<![CDATA[JTFest Consulting - Youth Advocate Online]]>Thu, 26 Oct 2017 03:21:24 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[A New Review!]]>Fri, 03 Mar 2017 21:08:51 GMThttp://in4y.com/youth-advocate-online/a-new-review:My book, Street Culture 2.0, An Epistemology of Street-dependent Youth, just got a new review on Amazon:

​"After doing street outreach with adults experiencing homelessness for a long time, this book has been invaluable as I make the transition to doing outreach with youth experiencing homelessness. It came highly recommended to me by a few people who run successful trauma informed outreach and drop-in organizations for street youth (some organizations require new volunteers to read this!). I had a hard time putting this book down and learned new things on every page with Jerry's compassion, funny, conversational, and obviously well-grounded writing style. The author has done a huge service to youth and the people who work with them by writing this. Highly recommend."

​Thanks, Colleen, whoever you may be ;-)
<![CDATA[Hypocrisy, or Misplaced Outrage]]>Wed, 22 Feb 2017 22:27:12 GMThttp://in4y.com/youth-advocate-online/hypocrisy-or-misplaced-outrageYou’ve probably heard about the comments made by controversial conservative Milo Yiannopoulos where he appeared to be supporting sexual relations between young boys and older men. A gay man and child abuse victim himself, Yiannopoulos was referencing his own molestation by a Catholic Priest when he said, in part “In the homosexual world particularly. Some of those relationships between younger boys and older men, the sort of coming of age relationships, the relationships in which those older men help those young boys to discover who they are, and give them security and safety and provide them with love and a reliable and sort of a rock where they can’t speak to their parents.”
Since his comments have come to light there has been universal condemnation of his statements, resulting in a lightning 24-hour downfall where he has been disinvited from speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, resigned his position at Breitbart News under pressure, had a pending book deal cancelled by Simon & Schuster, and embarked on a massive clarification and apology tour. And so it should be, right? Supporting pedophilia in any form deserves such universal condemnation, does it not?
Before I go any further, let me state up front that I have no problem with the condemnation that Yiannopoulos’s comments have received. I strongly believe that sex between adults and young people is, in every case, a violation and an abuse of power. We know from our growing knowledge of brain development that young people do not possess the same capacity for executive functions as do adults, and therefore it becomes a matter of consent … or, more accurately, a young person’s inability to have the equal power of consent as does an adult. But I also have to state that the comments by Yiannopoulos is not the first time I have heard this position articulated.
Sometime in the 1980’s, as the director of a street outreach program for youth involved in survival sex (though known at the time as “juvenile prostitution”) I attended a conference in Seattle billed as the 1st Annual Conference on Juvenile Prostitution. One of the discussions was concerning coming up with a strong statement against any form of sex between adults and young people, of which I was a strong supporter. However, there was significant representation by gay male organizations that were opposed to such a blanket statement for exactly the same reasons that Yiannopoulos was expounding; that for many young gays boys, a sexual relationship with an older male was a healthy exploration of their identity. I didn’t agree then (and I don’t agree now), but the attitude was pervasive enough to prevent the conference from adopting the proposed statement.
That was roughly 30 years ago, and I’d like to believe that the perspective has changed. But Yiannopoulos’s statement indicates that it persists. But at least it now receives public condemnation and those who espouse it suffer humiliation and loss of status, right? Well … sometimes.
Bill Mayer recently had Yiannopoulos on his show, stating that “sunlight is the best disinfectant,” and is now taking credit for Yiannopoulos’s rapid fall. But perhaps Mayer himself could use a bit of his own sunlight.
19 years ago on his show, Maher defended the “relationship” between 35-year-old Mary Kay Letourneau and her 12-year-old male student:
“[Letourneau] is in jail because she is in love,” said Mayer. “That’s how I view it. Basically, they’re having a family and they’re keeping the mother in jail because she won’t conform to what society feels should be the perfect American family.”
When a guest was appalled at his statement and said that the boy was raped, Maher replied:
“Raped? Come on. She forced? How do you know? How can a woman rape a man?”
OK, that was 19 years ago, right? Surely he has matured on this topic. Maybe, but as recently as 10 years ago, he said in an interview in Playboy:
“I’m the only guy I’ve ever heard who defends Mary Kay Letourneau.” And he went on to clarify his position on teachers having sex with their child students by explaining:
“If a 28-year-old male teacher is screwing a 13-year-old girl, that’s a crime. But with Debra Lafave [another teacher who had sex with a student] screwing her 14-year-old boy student, the crime is that we didn’t get it on videotape. Was he being taken advantage of? I wish I had been taken advantage of like that. What a memory she gave him!”
So, according to Mayer, the crime is not in the age differential, but whether or not the child is male or female. Particularly confusing for me, since it’s fairly well established that females mature faster than males, so if any child is capable of sexual consent with an adult, it would be more biologically justified if the child were female, not male. Mayer’s position is not only pedophilia, but incredibly sexist, as well … and it’s been consistent and publicly stated over at least a decade.
Yet where is the outrage against Mayer? What is the price he is paying, as Yiannopoulos is? And Mayer HAS paid a price for his statements in the past, having lost a show of his after stating that the 911 terrorists were courageous. Is that really a greater offensive statement than advocacy of pedophilia?
Look, I’m not trying to defend Yiannopoulos or condemn Mayer … I’m just pointing out our hypocrisy and looking for a little consistency on the issue. If sexual relations between adults and children is child abuse (as I believe it is), then it’s child abuse … no matter the circumstances or the advocate. Yiannopoulos deserves everything he’s getting … but if we’re willing to give Maher or others a pass, then maybe our outrage is a bit misplaced.]]>
<![CDATA[Why Do They Do That?                                                                        -- If the homeless want our help, why don’t they act more deserving?]]>Fri, 29 Apr 2016 23:04:09 GMThttp://in4y.com/youth-advocate-online/why-do-they-do-that-if-the-homeless-want-our-help-why-dont-they-act-more-deservingPicture
It's a question I get often. The homeless need our help, but their behavior in our community is disgraceful. Offensive public behavior and criminal activity doesn't exactly endear them to us or motivate us to want to help, so why do they behave that way? I offer an answer to that question, not to motivate you to help, but to motivate you to understand.

​A common mistake when discussing someone's homelessness is the belief that we are discussing their environmental circumstance or socio-economic status. Certainly these are factors in homelessness, but they are not the entire or even the most challenging aspects of an individual's homelessness that must be considered. They are, in fact, the source of and contributors to psychological and emotional conditioning that far exceed environmental and socio-economic conditions in terms of their impact on a person's choices, actions, and belief systems. Leaving aside complicating issues such as mental health or drug addiction, the environment and socio-economics of homelessness in and of themselves are extremely damaging both psychologically and emotionally. These psycho-emotional impacts are beginning to be recognized as the greatest barriers to helping people transition out of homelessness. If it were as simple as an environmental/socio-economic circumstance, we could end a person's homelessness with physical resources and meeting their basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter. But even when such resources are available, they often must be provided in the long term to prevent a return to homelessness due to issues related to the psychological and emotional impact of having been homeless.

a study of homeless adolescents in the mid-west (Mental Health and Emerging Adulthood among Homeless Young People: The Midwest Longitudinal Study of Homeless and Runaway Adolescents, by Les B. Whitbeck, 2009 Psychology Press, Taylor & Francis Group, 270 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016) the author concludes that Aside from experiencing combat or living in a war zone, the vulnerability of homelessness may pose the greatest single situational risk for adolescent post-traumatic stress disorder” (page 77). Many homeless adults first experienced homelessness during their adolescence, but the “vulnerability of homelessness” is not age dependent. Anyone of any age will experience and be impacted by these vulnerabilities if homeless. As this study concludes and other works support, experiencing such vulnerabilities is a catalyst for symptoms of PTSD and other emotional disorders. In fact, the four major stressors related to emotional disorders are danger to self, exposure to danger of others, personal disappointments, and loss (Goodyer, 2001) … all of which are elements of homelessness. 

When discussing the vulnerabilities of homelessness it is easy to focus on stressors such as those identified by Goodyer, as well as other more obvious things such as unstable and insufficient access to basic needs including food and shelter. But it is the less obvious stressors and vulnerabilities that often go unrecognized that can be as or more damaging to an individual’s psycho-emotional condition than even the ones that are easy to see. Take a shared human need such as urination and defecation, for example. For those of us who are not homeless, such needs are easily met in the privacy of our own homes. There is no shame or public pressure involved; quite the opposite, it is can be a relaxing and pleasant experience. Even when away from home, we generally have access to relatively clean facilities to relieve ourselves. In fact, the majority of our time is spent in work or home environments where we have known facilities available often stocked with our own personal hygiene supplies, and rarely do we actually need to utilize an unknown public facility for more than a brief visit. This simple expectation that we can relieve ourselves in comfort and at our convenience becomes a daily challenge when one is homeless. There are no “go to” facilities to which one has a right of access and a personal connection. Even most of the facilities available to the public are “customer-only” options that may not be available to the homeless. The few that are accessible may not be conveniently located when the need arises, nor may the homeless person find the facility welcoming. Should the specific need be time-consuming, the homeless may feel pressure to perform and leave quickly, as others may be knocking on the door or the proprietors may be placing actual or perceived pressure on the person to finish and leave. This is complicated by the fact that when we think of urination and defecation (if we think of it at all), we generally think of healthy, normal needs. Many homeless may be in extremely poor physical health with compromised bodily functions. Their diet may include questionable foods, or consumption of what is available which sometimes may not sit well or be easily digested. We may not be talking about the common experience of having to “pee or poop,” but rather the uncommon experience of having to pee or poop repeatedly or excessively. The public facilities accessible to the homeless are often inadequately stocked with basic necessities such as toilet paper, or even functioning, running water. The toilets are often filthy and sometimes not even functioning properly. Imagine your worst experience with stomach cramps or diarrhea, or those times when you couldn’t be too far from your bathroom due to reoccurring need that must be satisfied on demand, and then imagine experiencing that condition with no private or personal facility to which you have a right of access or which is properly stocked and functioning, and you may begin to realize the fear, shame, and uncertainty that the homeless experience on a daily basis associated with this very basic human need. 

A similar concern for the homeless, that is not a concern for the non-homeless, is the impact of the environment. The fact is, while most of us view weather and environmental conditions as little more than an inconvenience at best (barring tragedies or natural disasters), for most of human history our environment has been deadly to us. Much of human progress has been directly related to our efforts to survive a hostile environment and seek shelter from natural conditions that could kill us with excessive heat or cold or rain or wind. In the 21st century developed world, conditions that we used to have to actively survive are now things that we barely take note of as we move from one controlled environment to another. We could be completely inadequately clothed for a storm and it doesn’t matter, as we’re just going from our temperature controlled home to our temperature controlled car to a temperature controlled workplace or store, and back home again. But the homeless are more often than not exposed to and at the mercy of the same elements that used to be deadly to us all. An excessively hot day, say in Phoenix, causes most of us to turn on our air conditioning or fans, or spend the afternoon in a nice cool movie theater. For the homeless, however, it may mean heat stroke or death, as for them there may be little distinction between being in the heart of Phoenix and being in the heart of the desert in which Phoenix was built. 

It can be challenging to judge the intent of a homeless person based on the standards, mores, and behavioral expectations of the non-homeless. For example, it would be difficult to judge the intent of a non-homeless person breaking into private property as anything other than intent to do property damage or burglarize the property. But a person surviving in a culture of homelessness may be motivated to break and enter for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with vandalism or theft. On an extremely hot day they may plausibly be motivated by seeking relief from the heat (or the cold, or the wet, or other environmental conditions). They may be motivated by a desire to meet bodily needs such as defecation or urination in privacy and without pressure, or even by a need as simple as basic hygiene or taking a shower. Their action may appear to us as breaking and entering, and damaging or taking property. But their intent may be to meet basic needs and survive. I have worked with many homeless persons who have at times engaged in ill-conceived actions that appear ill-willed toward the victim, but there was no ill-intent involved in their decision to act. Harm to the victim was unintentional and often even regretted, as the intent of their action was to meet a survival need, not to harm anyone. I can testify to this not only from my professional experience, but from my personal experience, as well. My decision to work with the homeless professionally was motivated by my personal experience of being homeless for several years during my adolescence. There were times during my homelessness that I made the decision to break into properties for no other reason than to shower. I not only stole nothing (except perhaps for the supplies I used, e.g., soap, shampoo, toilet paper), but I always attempted to leave the facilities cleaner than I found them. Technically and legally I was breaking and entering and burglarizing the property, and my goal of leaving it clean in no way made up for my actions. But the intent of my actions was to meet basic needs and do as little harm as possible. 

The non-homeless person is concerned with day-to-day living; that is, home and career, social status and our place in our community. We make our choices and decisions based on what we understand to be legal and what we believe to be moral. We may want something, but we’re not going to just take it without permission or offering compensation, either out of our fear of the legal consequences or due to our moral compass. If we can’t afford it, we live without it. But the homeless person is not concerned with living, they are concerned with surviving; that is, they are concerned with the basic needs necessary to not die. Food, shelter, clothing -- the basic necessities of life -- are daily challenges that must be met in a world constructed for those concerned with living, not surviving. As such, every decision is a survival decision, and, when making that decision, legality and morality are distant secondary concerns if they are concerns at all. The only factor a homeless person considers that is relevant to decisions that the non-homeless may judge to be illegal or immoral is; does this help me to not die? If the answer to that question is “yes,” then in the culture of homelessness, it is a justified choice or action. This is an important point, as we are all impacted by and tend to conform to the mores of our dominant culture. If I break into a home to shower, or relieve myself, or escape the heat or cold, or steal food, in my culture I am a vandal and a thief. In the homeless culture, however, no such judgement is passed on my actions, as I am only doing what homeless culture perceives that I need to do to survive. Such dichotomies are common where cultures clash. Most 18th century pirate codes considered theft inside the culture to be an offense punishable by mutilation, exile, or death … despite the fact that it was a culture of thieves who existed for the sole purpose of plunder. In a similar fashion, criminal behavior inside the homeless culture is considered to be truly heinous, whereas criminal behavior directed outside of the culture may be simply regarded as necessary day-to-day survival. 

It is also worthy of note that when we are discussing “decisions” made by the homeless, we are generally not referring to a deliberative, rational, calculated process. As already stated, many homeless suffer from issues related to mental illness and trauma with conditions such as PTSD and other emotional disorders. Physical ailments are common, as the lifestyle is characterized by inadequate nutrition, sleep disruptions and disorders. While these things alone compromise our judgement and decision-making abilities, we must also consider environmental impacts such as heat stroke or hypothermia. Both of these conditions, to which the homeless are particularly vulnerable, include confusion and disorientation among their symptoms and effects, which would layer additional inability to think and act rationally on top of both cultural considerations and an already compromised decision-making ability due to the detrimental impact of a homeless lifestyle on an individual’s mental and physical health. When all of this is considered, it may not only be difficult for others to judge the intent of a homeless person’s actions; in some cases, a homeless person themselves may not be fully aware of their intent, and certainly may not be at all aware of the impact of their actions on others. 

When passing judgment on the behaviors, actions, and choices of the homeless, whether they be youth or adults, it’s worth at least considering that their intent may be quite different from what it appears to be, and very different from what your intent would be if you made that choice or took that action. This is not to excuse the illegal or anti-social behaviors of the homeless, it is only meant to further understanding, for if we don’t take the time to understand why people behave as they do, we will never be able to help them make better choices.

<![CDATA[It's Privilege, But It's Not White.]]>Fri, 22 Jan 2016 18:26:18 GMThttp://in4y.com/youth-advocate-online/its-privilege-but-its-not-whiteIn recent years there has been a growing awareness of “White Privilege,” which has been defined as “societal privileges that white people benefit from beyond those commonly experienced by people of color in the same societal, political, or economic spaces.” Recently, a local community college began enrolling students in a course titled “Whiteness History Month,” billed as a district-wide project to “examine race and racism through an exploration of the construction of whiteness, its origins and heritage.” I posted it on my Facebook page and invited comments. The commenter’s, all white, held positions ranging from questioning the existence of white privilege and viewing this as “white shaming,” to the overwhelmingly majority opinion that white privilege certainly exists, and any attempt to raise awareness of the issue is a good thing.

It is difficult to argue that in the United States of America, such privilege does not exist, and I have no intention of doing so. I do, however, contend that such privilege is not “white,” and to label it so is not a good thing; it is a perpetuation of racism. Here is my defense of that statement.
I am a student of history. Brutality and exploitation are not the history of a single race, but are a human condition that taints all history and all races. Is the white race to blame for African slavery in the United States? Certainly whites were predominantly culpable in this nation, but does that let the African blacks who sold their own people to the whites as slaves off the hook? Give me any nation or race, and I can give you a history of atrocities and inequality perpetrated by that race. Slavery existed among Native American tribes … as did aggression and warfare … long before Europeans arrived. I’ve recently been studying the history of Liberia, the African nation founded by former American slaves. They implemented a caste system in that country that existed for nearly 100 years after its founding. So-called Americo-Liberians (free and freed Africans from the United States) enjoyed a privileged position and controlled all political power. After the Americo-Liberians came the “Recaptives” or “Congos.” These were Africans found on slave ships that were interdicted by the United States Navy, and then sent to Liberia for their “freedom.” Finally, at the bottom of the caste, and excluded from almost all social and political engagement, were the indigenous Africans who lived in the area claimed by Liberia. These indigenous Africans lived in a nation where they were excluded from the privileges enjoyed by the Americo-Liberians … who were all black. Hard to call that white privilege, though it was similar social and political dynamics. In today’s world, the treatment of women in many Muslim nations is such that they do not enjoy the same social and political privileges as do their male counterparts. It is privilege … but we can’t call it white privilege, because the majority population is not white.
My point is that in any culture and among any race, the privileges attributed to “whiteness” exist, but often, “whiteness” does not. It is not a person’s race that is the problem, it is unequal access to and protection of power. The privileges people point out certainly exist, but they are privileges of power, not of race. If anyone wants to discuss and address inequalities due to systems of power, I am their ally. But as soon as they identify it as “white” or “black” or any other identification to a person’s race; as soon as they wish to “examine race and racism through an exploration of the construction of whiteness,” then it becomes racism, perpetuating the very social ill they claim to oppose. That’s where they and I part company.

<![CDATA[What is the Winning Hand Workbook?]]>Mon, 11 Jan 2016 18:24:13 GMThttp://in4y.com/youth-advocate-online/january-11th-2016
Last week I announced the publication of my newest book; The Winning Hand Workbook (available at Amazon, or on the PRODUCTS page). It is a training workbook designed to give individuals and agencies a low-cost, on-demand training option for youth workers. It has deliberately been inexpensively priced so that each member of an agency’s staff can have their own copy which can be written in as they complete the lessons (quantity discounts are available, contact me for details). Below is the “How to use this book” introduction, and the Table of Contents, to give you a better idea of what’s in The Winning Hand Workbook:
How to use this book

For over 15 years,
Youth Development: A Winning Hand has been offered as a live presentation throughout the United States and Canada. Considered one of the best introductions to the Positive Youth Development approach for new staff and practitioners wishing to see better outcomes for young people, The Winning Hand Workbook now makes the knowledge and skills taught through the live presentation available on demand in a concise, easy to use format.

The most important thing to understand about this workbook is that there is a greater emphasis on
work rather than book. You cannot expect to derive the full benefits of learning simply by reading the content. The Winning Hand Workbook is designed to be a course of action, not a “lecture on paper.” Throughout the workbook there are various instructions and assignments that are intended to be completed in order and before reading further. At the same time, completing the assignments provides you with a “learning journal” to which you can refer as you develop your skills with and practice of the Positive Youth Development approach.

The Winning Hand Workbook is divided into 6 primary lessons, along with a “bonus lesson” and additional resource materials in the appendices. Instructions are contained in the text of the workbook, so start at the beginning of Lesson 1 and work your way through the book at your own pace as directed, paying attention to the “stop” and “go” prompts as they appear. For best learning, take your time. Be sure that you are familiar with the content of each lesson before moving on to the next.

NOTE: While anyone can use this workbook on their own to improve their practice, many people will be using this as an “initial training” within a program, agency, or school. As such, it is designed to be used with supervisory support. Instructions are given in the text for a “supervisor substitute” if you are using this on your own. If you are a supervisor who will be working with staff using this workbook, it is highly recommended that you complete the course yourself before supervising its use by others.

Most of all, thank you for the work that you do. The field of youth work is both challenging and often unrecognized … but those in the field will tell you that it is also rewarding and
fun. If that’s not how you’re finding it, you’re doing it wrong. The Winning Hand Workbook will help


How to use this book

Lesson 1: An Introduction to the PYD Approach
Lesson 2: Youth Outcomes: The “Bottom Line” of Youth Work
Lesson 3: (s)OS: A Framework for Youth Development
Lesson 4: High Expectations
Lesson 5: Meaningful Participation
Lesson 6: Caring, Supportive Relationships

A - Bonus Lesson: Measuring Developmental Outcomes
B - Youth Outcomes Chart
C - Red Flags -- A Self-assessment for Youth Workers
D - Spectrum of Youth Participation -- An Evolutionary View
E - Guidelines for Attentive Listening and Reflection
F - Principles of Win/Win Negotiation for PYD Youth Work

About the Author
<![CDATA[Reprinted for Your Enjoyment ...]]>Sun, 03 Jan 2016 19:42:01 GMThttp://in4y.com/youth-advocate-online/reprinted-for-your-enjoymentNOTE: I will be writing new content as soon as I get all of my social networks connected. In the meantime, please enjoy this reprint from the old Northwest Youth Networker.

Hello. My Name is Inigo Montoya …
A lesson from The Princess Bride ~ By JT (Jerry) Fest
"I do not think it means what you think it means" ~ Inigo Montoya; The Princess Bride

Every fan of The Princess Bride who reads the title of this article will almost involuntarily say out loud, “You killed my father, prepare to die!” It’s one of the most memorable lines from the movie, and is so well known and loved that it even appears on T-shirts … such as the one I purchased. The shirt has imprinted on it an image of one of those standard conference “Hello, my name is” sticky name tags, and then in handwritten script it says “Inigo Montoya,” and in smaller letters underneath; “you killed my father, prepare to die!” The shirt, however, is only available in black. Not much of a problem here in Portland during the winter, or even during my recent trip to Philadelphia and Washington DC where it was cold and snowy. But I returned to Portland via Santa Monica, California, where they have this strange, glowing orb in the sky burning with fire.
I still had my winter clothes with me and walking around in that black shirt I started getting mighty hot. I decided to wander into a nearby coffee shop for a nice iced mocha. I got in line behind 3 men who turned out to be a single group. Oddly enough, all 3 of them were named Mike. It turned into this hilarious, confusing exchange as the barista would ask for their name after each order, and each of them would say “Mike” … with the 3rd man simply saying; “I’ll have what Mike’s having!” When it came my turn to order, I was prepared with what I thought would be a very funny lame joke. I was going to say that my name was Mike, too … which I fully expected might actually make the barista’s head explode. You can imagine my disappointment when I ordered and she didn’t ask for my name. I supposed that they only needed name information when serving a group, so I sat down to wait for my drink and imagined how much fun my lame joke would have been.

After a few minutes it started to register that someone was yelling in my direction. I snapped out of my musing and turned to see the barista holding up my drink and shouting to get my attention, calling out what she assumed was my name: Inigo, INIGO! Apparently, instead of asking for my name, she had simply read my “nametag.” To her, my name was Inigo Montoya (yeah, yeah, I know … you killed my father, prepare to die!).

This was a classic case of misinterpreting something you see (thinking a message T-shirt was a real nametag), missing the cultural reference (the barista had obviously never seen The Princess Bride), and operating on a false assumption (my name is not Inigo). And these things don’t just happen between strangers in coffee shops … they happen in youth programs every day. Young people we do not know show up and we see how they are dressed, or their mannerisms, or the language they use, and we make assumptions about them. Even worse, sometimes their file shows up first and we make our assumptions based on the assumptions of others. Maybe we see a red bandana and assume that they are gang affiliated … when it’s possible they found a red bandana on the street and just want to keep the sweat out of their eyes. Maybe we see them being quick to anger and assume that they are aggressive and violent … when it’s possible they are scared to death and trying to survive in a violent culture, and being quick to anger is how they keep themselves safe. The point being that there’s only one way to really know a youth, and that’s to dedicate time and attention it takes to get to know them. Reading their file or interpreting their image just doesn’t cut it, and can leave you operating on assumptions that are about as true as my name being Inigo. Here’s the only safe assumption you can make when you meet a young person (or any person, for that matter); assume that you know nothing … NOTHING … about them. Don’t metaphorically rely on reading their “nametag.” Spend the time to get to know their real “name.”