Thursday, December 6, 2012

The state of Juvenile Justice

Glenn R. McGloughlin / Shutterstock.com
This fall I attended a meeting of the newly reorganized Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice in Washington, D.C..  (You can learn more about this advisory committee at http://www.facjj.org/)  While there I listened to researchers, front-line staff in the state juvenile justice systems, and federal staff from the Office Of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention speak about their concerns and hopes for youth who become involved with the justice system.  There were some harsh realities presented and clearly some work to be done.  However, I came away from the meeting filled with a great deal of hope for the future.

One thing for those of you who may not be familiar with the details of the Juvenile Justice system in the United States....I believe that it is extremely important to understand WHY we have a separate system for juveniles who break the law.  Young humans are operating with brains that do not function in the same way as those of adults (this is actually true for most youngsters under 24 years of age, not just the age when we consider them adults in terms of the justice system).  We should not expect them to behave as adults, especially in situations where there are risk versus reward decisions to be made.  Nor should we expect them to respond to incarceration or other elements of a justice system in the same way as adults.  We have a lot of evidence to the contrary.  We know that they are different and need a different system.

At this meeting the intent of those in leadership was clear.  Penetration into the Juvenile Justice System should be 1) rare, 2) fair, and 3) beneficial.  At present we are not meeting these goals. In the US we hold five times more young people in secure facilities than the nation with the next highest rate.  Clearly, penetration into the system is not rare (read more about this in the Annie E. Casey Foundation's report No Place For Kids).  The good news is that those who work in Juvenile Justice are very aware of this fact and are working hard to move towards diversion and prevention.

Based on the number of minority and impoverished youth being held, the US system is not universally fair, either.  (The same is true of our adult system.) Even in Maine, the number of children of color being held far exceeds that which we would expect based on our demographics.  Once again, there is a glimmer of good news...the reduction of disproportionate minority contact within the justice system is a top priority for the Department of Justice and many states' Departments of Corrections.  For example, Maine's Juvenile Justice Advisory Group is working very hard with its partners in Corrections and Law Enforcement to bring equity and fair treatment to all youth who come in contact with the system. Some great progress is being seen here and in other jurisdictions.

The idea that young people should leave a secure placement better off than when they entered is one of those ideas that may not be on the top of your mind when thinking about a justice system.  For many citizens, incarceration is about punishment...not about fostering positive personal growth.  For me, it is here that it is most important for us to remember that we are talking about children here.  Many who are held may be teens, but they are still children who need guidance and time to mature to become healthy adults who can positively contribute to society.  I believe that we must do all that we can to ensure that children who must be detained by the justice system have been provided an opportunity to overcome the negative experiences and situations that they have endured AND that we don't separate them completely from whatever healthy support systems they may have.  The good news here is that we are learning more about what works, and increasingly bringing that knowledge to bear on the system.

It is clear that we have far to go...but with a commitment to these three objectives we can make a profound difference. I am proud to be working on the prevention of youth delinquency and violence in my community and to serve on both the Maine Juvenile Justice Advisory Group and the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice.  If you have issues or facts related to Juvenile Justice that you would like to talk to me about, please get in touch!  (dalene@fivetownctc.org)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Regaining Your Rep

One of the blogs that we recommend and regularly follow is CyberSlammed.  When reading CyberSlammed's November 8th blog post, we learned that when it comes to addressing the question "Where do I start?" when dealing with an incident of cyber bullying, CyberSlammed recommends the no-nonsense approach taken by RegainYourName.com.

Regain Your Name was created by a reputation management consultant who had previously worked in education, and was a victim of cyber stalking and harassment who knew first-hand what would and wouldn’t achieve the removal of bullying material on the Internet. Drawing on experience of e-safety in education, cyber bullying and social media marketing, they offer advice to individuals, schools and anti-bullying advocates based on our considerable experience in this field. All of their eBook and video material stems from real examples of removing grossly offensive material on the web. All of their free advice is based on strategies they’ve already seen work.

Apart from their online services, they also offer training solutions, speakers for conference events, schools and educational workshops.

We encourage you to visit the CyberSlammed website, the CyberSlammed blog, and RegainYourName.com to learn more about how you can support victims of cyber bullying and reduce your own risk of becoming a victim.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Why I support Five Town Communities That Care

Peter Johnson works for Bay Chamber Concerts and is a valuable member of Five Town CTC's PR Workgroup.


In my job as Marketing Coordinator for Bay Chamber Concerts, I have the pleasure every day of seeing students of all ages come into our downtown Rockport facility for music lessons.  Having myself grown up in Rockport with a passion for music, I can relate to the many young students who come by.  I believe that music can play an important role for kids as they develop into confident individuals with clearly defined interests and unique personalities. 

For me, discovering funk and blues with Mr. Seymour and the METros band in middle school played that role.  Today, Bay Chamber is playing that role for 120 students in private lessons, ages 4 to 80, as well as babies from birth to age 5 in Early Childhood classes.  Counting all programs, there are over 300 participants at Bay Chamber’s Music School.  I’m proud to have a role in an organization that is dedicated to changing these students’ lives through music.

Another organization I’m proud to play a role in is Five Town CTC – I currently serve on the Public Relations Workgroup.  Like Bay Chamber, FTCTC is committed to enhancing the lives of our community’s youth.  By using the latest research and tested and effective programs, CTC is promoting healthy youth by addressing problem areas for youth such as substance abuse, suicide, violence, delinquency, school drop-out, and teen pregnancy.  CTC is making a positive impact in the place I live and care about.  I’m thankful for the work they do, and I’m proud of their collaboration with Bay Chamber. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Are we really THAT busy?

Things have been pretty busy around the Five Town CTC offices.  Things at home have been stacking up, too.  When I talk to others, it seems that they have the same story to tell.  Too much to do, too little time to do it all.  How did we get here?

I suppose some of it has to do with the ability of technology to increase the realm of what is feasible.  But some of of it has to do with our American, fiercely competitive nature.  I can get caught up in this, especially at work.  But when I stop to really think about how I spend my time, I often wonder why I choose to do some things rather than others.

My hope for my children (who are all adults now) is that they will do a better job than I have at balancing time spent working, relaxing, and volunteering.  So many adults run from one thing to the next and tend to schedule their children's time the same way.  I am not sure that a lack "down time" is a good thing...are we creating a generation that has to be constantly stimulated to function?  What does this mean for those people who need more time to reflect and process?

How about YOU?  Are you focusing your time and energy on things that are important to you?  On things that you have a decent hope of doing well?  I find that this type of reflection on a regular basis helps me to avoid the creep of things that I feel I should do, but don't devote enough time to.  Being on another committee when I know that I really can't make most of the meetings or devote enough time to the project is probably not going to help either me OR the organization holding the meetings.  Skipping exercise or skimping on sleep compromises my health and makes me less productive overall.

In the spirit of being helpful (and to encourage me to use the process again!) I have decided to share a simple technique that I use when things get really hectic.  Anyone can use it, even youngsters.  Peter Drucker was a champion of this technique, which he called organized abandonment.  In theory, all it takes is an honest inventory of your commitments and the time that it really takes to pay sufficient attention to them.  In practice, it takes having the courage to say, I am not going to do "x" anymore.

I encourage you to try this for yourself, and then if you have children, to examine their lives in the same way.  It can be quite enlightening.

First step is to list all of the activities, clubs, groups, jobs, and relationships that you are a part of.  (Go ahead....make a list.)

Once the list is finished, put down the number of hours per month you actually spend on each thing. Be honest.  (You may have to keep a log for a week or two to get an accurate look at where your time goes, as Laura Vanderkam of the Wall Street Journal pointed out in her recent article.)  Next to that column, put the number of hours you would need to spend on each to give them the attention that they really need. (Not to get by, but to really feel good about what will come of them.)

Next, add things to the list that you know should be there but aren't.  Add in the hours per month that you would need to spend to do them justice.  (Did you add exercise or some type of creative outlet? Cleaning your home or office?)

Once this is filled in, order the items in the list according to their importance to you.  (I hope that time spent with family or friends would make it to the top of the list, as should "you" time and sleep!)

Finally add up your total hours.  Is it more than 720 (including sleep)?  If so, start crossing off things from the bottom of the list until you get to a total that is 720 or less.  Those things that you crossed off are candidates for abandonment.  (To make the process easier, it is important to note that you ARE already cutting things if your list is longer than that many hours.)

I would love to hear back from you if you try this, especially if you took a look at your children's lives!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Breaking the silence on sexual violence


This week's blog contribution comes from Sasha Mackey, outreach advocate with Sexual Assault Support Services of Midcoast Maine.  Five Town Communities That Care strives to promote healthy youth and to reduce adolescent substance abuse, suicide, violence, delinquency, school drop-out, and teen pregnancy.  Here in the Five Towns, we are blessed to have much lower rates of overall violence in our community than many urban areas, but we are by no means violence free.  Sasha gives us a glimpse into a type of violence that most Mainers seldom talk about.

Breaking the Silence... Let’s Talk about it.

Sexual violence - what is it and who does it affect?

Sexual violence is an act of power that violates a person’s trust and feeling of safety.  This happens when someone forces or manipulates another person into any unwanted sexual activity.  Some forms of sexual violence include rape or sexual assault, child sexual assault and incest, intimate partner sexual assault, unwanted sexual contact/touching, molestation, sexual exploitation and sexual harassment. Sexual violence does not discriminate; it affects people of all genders, ages, races, religions, incomes, abilities, professions, ethnicities, and sexual orientations.

Did you know… 1 out of 5 Mainers reported being a victim of rape or attempted rape in their lifetime? (Rubin, 2007)

Chances are you know someone who has been sexually assaulted. 

A common myth that is often portrayed in our media culture, movies and TV is that of a sexual assault occurring late at night, down a dark ally by a complete stranger.  But sexual violence is not just a crime between strangers.  Survivors and offenders are often known classmates, loves ones, family members, neighbors, employers or friends.

Did you know… 11.9% of Maine high school students – 13.3% of girls, and 10.4% of boys – report having been physically forced to have sexual intercourse in their lifetime.

And 19.4% of Maine high school students – 24% of girls and 14.9% of boys – report having been the target of offensive sexual comments at school or on the way to or from school in their lifetime. (Maine Centers for Disease Control. 2010)

What you can do

These statistics are not meant to create fear, but meant only to raise awareness and break the silence that is attached to the issue of sexual violence. 

It is the responsibility of every member in the community to create safe and comfortable neighborhoods.  As parents and leaders in the community we can help by having open and honest discussions with each other and with our youth.  By talking about the issue in a safe and educational way, we get to be in charge of what message is delivered.  The statistics are proof that sexual violence does not go away if we just don’t talk about it.  We can model supportive relationships and behaviors with friends and family.  Trust your feelings, and listen to your “inner voice” if someone’s behavior feels unsafe, unwelcome or uncomfortable.  We can speak up when we hear harmful comments or witness violent acts.  And most importantly, we can stand up for survivors and believe their stories.

Did you know… Help and Support are available in your community.

Survivors of sexual violence can experience a wide range of emotions such as anger, sadness, fear, guilt, shame, doubt and the list goes on.  Some people may act differently and may be come quieter or secluded where others may act out or turn to harmful coping strategies.  If you or someone you know has felt the impact of sexual violence, support is available. 
Your community is supported by the Sexual Assault Support Services of Midcoast Maine.  If you have any questions, concerns or are looking for support, help is just a phone call away. 

Sexual Assault Support Services of Midcoast Maine
24 hour, free and confidential support line number for Eastern Cumberland, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox and Waldo Counties 1-800-822-5999 or from a cell phone, 207-725-1500.

No one deserves to be sexual abused, so let’s work together to break that silence and as a community, we can all…


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Celebrating community, Scout style


The following brief was submitted by Chris Mills, Committee Chair of Pack 200 Cub Scouts, Camden. His account of Scout participation in Five Town CTC's 3rd annual Harvest Hoot festival expresses so well the power of volunteering, of organized clubs, and of community spirit---and is a shining example of how these three elements combine to promote healthy youth in our community.

Five Town CTC wishes to thank all the Cub and Boy Scouts, their parents, and everyone from the Scout community who came out to help with the Hoot! If your organization would like to join with Five Town CTC in promoting healthy youth, give us a call!

Shelley and Finn Mills enjoy the Hoot!

EXTRAORDINARY SCOUTING IN CAMDEN
Pack and Troop 200 were asked by Five Town Communities That Care to coordinate all the kids activities and games at a six-hour family festival (Harvest Hoot) at the Camden Snow Bowl on September 8. We set up paintball slingshot, a Pinewood Derby, a rain gutter regatta, a boat building station, face painting, a craft table, cub cars and three large pine stumps where kids could pound nails to their hearts' content.  Andrew Clement, Scoutmaster, was there with some of his Scouts. He had his trailer set up doing a Dutch oven cooking demo over a fire. The beef stew and chocolate cherry cake, both prepared in Dutch ovens, were gobbled up by anyone who walked by. The Boy Scouts worked hard pulling cub cars up the hill and sitting on the dunk tank ---- a volunteer activity they thoroughly enjoyed.

We had a total of 18 Scouts and 19 adults who volunteered.  All Scouts and Scout leaders were in uniform. It was a perfect opportunity to show the community-at-large what Scouting is all about. The feedback from Five Town CTC has been very positive. The event organizers were amazed at all the activities that we had going on and how well staffed we were. The organizers got a lot of feedback from people attending about how much fun the kids area was. Everything that we offered was free, which made a big impression on the parents.

Our Scouts had a blast both manning stations and participating. It goes to show you that volunteering can be fun and fulfilling.

We made a very good impression on many adults with Scout age children and probably will see some come to our first Pack meeting.

-----Wake and act each day with the understanding that your actions will be absorbed by your children...and your children will grow to be contributing adults to the level of your influence.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Netiquette

Our kids are wired.  Schools, libraries, friend's homes, their bedrooms, and their phones offer access to a wide new world in ways previous generations have never experienced.  Many times, our children are much more "tech savy" than their parents.  This can lead to problems.

Even if you are not the smoothest OS X operator, or adept at using all the apps on your phone, you can still talk to your kids about netiquette (net etiquette).  Discussing what to do if you encounter something you did not intend to view or someone you don't know sending you messages can help defend your child against sexual predators.  Discussing appropriate commenting and how hurtful cyberbullying can be can reduce your child's involvement in it.  Providing tactics for keeping pictures and passwords safe can reduce the degree of victimization your child may experience.

We recommend connecting to Cyberslammed (https://www.facebook.com/Cyberslammed?ref=ts) for lots of great tips on reducing online risks for your child.  There is a great article about netiquette on the Kansas City Star's website, too (http://www.kansascity.com/2012/08/20/3770890/internet-etiquette-can-lower-kids.html).

We cannot assume that just because our kids are sitting in our living rooms that they are safe.  We need to make sure that we give them appropriate skills and tools for safety, just as we would if they were walking about in any big city.  Learn more, take action.  Your kids are worth the time it will take!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Harmless ad?

I often ask parents if they would fast forward a movie through a violent scene if one came on while they were watching with their children.  Then I ask if they would fast forward thru a scene that had "R-rated" sex in it. Many more say they would fast forward thru the sex than say they would fast forward thru the violence.  I find this interesting in that I would HOPE that the parents don't want their children to ever engage in violent behavior, but do want them to have a healthy and rewarding sex life when they are adults in a committed relationship.  Now, I am not advocating for watching risque films with your kids...I am just musing on the things that we tend to ignore as a society.

We are constantly assailed with images and messages about violence, sex, drugs, values.  If you are not talking about these things with your kids, where are they getting the information that they need to make decisions?  Since we cannot remove all of these messages from our children's lives, perhaps we can capitalize on them as opportunities for dialog?

Take this example:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McQFZd9K82g

Harmless good fun, right?  Did you notice the guy with the helium balloon?  Are you aware that quite a few kids DIE from this?  Are you aware that inhalants are a big problem locally?  As a preventionist, I would hope that if you see this ad on TV while your kids are in the room, that you might use it as an opportunity to talk about huffing.  Inhaling anything that wasn't designed to be inhaled is dangerous.  The helium in tanks used to fill balloons comes from sources that do not guarantee the purity of the gas; it is often contaminated with toxins.  Also, kids die every year because they burst their lungs when they try to inhale directly from the tank nozzle. Do your kids have this information?

I would love to hear some examples of ways that you have engaged young people after seeing a "teachable moment" come across the screen or airwaves.  Share them here on the blog, or email me with examples and I can share them anonymously with our readers.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

I'm a data geek...

I like data.  Yup.  I do.  Both quantitative (with numbers) and qualitative (mostly words).  That doesn't make me a bad person.  I do recognize that it probably does put me in the minority, though.

So, I understand that not everyone would be as excited as I was last week when we received a fresh set of data about our community, from a survey given to local students last spring.  The survey asked students about alcohol, drugs, stealing, violence, delinquent behaviors, and the things that are going on in their personal lives, families, community, and schools that influence their decisions about such things.  It is very similar to surveys given to middle and high school students all across the nation, and provides a good glimpse into what is going on.

I am happy to report that although I am in the minority, I am not alone in my excitement.  A group of dedicated fellow data geeks are joining me to take a hard look at that data, and will be preparing a summary of the findings to share with the community in the next month.  This community has had access to the data from this survey for quite some time (our coalition has records from as far back as 2002, taken every two years).  We now have enough information to be able to see what the trends in behaviors are, and what we might need to focus on for the next couple of years. 

The coalition will be sharing bits of interesting information as we go along.  We hope that all of you will join us in discussion about some of the more encouraging and alarming things that we uncover, AND what we can do to keep the encouraging things and to get rid of the bad things.  We have clearly made tremendous progress in many areas related to the mission of Five Town CTC—but there is still a lot of work left to do.

Here is a sneak-peek example: rates of drinking by most youth have gone down, but our rates of binge drinking still remain higher than national averages.  Drinking five or more drinks in a row (which is how binge drinking is defined in these surveys) is dangerous behavior for adults, and even more so for young bodies not yet finished developing (see our post on teen brain development from 2011).

Even if you don't love data, you probably do love this community or the kids in it.  Take a look, and consider coming to a coalition meeting, or stopping by our offices to talk about your take on this.  We would love to hear your point of view!


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bucking the trend on teenage depression... or, why we dance for prevention


Government data released this week reveals that pre-teen and teenage girls suffer from depression at a rate nearly three times that of boys their age. Also, according to the figures released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), as girls mature from 12 to 15 years of age, the percentage who experience depression triples (to nearly one in six).

A depressive episode was defined in the 2008 to 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health as a period of two weeks or longer during which teens experienced a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure, along with other changes in day-to-day function, such as loss of sleep or appetite, or changes in concentration.

SAMSHA Administrator Pamela Hyde stressed the importance of giving teenage girls assistance with coping skills and social support systems to help avoid the onset of depression. Efforts to provide this support she called a “sound investment in girls’ health and well-being and in our nation’s future.”

Through efforts like Communities That Care, our community is able to provide and strengthen the support systems necessary to help our kids develop into healthy adults. Research has proven that preventing adolescent depression and other problems is more effective when it involves the entire social environment.

Here in our community, there are many efforts to reduce the prevalence of depression in our youth.  Parents can sign up for Guiding Good Choices (GGC), which has been shown to reduce depressive symptoms in children of participants (children of GGC participants had 38% lower rates of self-harm and 28% fewer feelings of worthlessness). The Life Skills Training curriculum provided by some of the local middle schools includes lessons on coping skills, and bullying prevention efforts can help relieve some of the pressures facing adolescent girls. Many youth-serving agencies have trained their staff through Gatekeeper Training, and Five Town Communities That Care offers suicide prevention and awareness sessions that include information on depression and warning signs of suicide to any groups in the community who request them.

The Maine Suicide Prevention Program has information on depression and links to many resources.  Your local medical professionals (family doctors and emergency services personnel) have resource directories, and the Maine Crisis Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day (1-888-568-1112).

A community-wide approach to promoting healthy youth focuses on both influencing values, practices and policies that promote a safe and healthy community; and changing the conditions that put children at risk for adolescent health and behavior problems. The ways to do this are varied and vast.  Last week, to get the message across, we danced. Our community works together, learns together, and celebrates success together....

We know that it's far easier to build a healthy child than to repair a broken adult.

 
Five Town CTC Dance Walk: coping skills and social support system at work!
WE are CTC!

Stay connected to your kids, listen... and don't forget to have fun together!
You can't start too early getting your kids involved with a supportive community!


It takes a village... to get a groove on!


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Teen Screen Scene

With summer here and an increase in most Mainer's time spent out-of-doors, questions about teen computer and technology use often arise.  Outgoing Superintendent of schools William Shuttleworth penned a letter to parents urging them to turn off the TV and computers and forbid kids to use them unless the weather turned truly horrid. Others see computers and smart phones as essential to teen social life and wouldn't dream of restricting screen time. Is one perspective more valid than the other?

When thinking about this I came up with some pros and cons, and thought about how much I would whine if you were to take away my computer and smart phone (A LOT)... I suspect that because we are so used to having instant access, it is hard to step away from it.  But when I do, I find that I notice other things.

I am not an expert on the harmful or beneficial effects of being wired, but found that this blog by the folks at Psychology Today had some great stuff in it.  Give it a read!

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/stepmonster/201004/teens-and-the-internet-how-much-is-too-much

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Blah, Blah, Blah

I like to read.  Always have.  I also like to talk (Mom says that I always have liked to do that, too).  As much as I enjoy communicating through the written and spoken word, whenever I am trying to explain a detailed concept, I find that I have a hard time talking without drawing.

According to Dan Roam's book, Blah, Blah, Blah that is not surprising, and is actually GOOD when trying to communicate a complex idea.  Roam makes the argument that we simultaneously process details (which words are great for) and the BIG PICTURE (which, well, pictures are good for).  Most people understand things better if they are getting info from both channels.

Now that I know this, I figure that it is important that I try to practice it a bit here in our blog.  So here goes (please bear with the crude figures...I am going for basic ideas, not high quality artwork!)...

Here at Five Town CTC we often try to explain the idea of risk factors and protective factors for adolescent behaviors.  When lots of risks are present in a kid's life, there is a greater likelihood of a negative outcome.  When protective factors are present, kids can navigate tough situations and still come out OK.  So, perhaps we could compare the teen years to navigating a river system:



Some kids end up on the branches of the river that have hazards (risk factors) like rapids (family conflict) or waterfalls (extreme economic deprivation) or whirlpools (friends who use drugs) or rocks (a community where drug use is the norm).  Caring adults can help to divert them from their current path and get them onto safer streams (reduce those risk factors).


Caring adults can also add protection for those in the stream.  Rather than exposing kids to the riverways naked, we can put a life jacket on them (provide opportunities), give them a boat (teach them skills), or even bundle them up in a high tech helmet and put them in a river raft (ensure bonding to caring, prosocial adults).  Protected kids might even be able to navigate all the river has to offer and come out OK.


To mature all children must navigate the river, but when we are aware of the hazards and what protections we can offer it is more likely they will do so safely—even when we can't remove every hazard.

OK, what do you think?  Does the crude sketch help you understand the idea better, or just confuse things more?  We would love to hear what you think.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Summertime or Party time?

The summer months are upon us, and with them comes the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors.  Summer also brings the close of school, and hours of relative freedom for many teens.  With increased freedom and the allure of beaches, gravel pits, and secluded fields there are bound to be underage parties where alcohol is involved.

First, let me establish why I think underage drinking is risky.  Most humans under age 24 do not yet have adult brains.  The pre-frontal cortex undergoes growth up until this time (and even later in some). Young people between puberty and about age 24 have a higher risk tolerance if there is a possibility of reward (especially for SOCIAL rewards).  In other words, they will do stupid stuff if they think success will get them attention, sex, or other rewards.  When you introduce alcohol into an already risk tolerant individual, you can get some really scary stunts.  (See our November 2011 post.)  Some of these lead to injuries, some to risky sexual behavior and long term social and emotional consequences. The other factor here is that there is evidence that when these developing brains are repeatedly exposed to alcohol or other mind altering drugs, the brains actually develop additional chemoreceptors for alcohol or nicotine or cannabinoids.  This leads to a high risk for dependency as an adult.  Their young livers also process alcohol and other compounds less efficiently than do fully adult bodies.  Bottom line, if you want to reduce the risk of short-term and long-term injury to your children, don't endorse their use of alcohol while they are young.

Most underage drinkers imbibe in groups. According to our local law enforcement officials we have made great strides in recent years in reducing the number of big parties (those with more than 100 kids at them).  This is great, but we still have a long way to go to get the number of youth under 21 who are drinking (and drinking heavily) down.  One way to address this is to discourage even the smaller parties from happening.

The best way to discourage underage drinking is through thoughtful and engaged dialogue between parents and teens.  This includes expressing a sincere desire that your kids not drink at all while they are underage.  (Simply forbidding any behavior without dialogue isn't effective.  Our children need to understand that we care about them and think that underage drinking, not just drinking and driving, is not safe.)

When this method doesn't work, or when we get wind of a planned gathering at another family's property, you can call them and tell them what you heard.  If you find that this would be very awkward for you to do, perhaps a discussion with the parents of your children's close friends when you don't have bad news to break might be in order.  Before it ever becomes an issue, try asking them what they would like you to do if you were to hear about a party at their house or at their camp, and share what you would like them to do if the same were to be true for a party at your property.

If you don't know the other parents, or can't get in touch with them, please consider calling the regional emergency dispatch centers and reporting the potential party.  The earlier you can report it, the more likely that law enforcement can break it up without having to summons anyone.  Ideally, the officers can simply have a conversation BEFORE the party starts, so that it can be avoided all together.  Also, reports to the Knox or Waldo County dispatch centers can be anonymous.  The dispatcher may ask you for your name automatically, but you can leave a report without leaving your name.  (Just state that you would not like to give your name.)  No one—especially local law enforcement—wants to have to make a call about an accident or a bust at a party to parents. They would much rather get word early and be able to keep things from escalating to the point of having to write summons or even worse deal with an accident.

We as community members need to get more involved to prevent young people from habitually using alcohol.  Taking the step of talking to your children, talking to their friends' parents, and reporting parties you get wind of are some of the ways you can help.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

What an idiot!

There’s a lot of anger out there and much vitriol directed at the “stupidity” of people. We see it in partisan politics, internet trolldom, school bullying… At home, we might experience it in sibling rivalries.

“How dumb can you get?” “You’re so stupid!” “What an idiot!”

Don’t agree with someone’s opinion? He/she’s a bonehead. Somebody is slow to cede the passing lane on the highway? Duh! A student needs some extra help in math? Moron!

It seems people are all too eager to point out what and who’s dumb.

Dumb blond jokes. “Fail” videos. The Darwin Awards (saluting “the improvement of the human genome by honoring those who accidentally remove themselves from it”… by doing something fatally “stupid.”). The entertainment value of stupidity is endless, right?

Now, some people deserve our anger: the criminally minded, for example. But stupid? This catchall term has gone too far. And if someone truly does possess a lower-than-average IQ, do we really need to judge him/her?

To those readers who might be asking themselves what all this has to do with prevention, I’ll point to the eroding effect being called stupid has on a child’s sense of self worth. It’s a term that tends to get stuck in the craw. Too often, kids take it to heart, come to believe it—and act in ways to counteract the pain or stigma: alcohol, drugs, delinquency, dropping out of school.

Do you know a child who has been told that he or she is stupid? Can’t do math? Has a hard time with directions? Difficulty reading? Share with them the following on multiple intelligences (and remind them that sticks and stones may break their bones, but names can never harm them!).

There are many ways to be smart!

Howard Gardner’s nine multiple intelligences (as described by PBS.org):
  1.  Linguistic Intelligence: the capacity to use language to express what's on your mind and to understand other people.
  2.  Logical/Mathematical Intelligence: the capacity to understand the underlying principles of some kind of causal system, the way a scientist or a logician does; or to manipulate numbers, quantities, and operations, the way a mathematician does.
  3. Musical Rhythmic Intelligence: the capacity to think in music; to be able to hear patterns, recognize them, and perhaps manipulate them.
  4. Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence: the capacity to use your whole body or parts of your body (your hands, your fingers, your arms) to solve a problem, make something, or put on some kind of production. Think athletes, dancers, actors.
  5. Spatial Intelligence: the ability to represent the spatial world internally in your mind -- the way a sailor or airplane pilot navigates the large spatial world, or the way a chess player or sculptor represents a more circumscribed spatial world.
  6. Naturalist Intelligence: the ability to discriminate among living things (plants, animals) and sensitivity to other features of the natural world (clouds, rock configurations).
  7. Intrapersonal Intelligence: having an understanding of yourself; knowing who you are, what you can do, what you want to do, how you react to things, which things to avoid, and which things to gravitate toward.
  8. Interpersonal Intelligence: the ability to understand other people. It's an ability we all need, but is especially important for teachers, clinicians, salespersons, or politicians -- anybody who deals with other people.
  9.  Existential Intelligence: the ability and proclivity to pose (and ponder) questions about life, death, and ultimate realities.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The sex(t)ual revolution

Trends in technology are engaging kids at younger and younger ages. My adolescent children have an innate sense of how to navigate through email and video games. Years ago, when my grandmother died in her nineties, her education in gadgets got her to the point where she could almost program her VCR. Today, my kids can pull up a video of her on a cell phone and, if they chose to (assuming I would allow it), could with a push of a few buttons send it to all their friends—and/or to anyone else on the planet within reach of a computing device and an internet connection.

These days, it’s that easy to connect… but with such ease comes the risk of putting too much of oneself out there for the world to see.

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, one in five teenagers has engaged in “sexting”—that is, has sent a sexually provocative message or visual image from a cell phone or computer. Another study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy estimated that 22% of teenage girls said they had sent or posed for nude or semi-nude photos. And still another poll found that 44% of high school boys had seen at least one naked picture of a female classmate.

Even if these figures turn out to be off by a few percentage points here or there, they point to a sure trend. Why do kids do it? Some suggest that sexting is just a new symptom of changing attitudes about sex among young people, that casual liaisons and freedom of sexualized expression are the new norm—and this new expression is enabled by (driven by?) the advent of personal, handheld computing devices… just as the sexual revolution of the 1960’s was fired by the invention of the “pill.”

Some of the young women surveyed cited pressure from guys or friends for why they sext. But to many other respondents, sexting is really “not a big deal,” and some see the steady stream of “leaked” celebrity sex photos and videos as evidence that consequences for sexting are often minor. After all, in Hollywood don’t they say that all publicity is good publicity?

With sexting so pervasive and starting so young (six percent of the sexters surveyed began at age nine), parents need to be vigilant. Consequences can be devastating—what might begin as a private image or text shared between boyfriend and girlfriend could wind up shared with all their classmates, their school, their community… the world. When private content reaches the public, the damage can spiral out of control, threatening college admissions or future employment… or worse. 18-year-old Jessica Logan committed suicide in 2008 after her ex-boyfriend forwarded nude images she had sent him to hundreds in their high school.

Legally, sexting can cross a line when private images are transmitted to others. Regional laws often lag behind the pace of technology, with most created to target child pornographers, not the high schoolers who with their errant images might inadvertently provide the content for them. In some instances and in some states, kids who send lewd images (even of themselves) can run afoul of child-pornography statutes, meaning they could be labeled as sex offenders and forced to register as such. (In Maine, juveniles are not subject to registry.)

So, how do we prevent our kids from sexting?

Talk to them openly about the risks and consequences. Stay aware of their friends, their “frenemies,” their crushes. Tell them the buck stops here: if they receive a sexually charged image or text, don’t forward it: that’s as bad as sexting themselves. Emphasize that responsible behavior has an online component.

Adolescents have always pushed boundaries. So has technology. Let’s be sure it doesn’t take our kids to places they don’t want to go.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

You're going to WHAT?

I recently attended a concert featuring a couple of pretty big name bands.  It was an interesting experience, as I had not been to a concert featuring "metal" bands in quite some time.  I fully recognize that I am now firmly established as a member of the middle-aged group, but I must say that I was surprised at the number of people who expressed shock that I would be interested in seeing a live metal concert.

TDC Photography
Our concert-going party included three girls who were not quite 20 and three women who all had adult children.  I hadn't met any of the girls before, and it was obvious that they were curious about how I would handle the event.  We discussed optimal distance from the speakers and stage, watching out for concert goers who were enjoying themselves a tad too much, and the balance between staying hydrated and avoiding the porta potties.

Once in the venue, it was fascinating to see what a mix of people there were.  Plenty of young people, plenty of old, plenty of leather, and quite a few average mom types like me.  As the sun went down it was also fascinating to see how many marijuana smokers were in the audience.  I wasn't surprised to see people light up, but I was surprised to see how many were doing so.

This led, as you may guess, to something of a dilemma for me.  Working in the field of substance abuse prevention might logically preclude my standing in middle of a crowd surrounded by a haze of pot smoke.  I do not smoke marijuana myself, and would much rather that people don't use it, especially around me.  BUT, I sure do love live music.

I chose to stay, but I did do one thing that I felt was necessary to keeping my "prevention" badge.  During a break in the tunes I discussed the pot smoking with the young adults I was with.  We had a good talk about being able to have fun and enjoy the music without being stoned.  We then proceeded to dance, sing, and people-watch the night away.

We can't always escape the negative influences of this world, but we CAN discuss them with the young people who enter our lives.  Staying silent implies that we condone the behavior...staying away can leave us without the opportunity to engage with some pretty interesting young people (and the opportunity to enjoy some spectacular drum battles).

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Art of Fighting Without Fighting

This week's post was contributed by Five Town CTC Board Member, Andrew Lesmerises.

One of my all-time favorite movies is “Enter the Dragon,” starring Bruce Lee.  In this movie he’s on a boat with a group of other fighters heading to an island to compete in a martial arts tournament.  One of the competitors is going around bullying the staff on the boat and the other fighters.  He approaches Bruce and asks him, “What’s your style?”  Bruce replies with, “the art of fighting without fighting.”  When pressed to show him a bit of this style, Bruce tricks him into getting into a rowboat to go to an island where they will have more room than on the crowded boat.  Once the bully is in the rowboat, Bruce lets the line out, thereby isolating the bully from the rest of the people on the boat.  He has thus fought the bully without fighting.

At the martial arts school I run, we spend a lot of time dealing with self-protection.  In our classes we teach the “A,B,Cs of Self-Protection.”  This not only applies to bullies and abduction, but also fitness, nutrition and having a positive self-expectancy.  After all, diabetes, obesity, and depression are all very real risks for everyone.  Five Town Communities That Care also embraces the art of fighting without fighting in their work to keep the youth in our community healthy.

We teach that “A” stands for Awareness.  This is both being aware of external dangers, but also being aware of what we feel.  FTCTC uses awareness by gathering data from the youth in our community via the Maine Youth Drug And Alcohol Use Survey (MYDAUS) to find out what risks our youth are facing.  This means that they aren’t guessing or thinking; FTCTC knows the answer.

“B” stands for Boundary Setting.  In our classes students learn how to use voice and body language to keep a safe distance from dangerous situations.  For FTCTC this means that once the risks are known, they can support or implement programs that have been tested and proven (via scientific evaluation) to either lower the risk or raise protective factors that prevent the risk.

“C” stands for Core Confidence.  In our classes students learn de-escalation skills to defuse conflict or confrontation, and only if absolutely needed, the physical skills to keep themselves or loved ones safe.  FTCTC makes sure that the tested programs that they support or implement are being done properly and having the desired results.  You can go to http://www.fivetownctc.org/our-focus/problem-adolescent-behavior/ to see some of the data for our community.

FTCTC’s goal is to PREVENT the problems that face our youth rather than to fight once the youth is in the grips of the problem. That is fighting without needing to fight!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hanging With My Heroes

This spring has been a fabulous one for me.  One of the contributing factors to the "fab" scale is that I have had an opportunity to spend some face time with the developers of the Communities That Care system.  I am always energized when I can ask questions and listen to them explain the WHY behind what we do when we use CTC to address problem adolescent behaviors.  Drs. Hawkins, Catalano, and Haggerty may not really understand just how much they have positively influenced my life, but they have.  They are heroes to me.

I respect all three of these men not only because of their contributions to our understanding of how to effectively mobilize communities to make a difference in the lives of kids, but because of their passion and dedication to it. They walk the walk.  And they challenge me to as well.

I suspect that I am not the only person out there to have more than one hero.  In fact, I have more than the three mentioned above. As I grew up in midcoast Maine and my perception of the world and my potential place in it matured, new heroes stepped in.  When I was very young my parents and other close family members made up the bulk of the list.  As a teenager several coaches and mentors joined them.  As an adult the list grew wider as professors and community activists were added.  Some people on the list are there because of their ability to support others or to parent with much more grace than I.

In all of these cases, the ability of these people to influence me hinged on one thing...our relationship.  Those who took the time to engage and challenge me have profoundly influenced who I am now.  Having someone that I respect take the time to discuss things, push my thinking, and challenge my biases is a sure-fire way to get me to examine my belief system and perhaps make a positive change.

So why am I sharing this?  Because I want you to consider that YOU are a potential hero.  Young people need heroes and mentors in many dimensions of their lives.  We cannot leave the job of creating heroes to the mass media.  Instead, we need to be brave enough to accept the idea that we can be heroes if we reach out and engage our community's youth.  You don't need to be Superman, Iron Man, Wonder Woman, or Maria Hill to be a hero.  You just need to be a caring, positive role model.  Please consider this a call to duty...will you answer?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll!


This post was contributed by Five Town Communities That Care Development Director, Alex Owre.

For a cliché to represent the absolute in a wanton, risky lifestyle, it’s hard to beat “sex, drugs, and rock and roll.” The troika conjures sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancies, squandered brain cells and overdoses, social deviants in leather pants howling at our kids to reject authority.

But one of these things is not (necessarily) like the others when it comes to promoting healthy behaviors in our children when their brains are screaming for social and emotional rewards that come at ever-greater risk. The perils of risky sex and drug use speak for themselves.

But, as the Lorax speaks for the trees, I must speak up for rock and roll.

Music is a universal language, so the saying goes. Most anyone can make music of one sort or another… especially true if the music is simple—three-chord rock and roll, anyone? And everyone has the capacity to be moved by music. It can inspire us and free us from worry. For many kids who feel they have no other social outlets, listening to or playing music connects them with their peers, gives them a sense of belonging.

Here in America we know that “it takes a village to raise a child.” As cliché as this saying has become (almost as cliché as “sex, drugs, and rock and roll),” let’s not ignore the underlying truth that when it comes to raising healthy kids, it takes a communal effort. Substitute “community” for “village” in that saying, and you have the vision of Communities That Care.

Now consider a common African saying: “A village without music is a dead village.” Almost nothing is more important to the cohesion of the village than song, a force that provides, for the individuals taking part, a sense of belonging to the whole.

At the confluence of these two “village” sayings I see a prescription for healthy communities and healthy kids: let’s encourage our children’s musical aspirations. Celebrate their musical accomplishments. Hold a garage party, and let the band play. We’ll all be better off for it.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Could have been a lost boy…….

This entry was contributed by Five Town Communities That Care Board member (and past chair), Peter Russell.

I had a visible skin rash, I never felt like I belonged with my peers, I was mercilessly bullied by 3 boys (physically) and 4 girls (verbally) from middle school through high school, academically I barely got by, and I was terribly insecure around girls and the cool kids. I found relief with a fringe group of guys that drank beer and smoked cigarettes but were exceedingly smart and articulate.

Thanks to two early mentors, one who was the technical director of our semipro church theater productions and the other my high school English teacher/drama club (including Stage Crew) director, I began to have dreams of working as a technician in professional theater, maybe even Broadway!

It would be that high school teacher that helped me to make the first steps toward my dreams.  By giving me the courage and support to NOT go to college he changed my life forever.

That teacher would also introduce me to my next mentor who started to polish my dreams into achievable goals as I worked very hard for 5 years in the film industry, a sound studio, and many summer stock and national tour productions.

Finally I was in the right place at the right time and partnered with three other men in a fledgling industry called industrial theater.  I spent the next 32 years as Production Manager, Stage Manager and Audio Engineer in what became a successful career.  Oh yes, I got to work on Broadway.

There is just no substitute for young people bonding with caring adults and those adults vesting in the future of those youngsters.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The "good 'ole days"....


This entry was contributed by Five Town CTC Board member Ed O'Brien, a Lincolnville resident and clinician at Harbor Family Services.


Some Five Town locals may know my mother, Diane O’Brien, a resident of Lincolnville for over forty years. During much of that time she has been an avid gatherer of local history; interviewing long-time residents, poring over historical documents and photographs, gathering the stories of the town that was. Since I have returned to Lincolnville and begun raising my own family, I have spent a lot of time talking with my mother in the family’s old farmhouse near the Beach. With her interest in history and my work with youth, our conversations have often focused on historical perspectives of adolescents.

As my parents could attest, I have always challenged the notion of “the good old days.” I have now lived long enough to hear my peers refer to our own upbringing in the‘70’s and ‘80s as “the good old days”- “when children had Respect.” Baloney. Every generation has had positives and negatives. When I look at the world my own children are growing up in, I see both great opportunities, and things that cause me to fear the future. Ibelieve every parent in every generation experienced the same feelings. We have the ability, however, to look at the past and learn lessons that might help youth today.

Reading the stories my mother has gathered, I do see a common theme in the families of the past. Due in a large part to necessity, youth were an integral part of the community. They were involved in all areas of the family and the community as active participants- working on the farms, taking care of younger children, making deliveries for the family business. They were visible, and adolescent culture was not as separate from adult culture. Because of this visibility, potential issues could be recognized earlier, and dealt with before a problem developed.

To me, it is not a matter of putting kids to work, or eliminating the youth culture- we have child labor laws for a reason, and adolescence is no longer simply a brief or non-existent interlude between childhood and productive adulthood. But I do see this visibility of youth in the community as something we can do a better job with. If we can find more ways to involve youth with the adult world, I think the entire community can benefit. We have some great programs for youth, but too often they turn into ways to keep youth off the streets and invisible. We need to find more ways to integrate,to recover a positive piece of the community preserved in black and white photographs.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A little history...

Previously we had promised to provide more information about the history of Five Town CTC between our start in 2003 and present day. We will pick up the story in this week's installment:


During the remainder of 2003 and the first quarter of 2004, Five Town CTC continued with a series of 7 formal training sessions in the CTC system. Five Town CTC members analyzed data, surveyed other community members, and explored potential prevention programs that had been shown to be effective at addressing what the data told us were our underlying causes of youth issues here.  In the spring of 2004, we launched our first programs. Math Mentors was aimed at reducing low commitment to school, and STAR was aimed at improving community recognition of the positive contributions our local youth make.  The additions of these programs meant hiring staff, and the size of the organization grew.

After several years of growth under the YMCA, Five Town CTC's volume of operations began putting a strain on the administrative systems, and (with the YMCA's blessing) we transitioned over to the Five Town CSD's umbrella in 2006.  Our continued growth led us to incorporate as a 501(c) 3 organization in 2007 and to step out as an independent agency in 2009.

As time went on, more programs were added to the community's suite of effective prevention strategies.  Five Town CTC provided support for implementation, training, and evaluation for such programs as Life Skills Training and the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program delivered by local school staff.  The Five Town CTC Coalition's skills and capacity to help other organizations continued to grow, and a fledgling consulting arm was born.  Consulting was provided free of charge here in the Five Towns and for a fee elsewhere.

The research into whether CTC was effective drew considerable attention when the first results (for students in the study group when they were in grade 8) were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine in September 2009.  Five Town CTC was asked to help provide a local, community perspective for media and other researchers who were curious about Communities That Care, and through this opportunity Five Town CTC was thrust into the national spotlight.  ABC news ran a piece on the efforts here and federal officials hosted a "National Town Hall meeting."  In October of 2011, a second article highlighting newly analyzed results from data on the youth participants when they were in grade 10 was also published in JAMA's Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.  In between the these two publications a paper was published in Prevention Science on an independent study by Penn State researchers which found similar results from Pennsylvania groups using CTC.  A national "buzz" about CTC can now be heard and requests for consulting services related to CTC have increased.

Funding for local efforts still comes from a combination of grants, foundation support, and local donations.  The Drug Free Communities Support Program provides $125K per year to support the coalition and environmental strategies, but cannot be used to pay for direct-service programming.  This particular grant was awarded in 2008 and was for five years.  Our first round of funding will end in September of 2013; we will be eligible to compete for one additional round of funding from this source.  We had funding to support implementation of our STAR program from Maine's Juvenile Justice Advisory Group for four years, but ended in 2011.  We continue to seek grants to replace this $75K per year funding stream so that STAR can be offered again in the fall of 2012.  We are also looking to increase contributions from Five Town community members who understand the importance of supporting this work. 

Our offices have moved about the community over our eight year history—from the Penobscot Bay YMCA to a room on Washington Street, to a space-sharing arrangement with Midcoast Martial Arts, and finally to our current home at 219 Meadow Street in Rockport.  We encourage you to drop by for a visit, especially if you have any questions about where we came from or where we think we are going!  Give us a call, or take a chance and stop on by.  We would love to hear from you.


Friday, March 16, 2012


Dad, Where are My Pants?

I am not a great morning dad. Getting my kids ready for and off to school stresses me out. I look for my son’s pants (found in his drawer) as I mutter into my coffee cup. I tell my daughter who is yelling at me from upstairs that her breakfast is ready. With precious few minutes to go before we need to get in the car, I can become a manic impostor of my better self.
At a time when the books “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom” and “Bringing Up Bebe” are grabbing headlines for their portrayals of uber-effective parenting, my book title is “Dad Needs Coffee More Than You Need Pants”, or “Ignore my Morning Whimpering and Please Ace that Math Test”.
Publicity-burnished models of parenting can be inspiring (more the Michael Landon father figure on Little House on the Prairie than the Tiger Mom, for me); we can strive for the ideal, but what we see offered up on TV or in best-selling books can also be defeating if we feel we’ll never measure up.
Fortunately, I have a realistic sense of where I stand in my parenting skills, and I know that I am not alone in having bad days. There are other grumbling coffee-clutchers in my circle of friends, just as there are those who are graceful and naturally kind in the morning. We share our stories. We laugh, we learn a few new techniques here and there---but perhaps most importantly, we come to understand when it comes to parenting just how normal we are. I mean this in the best possible way. Most of us are not 100% on our A-game every day. We do our best. We make mistakes. We learn. We move on.
Understanding what is normal behavior is crucial not only to peace of mind, but it also helps determine how we act. In the prevention field, we see this phenomenon in the social norms approach, an environmental strategy increasingly used in public health campaigns.
The social norms approach is based upon the belief that individuals incorrectly perceive that the attitudes or behaviors of others are different from their own, when in reality they are similar. It is largely because individuals assume the most memorable, often extreme, behavior is representative of the behavior of the majority. This assumption may lead individuals to adjust their behavior to that of the presumed majority. This effect has been verified for substance abuse and other destructive health behaviors, notably on high school and college campuses, but also within communities in general.
Prevention practice relies on assumptions. If we highlight the positive behaviors of the majority---the great number of teens who don’t drink compared to the smaller number who do, say---we color the perception of what it means to be normal. When kids understand that NOT “everybody is doing it,” they have a better foundation from which to say “No” to drugs and alcohol.
As for our family, luckily my wife is great in the morning. My kids know that I’m not at my best before school—but they also know that I will be fully there for them in the afternoon and evening. Play time, homework, dinner, bed time… Dad’s all over it.