue

Youth Catalytics’ interest in the sexualization of girls began a few years ago, when the executive director of a Massachusetts agency told me how disturbed he was that so many young girls — 10, 11, 12 — were coming into his agency’s programs already dressing and acting like fully sexual adults. While their clinical diagnoses weren’t specifically sexual in nature, sex seemed to have been a...More

How Do You Shut a Girl Up?

Kiss her. Or so went the new post on my ‘little’s’ Facebook page. Well … she’s not so little anymore, to tell the truth. She just turned 16, and has a boyfriend, and is deeply enmeshed in the same unhealthy online culture as every other teenager, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Yet, though perhaps developmentally understandable, there’s still a whole lot wrong with that ‘Kiss’......More

Pregnancy Prevention: It's About Relationships

It's fascinating that there's been so little research on male control of female reproduction, particularly as it impacts young women. As we all know, unplanned pregnancy is a very real problem for adolescent girls and young women, and one for which they themselves are generally blamed. ...More

Research and the 'Duh' Factor

Recently a colleague approached me with an opinion that completely ruined my day. I do original research, and I summarize and synthesize other people's research, for youth-service professionals. I love the process of gathering information, analyzing it, shaping it into a coherent package, and letting it out into the world to illuminate as it will. But this colleague – he runs an agency for homeless......More

The Mitten Paradox: When the Culture of Accountability Produces Only Failure

Youth Catalytics specializes in organizational and board development, strategic planning, staff supervision, fund development, data management – areas central to the healthy functioning of social service agencies. When problems occur, we know how they look to people in the organizations themselves. In this essay, Youth Catalytics Research Director Melanie Wilson describes how organizational problems......More

The Questions Posed by 'Teen Mom'

I came late to the 'Teen Mom' phenomenon, but when I finally stumbled across an episode, I was riveted. So much so that I've spent the last two weekends at my computer, watching every single episode of '16 and Pregnant' and its spinoff, 'Teen Mom.' Since there are two seasons of each, that's some 50 shows altogether....More

The Year After the Earthquake

All kinds of people rushed to Haiti the year after the earthquake, both old hands and people who never imagined they would go. On the plane down in April, I found myself sitting next to an engineer who'd been sent to prepare a bid on debris removal. He was a Navajo Indian, and he'd only been out of Arizona three times in his life. This job was a big opportunity for him, he said, but still he seemed...More

What Little Girls Want

A couple of months ago I was sitting with the 10-year-old daughter of a friend, watching her play a computer game. It was one of those Barbie-esque house-playing games where you get to furnish a home and choose wardrobes for every member of a family. Now, she's just a little girl to my eyes, given that she wears ponytails and still isn't quite old enough for braces. Yet she sees herself quite differently.......More

Youthworker's Poem

This poem was written by Wallace Coar, a youthworker at Cambridge Family and Children's Services in Cambridge, Mass. ...More