The Power of Youth Development and Recovery Supports: A “Girls Matter!” Webinar

The Power of Youth Development and Recovery Supports: A “Girls Matter!” Webinar


Welcome to Youth Development and Recovery
Supports for Girls. This is the final webinar in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration, SAMHSA, Girls Matter Webinar Series. I’m Deborah Warner, or Deb Warner,
the project director for SAMHSA’s TA and training on women and families impacted by substance
use and mental health problems project, and I’m honored that SAMHSA has invited me to
serve as your moderator for the webinar series. This webinar is supported by the Substance
Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, SAMHSA, and the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services, DHHS. The contents of the presentation do not necessarily reflect
the views or policies of SAMHSA or DHHS, and, of course, this webinar should not be considered
a substitute for individualized client care or treatment decisions. During and after the
webinar, join the conversation using social media. To join the conversation about girls’
behavioral health, use #girlsmatter2014 on Facebook and Twitter. Also, please go to the SAMHSA Facebook page
and respond to the Girls Matter postings and tell us about your work with girls. I want
to say thank you to Sharon Amatetti, SAMHSA’s women’s issue coordinator, and Kana Enomoto,
SAMHSA’s associate administrator for women and principal deputy administrator for their
leadership in creating the Girls Matter Webinar Series. I also want to acknowledge the SAMHSA’s
women’s coordinating committee, the adolescent grant providers, and their work in developing
the series. And also give a special thank you to Danielle Tarino for her insights and
contribution. Through this series, SAMHSA has created a venue for gathering and disseminating
information on the needs of adolescent girls, improving the workforce and bringing together
national experts and leaders across disciplines to inform our behavioral health care. The
response has been overwhelming. Leaders, providers, peers, parents, and partner agencies have
all expressed excitement and recognition that there is a gap and we need to address the
concerns of adolescent girls, that girls matter. This is the sixth of the webinars. Each of
the Girls Matter webinars discusses key topics of concern to girls, and the recordings are
available to on YouTube and also through the healthyknowledge.org e-Learning website for
CEUs. The other five webinars have included “Growing up Girl,” which discussed adolescent
development, the unique challenges facing girls; “Girl in the Mirror,” which looked
at behavioral health challenges of adolescent girls; “Substance Use Trends, Challenges,
and Opportunities, looking at girls substance use and strategies for addressing substance
use; and included in that presentation, which is also directly related here was a discussion
on recovery schools. “Digital Girls Connection and Disconnection” talked about the role of
social media in girls’ lives, as well as opportunities and challenges to behavioral health, and “Sanctuary
and Supports for Girls in Crisis” discussed the impact of trauma and approaches of helping
high-risk/high-needs girls towards wellness, which brings us to our webinar today. Today we’re focusing the series on Youth Development
and recovery supports for girls, and I’m especially excited about this particular webinar. I think
it will serve as a nice closing for the series, drawing on some information we’ve discussed
in other sessions and building a strong message of hope and inspiration. While we were talking
about the topics for these sessions, SAMHSA identified some common important threads,
hear girls voices, speak to the lasting issues that matter the girls, make the content relevant
to the workforce. We also spoke with girls in development of this series, and the girls
really talked about the pressures they faced, the stigma, the need for respect and opportunity
to grow, and coming together. We also sought to bring together information that is relevant
across the behavioral health field, including prevention and continuance of care, and this
section offers important content for everyone working with girls. I’m going to spend a couple
more minutes talking and introducing our topic and then introduce our panel. As we discussed in depth in the Growing Up
Girl webinar, adolescence is an important developmental stage. Adolescence is defined
as the period in life when most of a person’s biological, cognitive, psychological and social
characteristics are changing in an interrelated manner from what is considered child like
to what is considered adult like. So during adolescence everything is about change, and
change is not easy. Dr. Stephanie Hawkins talked about the adolescent job description,
and I think this is helpful, as you consider any girls you work with, any youth development
and recovery supports paradigm. Adolescent girls are defining themselves as a separate
person from others, especially parents. They’re developing and practicing their own values,
coping with body changes and sexual feelings — I’m not sure coping is the right word,
but — and preparing to function in the outside world. These are the things that adolescents
are doing and learning and growing as they go through the adolescence period. So you can see that common thread around change
and development across what adolescents are doing, and youth development is really aimed
as supporting adolescents in this effort. Recovery and recovery supports is the other
piece that we’ve put together, and it’s unusual to bring youth development recovery supports
together into one conversation. SAMHSA, over the last several years, has had a recovery
supports initiative and a focus on building a recovery framework. They brought stakeholders
together to develop a working definition of recovery, common recovery principles, and
the working definition of recovery is similar in some ways to that of the adolescent job
description. Recovery is a process of change through which individuals improve their health
and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential. So recovery
is also about change. Often it involves changing one’s lifestyle, separating from unhealthy
relationships and environments, and learning healthy coping skills. A mentor of mine had
a saying that you never want to take something away from someone without offering something
to replace it. So part of recovery is letting go of these
old ways and replacing them with new relationships, environments, coping skills, and attitudes.
SAMHSA also identified four primary dimensions of recovery; home, health, purpose, and community,
each of which will be touched upon today as it relates specifically to girls. So that’s
kind of that place of why youth development, why recovery supports. The other piece that
I just want to weave back in here a little bit is going back to the girl-specific part,
the for girls. And this session brings together that youth development recovery supports.
This other layer of making it really unique is the focus on girls. Adolescent girls and
adolescent boys may be more similar than they are different, but there are sex and gender
differences which need to be considered when developing strategies to support adolescent
girls. In the Girl in the Mirror webinar, Dr. Steve
Hinshaw introduced the triple bond. His research is primarily focused on ADHD. But while he
was working on a large research study, he noted that the girls had some common characteristics
and experiences that were very different from those of the boys. He spread his research
further, looking at all girls, and identified a significant stressor in the lives of girls
that he called the “triple bind.” The first piece is that girls are expected to be nurturing,
kind, and care giving, much of that old pattern. The next is that girls now, with the increases
in opportunities that have really emerged in the last 20 years, are expected to compete
academically and athletically and show assertiveness and ambition, so that piece around building
and being successful in the community, that external world, girls are now expected to
succeed, but they’re still supposed to be nurturing and kind and care giving. And then the third piece is that girls must
conform to narrow unrealistic standards, effortlessly with appearance crucial. So you’re supposed
to be successful and nice, while looking hot and without sweat is the way that he puts
it. So that creates a huge amount of stress for adolescent girls specifically, and it
shows up as they’re working towards their developments, as they’re working towards recovery.
There are other webinars which have talked about girls unique experiences and creating
age and gender responsive approaches, but I wanted to give some concrete background
so you can percolate this throughout our session. And now I want to go ahead and introduce the
Youth Development Recovery Supports for girls and our panelists. We’re going to hear from Karen Pittman, a
national thought leader on youth development, for approximately 20 minutes. Following that,
we’ll have some questions for Karen, and then we’ll hear from a panel of national leaders
who are also young women in recovery. Sarah Nerad, Courtney Lovell, and Lacy Kendrick
Burk, and we’ll close with a panel discussion. So now let me introduce Karen Pittman. Karen
is the President and CEO of the Forum for Youth Investment. She is a respected sociologist
and leader in youth development. Prior to co-founding the forum in 1998, she launched
adolescent pregnancy prevention initiatives at the Children’s Defense Fund, started the
Center for Youth Development and Policy Research, and served as senior vice president at the
International Youth Foundation. Karen was involved in the founding of America’s Promise
and directed the President’s Crime Prevention Council during the Clinton Administration.
Karen, are you ready to begin? I am, thank you. So first of all, let me just
thank you for inviting me to kick off this conversation. I do think that it’s very important
that both in this last webinar that you’re doing we’re really bringing youth development
into the conversation about recovery. It doesn’t happen often enough, so congratulations for
having the foresight to do that. Let me just start off with a description of Youth Development.
This was developed by the Federal Interagency Work group on youth programs, and it’s important
to note that there actually is a Federal Interagency workgroup. These happen every now and then.
This one really has followed on a long tradition of bringing the agencies together across governments
to really look at the philosophy behind the myriad of youth programs that exist in the
agency. At any given point, there are probably over 300 federal programs very specific in
nature that are addressing young people from the ages of early childhood up through young
adulthood. And having this kind of a frame behind it
and having a workgroup that stepped back to look at that frame is really very important.
So the definition — and you have it on the screen, I’ll just emphasize some of the pieces.
First, is that youth development really is intentional and pro social approach that really
engages young people in the context of their places where they spend their time, their
schools, communities, organizations, peer group, and family, and engages them specifically
in a manner that’s productive and constructive. So when we look at a lot of youth work practice
as it’s been developed along the way, it really is focusing on how we create those productive
constructive environments that recognize young people’s strengths and that promote positive
outcomes by providing not just services and supports but opportunities and fostering positive
relationships, and then really building on those leadership strengths and some of the
themes that were just discussed. The idea that frequently we don’t connect recovery
and treatment to youth development is one that we want to look at, and so in the next
slide that should pop up in a moment, we’ll look at the idea that from the youth development
perspective, when we started talking about youth development 20, 30 years ago, we found
it useful to really use these four themes, and they built over time. First, addressing youth problems is critical,
and when we look especially at federal policy, most federal policies, other than education,
are really focused on addressing youth problems, whether that’s pregnancy, it’s substance abuse,
it’s homelessness, it’s young people who are unemployed. But we know that problem free
isn’t fully prepared. And the ideas about youth development sort of just feed into the
policy frame when we started asking about the implications of only defining success
for young people in terms of the absence of problems, as opposed to actually the presence
of a sign that young people really weren’t fully prepared for college, for work, for
life, for whatever they were deciding to do next. Then we realized that even talking about
preparation wasn’t enough, that for young people to really succeed and fulfill their
potential and fulfill their dreams they had to not only be fully prepared but fully engaged,
and that put further obligations back on us, if we go back to that theme, that we’re not
just helping young people build content knowledge and build skills but we’re helping them figure
out meaningful ways to actually apply those skills in real life towards the directions
where they want to go. So the idea of moving from just a not seeing
these as either or but both and, we can work up and down these. We certainly have young
people who are fully engaged and well prepared who are struggling with problems and need
to be in recovery, but we also have young people that too often, need to be working
across this continuum, and that’s why that continuum is so important. Another way to
think about this is to think about, again, how we look at supports when they’re provided,
especially when they come along with public funding, and we know that those supports come
in pieces. We talk about pregnancy prevention, we talk about violence prevention and delinquency
prevention, unemployment, substance abuse, illiteracy, homelessness. All of those are
very often very specific programs and objectives that we have for young people. And when we have them, what we’re finding
is that if we focus too narrowly on the specific supports that are associated with the problem
that we’re trying to prevent we don’t really bring that full perspective of what it takes
for young people to be fully prepared and fully developed in place. So years ago we
developed what we call the “donut” to really suggest that while we may be running programs
or advocating for policies that have a specific risk factor associated with them, when we’re
actually working with young people — and I think you’re going to hear this very clearly
when we hear the rest of the panelists — when we’re working with young people, we need to
make sure that we’re providing those core supports and opportunities that really are
what get young people engaged, what get young people supported and developing so that they
move past that immediate goal of addressing the problem and they become civically engaged,
they are physically healthy and well, they’re ready for work and they’re ready for postsecondary
education, if that’s their goal. So that’s just the third graphic that we’ve
used to try to tie together the themes that go from treatment and recovery through prevention
into preparation and then finally participation in family and civic life, as well as in employment.
In 2002, for those of you who want to sort of go back and do a quick summary review of
what we know about youth development, the National Research Council issued a report,
which for folks in the youth development community, really was a pretty big deal. And this was
a report called “Community Programs to Promote Youth Development,” and was issued in 2002,
in part, because at that time, after a lot of sort of advocacy from outside saying we
needed the research pulled together, the National Research Council was convinced that there
was enough research looking at youth programs, looking at family support programs, looking
at programs that reflected places where young people spent their time, that there was enough
of that research available that they could look across these studies and find out what
the trends and what the patterns were. But one of the big takeaways in this report
reinforced what we’ve been talking about, that reducing or preventing youth problems
and promoting youth strengths are both important goals, and this report was really critical
because you had the National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council essentially telling
us that we needed to do both of these things at the same time. The second takeaway that
came from the report really affirmed that while cognitive development is critical, it’s
just one of a range of important developmental domains that predict adult success and that
we need to be paying attention to young people’s physical development, their intellectual development,
their psychological and emotional development, as well as their social development. And if you look at some of the words underneath
those big headings, you’ll see a lot of the things that are really what these days people
talking about, social emotional skills or soft skills, but things that are really critical
moving from recovery up through preparation, up through participation, critical thinking
and decision-making, self regulation, time management, really figuring out how to have
a sense of purpose and sense of place, especially as you navigate different environments, and
we can come back in the discussion and look at what some of those are and how they relate,
in particular, to girls and girls’ recovery and development. The third takeaway from this important study
really was acknowledging — and this again was a big deal — that the settings where
young people spend their time have to be high quality if we’re going to achieve any goal,
whether it’s recovery, preparation, participation, and they really looked across the research
and pulled together this very important list of what really are the definitions of quality
settings where young people spend their time. They clearly have to be physically and psychologically
safe, and that second word of psychological safety is one that we can’t over emphasize.
They have to have the appropriate kinds of structure for young people’s age and developmental
progression. They need to really focus heavily on building supportive relationships. They
have to have opportunities for young people to belong, and they have to really make sure
that young people have opportunities to matter and to build skills. And so that list really did provide an important
basis for us to talk about what it means for young people to have the supports that they
need to grow and develop in the places where they spent their time. The second piece of
research that came out about a decade ago, which has really galvanized what we know about
youth development and made it practical, was essentially the research done by Gambone and
Connell that looked across several large longitudinal studies and they did a meta analysis. And
they asked the question, first of all, when we look at young people from early adolescence,
let’s say 13 or 14, into their early 20s, 23/ 24, when we look longitudinally, what
does it really need to be doing well for these young adults? And they looked across a range
of variables, and they put them into three categories that are quite relevant and practical.
One was that young people needed to be productive, and by the time you’re a young adult, productive
means you’re attending college or you’re working steadily or you’re in some sort of training
program. They needed to be healthy, and that’s defined both as physically healthy and having
good health habits and healthy relationships, and they needed to be connected to something
broader than themselves, so whether that’s volunteering, being politically active, being
active in a religious organization or institution, they needed to have some sense of connectedness. When they looked at that, what they found
was that according to those basic definitions, which, when you road test them, are what most
people would say are pretty practical ways of being defined as sort of being ready or
doing well, what they found was that only four out of ten young people as young adults
were doing well, and two out of ten of them were actually having real difficulty. They
hadn’t graduated from high school. They were on welfare. They were engaged in unhealthy
relationships or had real health issues working with risky behaviors, or they were disconnect
to the point that they were committing illegal activity once a month. So four out of ten
were doing well, two out of ten were really in trouble. And one of the things that’s interesting was
that as we took those ideas out to communities and road tested them, rarely did we find a
community that thought that their kids were doing significantly better. So this idea that
once we can define in simple terms what doing well means, gives us a real threshold for
understanding and galvanizing communities around wanting to do better. So the research
that they did became really important, because not only did they help us define what doing
well meant, they were able to take those ideas to the National Research Council and ask the
question, if young people have the supports that they need, for example, supportive relationship,
if they have the supports that they need consistently from early adolescence through young adulthood,
does it matter? And what they found was it matters a huge
deal; that for young people who were entering high school, if they had supportive relationships
with peers and adults throughout their high school years, they were five times more likely
to leave high school ready than those who had weak or unsupportive relationships. And
by leaving high school ready that meant not just a diploma, that meant actually leaving
with a pretty good grade point average, leaving with a plan that you knew what you were going
to be doing next, leaving the skills to move into the next thing and do well, and that,
in fact, those young people who came out of high school ready were then four times as
likely to do doing well as young adults. So what that meant was that when they looked
overall at how young people were doing, if every young person had come into — that came
into high school had those supportive relationships, got those challenging experiences, built the
skills that we know are important, if they had those opportunities throughout their high
school years, we could change the numbers from four out of ten doing well to seven out
of ten doing well, and from two out of ten young people really having difficulty to one
of ten. And those are pretty big changes to have,
and just because we change the level of supports that young people have in their environment.
So if we go to the next slide, I just wanted to reinforce that as we look at some of the
specific research on girls — and this is from the National Criminal Justice Reference
Service, it’s data from a girls study group that was convened by OJJDP, and, again, they
did sort of a meta analysis looking across lots of different studies and identified the
kinds of behaviors that seem to be associated or the kind of supports that seem to be associated
with changes in behavior that we want to change, and you can see where the arrow is that when
young people have caring adults in their lives, it has a significant impact, as well as young
people obviously having the supports to be successful in school. Those are the two main
things that really developed those protective factors that helped young people either avoid
delinquent behavior or begin to make changes in their lives, and we can come back and talk
a little bit about that. Moving on, just to sort of wrap things up
a bit and bring this into what can we do, if we take those three ideas, are productive,
connected, and healthy and safe, and put them together — one of the things that Deb just
mentioned was this idea of being relevant. And that trio of young people being socially
and civically connected, really building, being emotionally and physically healthy and
safe and having those kinds of skills that help them be productive is really validated
by employers and validated by resiliency research and building those skills, those social and
civic skills in the middle, not just making sure young people have credentials is not
only critically important to recovery, it’s critically important to success. Even when
we looked at young people who have high school diplomas, four in ten employers report — or
employers report that four out of ten of the young people who show up with high school
diplomas don’t have the skills that they need to be ready for work. So when we’re building skills in recovery,
we’re building stills that are not only linked to helping make sure young people make those
positive transitions to different bases and realize that they’re also successful. Linking
back to this discussion about quality and why when we’re putting programs together it’s
so important to pay attention to quality and how quality is really linked to the kind of
skills that young people are building, sort of another big study that was done, this one
a little later, in about 2008, looked across a broad range of afterschool and youth programs,
not specifically focused on young people who were having major difficulties but a broad
range of programs that had a variety of young people, middle and high school age in them,
and what they found was that if you looked at the programs in general, they have a modest
effect on whether young people were building these kinds of social and emotional skills,
or whether young people were improving in school or reducing evidence of problem behaviors,
but when they separated the programs into two piles, those who were — those programs
that really met high quality standards, and they used the acronym SAFE, the programs were
sequential. They were teaching activities through a sequence of activities to get the
skills. Young people were actively involved in really
practicing those skills in ways that were meaningful. There was focus time on skill
development, and there was an explicit definition of the skills that young people were building.
When programs met those criteria — if you look at the little boxes with the check below
— you found that they really had a significant impact on all of the dealings and behaviors
and skills that we wanted young people to have, and when they were in low-qualify programs,
they didn’t. So it’s a basic idea that quality really does matter. Another way to think about
quality is to think about Maslow’s needs hierarchy, which most of us know that the programs really
need to start by being safe and then supportive and then engaging, interactive, and then they
really do need to have high levels of young people being actively engaged and making choices
and reflecting and in moving out from the program into their community. When we had
those things in place, and the good news is not only that quality matters but that we
can actually measure quality in programs, and we can improve quality in programs. And this is a slide from the Weichert Center,
which happens to be a part of the forum which uses program assessment tools and observation
of folks working in programs to help practitioners improve their skills. Why, again, I think
that’s so important as we come back to talking about recovery is that when we look at those
recovery principles that SAMHSA has developed, recovery really is supported in environments
that create these kinds of supports and opportunities for young people to participate. So recovery
is safe, supported by addressing trauma, culturally based and influenced, holistic. You’ve got
to have peers. You have to have relationships and social networks. There has to be a culture
of respect. The interaction has to be there so that young people have multiple pathways
to look for how they’re going to recover, and we have to have connections to individual
family and community moving back and forth, and then, again, this idea of engagement,
that it has to be person driven, that young people have to be engaged in developing not
only skills and competencies but a sense of hope, and those are really all signs of what
not only a good recovery program is but signs of what a good overall program is. So that when we look, in general, at the idea
of as we build programs and settings where young people spend their time and are really
looking to get towards pathways where they’re moving forward, we need to be looking at this
idea of quality, and we need to be doing it in the context of making sure that there’s
engagement, making sure that skills are being built, and then making sure that that whole
effort of building a quality environment in which young people are actively engaged and
they are naming and building the skills that they need for recovery and for larger success,
that when they do that and they move forward, that they’re able to take those skills out
into the other environments in which they’re going to be spending their time. And so the last two slides, if we can get
them up, that I’ll talk about, and that’s the slide that’s up now, is really talking
about that progression from building a quality environment to making sure engagement is happening,
making sure that we’ve named those skills and have allowed for enough time for those
skills to really be practiced and internalized, and then helping young people make sure that
they have the confidence to take those skills that have been built and take them out into
other settings. It’s important to recognize that we’re doing this in multiple environments,
if we get to the next slide, and that’s not just school and it’s not just prevention programs,
it’s in workforce training programs if we’re helping young people move into employment
or move into higher ed, and as you have young people that are also moving or connected somehow
to the juvenile justice system or the child welfare system — I think one of the panelists
is going to talk about young girls who are in foster care — it’s important that we really
are explicit about talking about the need to build and reinforce these skills in all
of these systems, that’s not just in the prevention, recovery programs that we should be doing
this. They should be practiced across the way. And one of the reasons that this is so important
is that it really is critical, and there’s an increased amount of research that says
it’s really critical that building these core social emotional skills is important for recovery,
it’s important for preparation, it’s important for participation, it’s important for achieving
most of our broad social policy goals, as well as most of our broad community goals,
then we have to figure out how we’re revamping practice to support social emotional skill
development. And that means that we have to be partnering with practitioners who really
understand how to build these skills. We have to think much more about professional development
and training. We have to think about what it is that we can do to both monitor and assess
whether young people are in environments in which these skills are being built and reinforced
and that practice is there. So as we’re listening and talking about what we can do to support
girls who are in recovery, it’s important to recognize that the settings in which they’re
spending their time are not just settings in which services are being provided but they’re
settings in which these skills are being built. And the last slide just, for me, sums up what
I think is the overall theory of change that the forum uses, which essentially is to say
if we’re trying to improve the lives of young people by improving their ability to be productive,
to be connected, to be healthy and safe, then we have be looking more carefully at the quality
and the coordination of family, school, and community supports. And I hope one of the
things that we’ll talk about in discussion is how all these things fit together in young
people’s lives, because we leave the responsibility of navigating between systems to young people,
especially by the time they get to be teenagers, and we need to spend more time understanding
whether those supports are coordinated, whether they’re high quality, whether they’re accessible,
and then, overall, whether young people are actually using them, and whether they’re well
attended. And that means that when we get up into that
small gear, that leadership gear, that we have to be thinking about how we’re building
broader partnerships across organizations and systems and settings so that we have common
goals and we can share important data, and that’s a whole conversation we could have
about what we need to do, leaving confidentiality issues aside, what it is we need to do to
be able to really share data so that we can fully support young people and their families,
and then take actions to make sure that, from a policy perspective and an advocacy perspective,
young people have the supports that they need. So I will stop there — that’s been 20 minutes
of a lot of talking — and see if there are comments and questions. Great. Thank you, so much, Karen, and what a great
overarching kind of overview presentation. We do have a couple of moments for questions,
and a couple of questions that came in. This question asks, how can girls, especially younger
adolescents, be aware about peers who have negative or risky influences? How can they
be aware of peers that have negative or risky — That’s what it says. So maybe sifting through
the positive or negative peer influences. Yeah. Well I think one of the things that’s
really important for us to do, and I do agree with the slide that you had up earlier, that
it’s especially hard for girls to sort of navigate — what did you call it, that “triple
bind.” When we build these skills and behaviors and we spend more time talking to young girls,
in particular, about the difference between being assertive and being aggressive, and
being passive, those are discussions that are really important for young girls to have
and to practice so that when they find themselves in situations with peers that may be bad influences,
they’re able to actually handle those situations better. And I know that in an earlier conversation,
about a month ago, that I had about the connection between youth development and teen pregnancy,
one of the panelists was actually demonstrating the terrific results that she’s gotten by
being very explicit about helping young girls actually practice and recognize situations
in which it’s appropriate to be assertive about who you are and what you want and what
you will do and what you won’t do. And that that really requires practice, and that may
be something that girls need to practice more than boys. Great. Thank you. And then this person asked,
“How do we go about creating these safe environments for girls, given the pressures girls experience?”
Well I think one of the things — we can start in some pretty basic ways about asking where
is it that girls want to spend their time, because one of the things we know, especially
when we get to adolescence, is if we create the environment, they don’t necessarily come.
So we need to start by asking — finding out where young girls do spend their time, who
they spend their time with, where they spend their time, and then working with the adults
and even the older young people in those environments to see if they’re prepared and willing to
be coaches and mentors and understand some of the responsibilities associated with really
helping young girls grow and develop. Creating safe environments starts by identifying environments
in which young people, in this case girls, actually want to spend their time or have
to spend their time. If we’re talking about either schools or foster care or, you know,
juvenile settings in which young people are required to spend their time, it’s even more
important to get into those settings and make sure that people who are in those settings
have the right kind of training to create safe environments, physical and emotional
safety. Okay, great. Thank you, Karen. And we’ll hear again from Karen towards the
end after our panel presentations when we do a discussion. Next, I’m excited to introduce
Sarah Nerad. Sarah is the founder and managing partner of PTR Associates where she focuses
on bridging the gaps among prevention, treatment, and recovery, with a focus on youth. She was
one of the founding members of Young People in Recovery and actively involved in the 2013
SAMHSA Bringing Recovery Supports to Scale Youth Summit. She has also served as a SAMHSA
intern in the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment’s, Department of Consumer Affairs. She is currently
pursuing dual graduate degrees in public administration and social work at Ohio State University,
where she helped create the Ohio State Student Wellness Center’s Collegiate Recovery Community
and Recovery House. Sarah, are you ready to begin? I am. Thank
you. Hi, everyone, my name is Sarah Nerad, and I am a young person in long-term recovery,
which means that I have not used drugs or alcohol since August 16 of 2007, and that
means that my life has completely taken on new meaning and a new purpose. And I have
found that what I really want to do in life is create the same opportunities that I had
to initiate sustained recovery for others. So it’s such an honor to have been chosen
to speak on this webinar with you about my experience as a young woman in recovery who
entered recovery as an adolescent. And I think it’s just so important that SAMHSA and the
Girls Matter Initiative has made this a priority and is focusing on it. So it took a lot for
me to enter recovery. As you can see on the screen, I mean there
was formal treatment, institutions. I went back multiple times, and then I had a lot
of recovery supports after I got out of formalized treatment. And a really crucial piece for
me was this IOP counselor that I had. Her name was Miss Adrienne. We could have not
have been more opposite, but she not only really understood youth recovery but she understood
girls, young girls, what a 17-year-old girl cared about. Because at 17, the things that
mattered to me was what clothes I was wearing, what social group I was in, what I was doing
on a Friday and a Saturday night, you know, if I was popular or not, what I looked like,
what I was doing for prom. I mean that was just — besides drugs and alcohol, that was
the stuff that I really cared about. And for a long time, it was the struggle to kind of
blend that with my recovery. And this woman got it, and she worked with me to really figure
out how these new recovery principles fit with still being an adolescent girl. And just
because I entered recovery at a young age does not mean that that first year of my recovery
was pleasant. There was definitely a lot of struggles still and a lot of growing up that
I had to do, and I think it’s so crucial that those who work with young girls who are entering
recovery understand that and they’re supportive of that. And she worked with my family to help understand
where I was developmentally, where I was in my recovery, so that made it a lot easier
for me to kind of transition and become a young woman. And I’m really grateful to have
been from Houston, Texas. That’s where I was born and raised, and that’s where I entered
recovery. And they really do have the full continuum of care there. So when I was in
treatment there were other young girls there. When I came home and I went to recovery support
meetings, there were other young girls there. And I had things to do and I had people to
hang out with, and I think that if we can create some of those best practices that they
have in Houston throughout the country, we’ll see more young girls be able to enter and
sustain recovery. So, again, taking stances for pillars of recovery,
I kind of broke down more specifically what was helpful to me, and I really want to focus
on the last two, the purpose and community, because I think that’s really been what has
sustained my recovery. Those were those things that, after all the formal treatment, kept
me going and continuing to learn about myself. And it was interesting, I was doing some research,
because I have always felt like there are far more men in the recovery community than
women, and I pulled up Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous membership surveys,
and so I pulled some of their data from 2011, and for Alcoholics Anonymous the average age
is 49, their membership is about one-third women, and only 2% of their members are under
the age of 20. Narcotics Anonymous isn’t that much better. Their average age is 43. They’re
50% women, and, again, only 2% are under 20. So as I was being referred to these recovery
support meetings, there weren’t a lot of young people, and, for me, there were a lot more
men in these meetings. So I think it’s really important that we kind of prepare these young
girls for what that’s going to be like. And so I was really fortunate in that community
section. I had mutual support groups, I had young people in civic meetings, and there
were women and girls there, and they really stepped up to the plate and they taught me
how to be a young woman. And just because people are in recovery doesn’t mean that they’re
always going to be receptive to the young people. I feel like there’s still some discrimination
that goes on in the recovery community against young people, and there have been some women
that have been just straight up mean, because I was young and I entered recovery really
young and, you know, I didn’t go on for the years drinking that they did. And so that was hard, you know. I’m already
really sensitive and in a tough spot, and then here I am going to this place that I’m
expecting to help save my life and people aren’t being that nice to me. I think we need
to prepare our girls for what that’s going to be like when they leave treatment. We need
to work with their parents on this is what meetings are like, here’s what’s going to
happen, you know, and then how to find and stick with the winners or the people that
are going to really have your back and be safe and supportive for you. And those are
lessons that I learned in early recovery. I didn’t initially pick a good group of people
to associate with, and I got to practice some of the skills that we just heard a little
bit ago, of how to set healthy boundaries and ask for what I needed and get a second
opinion. And I think it’s also important that we teach the family members, again, that you
know, these meetings aren’t a bad place. There are bad people, there are unhealthy people.
There are sick people everywhere in the world. What happens in these communities are microcosms
of the rest of the world. We just need to prepare them for how to go in and find healthy
and safe people. And I also had a lot of professional mentorships,
people that really took an interest in me while I was in — because I entered recovery
in my junior year of high school — and that really took an interest in me and were like,
hey, you’re going to be a part of this leadership group.” You’re going to do this. You’re going
to do that. They knew that they needed to get my energy channeled somewhere positive.
And I wish that other girls had that same opportunity and really seized it, because
that was so crucial for me. Because I immediately had structured things to do, places to go,
people that were looking out for me, and they weren’t necessarily recovery people. These
were professionals, people at community college, some of my teachers, you know. And I really
credit where I am today with those people that took that kind of an interest in me.
So some additional points to consider. I mean girls are really underrepresented in the recovery
community, and it can be really hard to find friends. Girls, when I was entering recovery and from
the experiences of my other friends, we don’t like each other. You always hear that the
women in recovery, they don’t like each other, they would rather be with the men because
we get attention from men, and I think we need to be really aware that that’s the kind
of — that’s the reality for young girl who is drinking and using drugs. The things that
we have to do to get our drugs and our alcohol, the behaviors that we have to participate
in, the attitudes, the way that we carry ourselves, it’s really unhealthy, and some of that trickles
on into our early recovery. And so, again, I had people that worked with me, and they’re
like you’re going to get to know women, you’re going to learn to like women, and you’re going
to learn how to be a good friend to other women and stop constantly hanging out with
all of the boys. And I think that’s a huge thing that we need to really address with
these young girls. Again, I had people in my life that made it
okay for me to talk about some of the really unpleasant harsh things that I experienced
as a young girl in active addiction. And I don’t think that people don’t like to talk
about that, what we do in active addiction, even as a high schooler. As we’re just having
our first relationships with men, as we’re having our first sexual relationships with
men, drugs and alcohol are in the mix, and it gets ugly really quickly, and that’s pretty
common with everyone that I know. Another point I think we need to be aware of is social
media today. I’m so grateful that I entered recovery before all of this stuff really took
off, because I probably could never get a job because of the things that would be on
the Internet, and I think we need to work with our girls on how to maybe clean some
of that stuff up, how to be safe with social media, how to be able to explain what might
be on the Internet. I see that as something that — as young girls I know are coming into
recovery, it’s just so tough for them, when you Google them the things that would pop,
because that’s what they had to do in their active addiction. And, again, just relationships with men in
their lives, relationships with their fathers, I feel like that’s a really common theme with
girls and women that in recovery, that it’s something that we struggle with and we continue
to have unhealthy relationships with men because of that. And, again, this is stuff that people
don’t like to talk about. It’s not talked about in recovery meetings a lot. It’s definitely
not stuff that I talked to any parents about. But this is the stuff that still keeps our
women sick and unhealthy and not able to experience the true freedom that comes from recovery.
And I have seen a lot of this stuff kick girls back out. They get involved with a man and
they go back out. So, again, from what I’ve seen, the girls
that made it in recovery, they got connected with really strong healthy women, and they
learned how to have healthy appropriate relationships with men. And the last thing I want to talk
about is SAMHSA’s National Leadership Summit on Youth Recovery. I had the opportunity to
help plan the summit from the very beginning. It took place last summer, and it was an opportunity
for young leaders to come together, to share their ideas, connect, brainstorm and identify
future solutions. We brought together 86 youth and young adults. Everyone was over the age
of 18. From the substance use disorder prevention, recovery, and the mental health recovery field,
and the overall goal was to advance the engagement of youth and young adults in developing policies
and practices that promote recovery for youth and young adults. So, again, it was just revolutionary that
young people were involved in the planning from the very beginning. They were a crucial
part of the whole conference, speaking, leading workshops, helping to plan everything, and
all of our discussions were based around these four themes of leadership development, peer
support, outreach and engagement, and cultural competency. And there wasn’t a lot that I
heard specific to girls, but from what I do recall, specifically with peer support, for
a lot of the women were much more vocal about we need — our peer-to-peer support needs
to be with other women. And, again, I think that goes back to a lot of the issues that
I just spoke on, the trauma in relationships with men, that it’s so crucial that we have
that peer support with other women and with other girls. So now I’ll take any questions
that folks may have, or turn it back over. Thank you so much, Sarah. And I’m just looking
at the clock, and I think we’re running a little bit behind, so we’re going to table
questions, and we’ll circle back with some of the questions after the panel just in case
— if we have time. And we can also make questions and answers available, along with the PowerPoints,
after the presentation. So I’m just going to go ahead and — just,
yeah, your story is so inspirational and your insights into the some of the experiences,
some of your experiences and how they carry over into other young women, and, you know,
some of the work around the Leadership Institute, it’s just awe striking. And thank you so much
for your presentation. And now I’m going to go ahead and introduce Courtney Lovell, our
next speaker. Courtney Lovell is credentialed as a New York State Alcohol addiction counselor,
working directly with clients. She is also the cofounder of an Upstate New York recovery
advocacy program, the Way Out, which nurtures recovery from addiction through uniting the
community. She’s a board member for a non-profit statewide
recovery advocacy organization, Board New York, and is part of SAMHSA’s planning partners
group that plans each year’s National Recovery Month. Combining her personal experience,
education, and passion to help others, Courtney Lovell has developed the unique understanding
of the young recovering mind of the adolescents. Now I’ll turn it over to you, Courtney. All
right, thank you very much. Hi, everyone. My name is Courtney Lovell, and I’m a young
person long-term recovery. For me, that means I haven’t used a drink or a drug since I was
19 years old. And by the age of 25, I have a lifetime of possibilities to look forward
to today. My recovery started in my late teens, but
my struggles began well before that, which is why this webinar is so exciting to me.
Because of my personal experience and because I’m a mother raising my own precious little
lady, I’m very passionate about building better recovery supports for our girls. It’s no secret
that addiction often begins in adolescence. For girls, this is a time of autonomy, exploration,
experimentation. This is a time that we test our waters, maybe fall into that water and
discover how to swim on. With some of us, about a fifth of our youth needs some extra
support. I grew up in rural Upstate New York. My mother and stepfather raised me. We were
the poor family in a privileged town, and I was aware of that very early on. I remember
going to a neighbor’s house every morning to get on the bus because my parents were
already working. I was probably only seven or eight. I remember standing in their kitchen
after my mom had left, as their mother would rush off to stuff more food in my bag. I remember
even more distinctly feeling immense shame during these experiences, even though the
woman couldn’t have had better intentions. As a little girl, I felt complete and utter
failure. I didn’t want her to think my mom wasn’t good enough, and I was sure I could
have survived without it. Unfortunately that shame, disappointment, ownership of other’s
feelings would stick with me. I remember many defining moments in my life that would reinforce
these self-defeating belief systems. My older sister was my caretaker while my parents were
working long hours. My sister was mentally ill, and I lived through physical and emotional
abuse during my early childhood. My biological father, who struggled with alcoholism, was
also in and out of my life, generally causing more damage than good. It was all these early adverse childhood experiences
— the poverty, abuse, abandonment — that helped to cultivate self hatred and shame
within my core. Without any interventions from school or home, I developed an eating
disorder and began to cut myself when the starvation wasn’t release enough. I attempted
suicide by the age of 13 and continued to suffer in silence, never knowing how to ask
for help. I truly felt that if I would just convince the rest of the world that I was
normal and okay then maybe I would be, and I spent a great deal of energy just trying
to fix this proper façade. I wanted to be the perfect girl externally so that no one
would care to pry beneath. With all this intrinsic turmoil, I still managed to make honors classes
in school and play varsity sports. I wasn’t the most popular, but I got along with everyone.
No one knew the battle raging under the surface. No one saw the struggle I was losing. No one stopped to ask that polite girl if
she needed help because I did my best to cover it all. The more insecure I felt throughout
those awkward adolescent years the more of a need I had for social acceptance. There
was a group of friends I was around when we first tried alcohol. Soon after that I was
introduced to marijuana. Finally, I had escaped from the tidal wave I had been carrying. I
didn’t have to work so hard to hide the hurt. I found a really effective way to simply make
it all disappear. I started smoking every day, saw peers I connected with over drugs.
Not long after, I was introduced to opiates for the first time. It was as if all those
weights, the trauma, the insecurity, the pain, the shame, it was all lifted and I was just
numb. I felt comfortable in my skin for the first time. I spent all my years just trying
to fix this fake mask that made me feel worthy of being part of anything, and drugs took
away my need for that mask. I used every day for the next two years, and progessed to intravenous
heroin and cocaine use. I was sexually assaulted on two separate occasions and hospitalized
once. My downward spiral rapidly progressed from
there, and eventually, when I was 19, I was arrested. I had 27 felony charges in four
counties. I was incarcerated for just about five months, facing all of my crimes and forced
to detox in jail. There is no doubt that it saved my life. After waking up for the first
time from this four-year long nightmare that I was living, I was finally able to see what
I was doing to my life. My life could be very different from this point, but I was fortunate
to get treatment for what I needed. I was sentenced to treatment court probation and
restitution. I spent the next two years of my life in different treatment programs learning
how to live life. I wasn’t rehabilitated, I was habilitated. Before treatment and recovery,
I had no template for how to deal with emotions or life, and it took a long time to learn
what it means to really live. But so far I’ve been able to. With the support
of my community, I was able to start my own beautiful family, go back to school, begin
a career that I love, regain the trust of my loved ones and have a positive impact on
other’s lives. Now I get to spend my free time helping other young people who are struggling
the same that I once was. I know to ask those questions before it becomes obvious to ask.
And I get to be a rock for those who need me today. So my story is not unique. This
is the reality our young girls are facing today. There are over 23 million people in
recovery in the United States. So from my experience, and witnessing other young people
through their own journey, I’ve learned a few important pieces. I’ve listed some of
those pieces here. For me, going to jail and immediately to residential treatment allowed
me to get the time necessary to truly separate myself from the identity of a traumatized
drug addict that I had grown so attached to. As many of us know, early adverse traumas
are often experiences that become enmeshed into the personality of those who experience
them. This time apart from my former life was the beginning of those protective layers
being pulled back. It was in these treatment programs and Drug Corp that I was showed what
a healthy lifestyle could be. I was able to witness healthy adults, women working, functioning,
making a difference, all while they supported me. My parents were included in my treatment
as much as they could be. My coating of armor began to dissolve as a healthy external network
formed around me. Trauma-informed care was crucial for me. My frontal lobe was not fully
developed yet, so I lacked sound decision-making skills, consequential thinking, the ability
to regulate emotions, and even self awareness at times. At just 19, strong willed, defensive and hurt,
I needed people to walk alongside me in my process, and that’s just what I got. I wasn’t
pushed too much, but I was guided and gently challenged enough to move forward, sometimes
slowly, sometimes quickly, but always with a sense of safety about it because the support
system was there. When I embraced my recovery, I gravitated towards others who had embraced
theirs. These early bonds with my peers allowed me to learn that life was not all about drugs
and partying. I learned that I could have a social life and be fine without any of that,
and I wasn’t alone in doing so. The security that began to form around me also started
to grow internally. Once I had those deep realizations that life could be safe I was
able to expand on my intrinsic growth. Gradually, a thing I never intimately knew
of it became part of me, part of any new identity. I stumbled on to my first bits of self esteem
and I was hooked. I’m often asked about resilience. I question it myself. Why do some people seem
to have so much of it and others are almost immune? I do know that stress affects the
brain’s limbic system, emotions, memory, learning. It triggers that fight or flight response,
increasing the production of things like epinephrine and cortisol; however, constant distress like
that of trauma or addiction our young girls are going through, the body isn’t always able
to reset. These events block the formation of new neural connections. When these new
connections are blocked, the hippocampus can actually shrink in size and change the functioning
of the brain. And without the inhibition and production of things like cortisol, we can
see those hypersensitive sympathetic nervous system, something I’ve had to work on in my
own recovery. To build on this resilience thing, girls can
work on managing the stress that’s in their lives. Whether consciously or not, these are
things that have changed for me, greatly affecting my response to life stressors, and the plasticity
of the brain is really our asset in recovery. These are some great apps that could also
help. There’s an app on here for tactical breathing. That helps to teach proper breathing
techniques. There’s a mood tracker on here, positive activity jackpot, and even a game
for kids to learn how to cope with stress. These are all free and accessible to anyone,
whether you have an iPhone or an Android, so I really suggest that you check them out.
Peer support played an intricate role for me. Early in my treatment I met another girl
who was a bit older and further along in her recovery. She mentored me, helped me to connect
with others, and was a sounding board when I needed it most. The influence of peers was
very apparent in different group settings when I was paired with women, young women
in similar places like myself. I’ve seen this dynamic play out over and over again in my
clinical work. That bond that forms when girls allow themselves to open up to their peers
is unrivaled. It’s something safe. As a clinician in a rural area and a young
person recovering myself, I saw a lack in these peer settings outside of treatment.
Two coworkers and I created The Way Out to build on this idea. We were a group of young
people in recovery who hosted regular recovery events, held monthly meetings and stayed in
touch. Our group accomplished great things, like that recovery rally we held last year.
Through this work, I was introduced to Young People in Recovery, a national grassroots
advocacy organization for young people in or seeking recovery. We decided in January
to become the New York Chapter of YPR. Since then, my chapter members and I have discovered
a new national level of peer support, which has opened many doors for us all and ignited
even more passion for our recovery. Young People in Recovery has chapters like ours
across the country. Each chapter holds monthly meetings in their area and has regular leadership
calls. YPR gets requests from organizations like SAMHSA to bring the recovery youth voice
to the table, and these opportunities often trickle down to various chapter members. We’re about to host a national leadership
conference in Denver, starting immediately after this. We get to come together and spend
a couple days developing our leadership skills and enjoying our time together as a powerful
group of national recovering peers. I provided some information if you’re interested in getting
involved with YPR. We could always use supporters, and new chapters are certainly welcome. You
can visit that website with the link on the bottom for more details. So I’ll close with
that, and this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson that I love, “Passion rebuilds the world for
the youth. It makes all things alive and significant. And today, because of my recovery, I’m living
a life that is fully alive and full of passion, and I hope that we can pass that along to
other young women that we work with. Thank you. Oh, great. Thank you so much, Courtney.
One of the drawbacks of doing this via webinar is you can’t see people’s strong rounds of
applause and recognition as you shared your story and your inspiration and hopes at building
towards those resiliency characteristics that you described. We don’t have time for questions
now, so, again, we’ll come back to questions during the panel, and we can also respond
to posted questions after the webinar. So let’s all give Courtney an invisible round
of applause. And I’m now going to introduce Lacy Kendrick
Burk. Lacy Kendrick Burk serves as the executive director of Youth Move — motivating others
through voices of experience — National, a youth-led non-profit organization that advocates
for and supports youth voice. Lacy leads the Youth Move team, including a network of 77
chapters of nearly 9,000 young people across 39 states. She was appointed to the CMHS National
Advisory Council in 2012, interned for Senator John Carey, and has testified in state and
federal congressional hearings. She continues to advocate for positive changes for youth
through sharing her story, coaching, and mentoring other young people. Lacy, you should have
the controls. Okay, great. Thank you. And as she said, I am the executive director
of Youth Move National. I’m really fortunate to be able to lead and work with an amazing
team of young people across the United States to help support young people in their voice,
learning to share their voice, and also connecting with each other, because as you know, our
voices are much more powerful when they’re united. And so we really focus on supporting
and developing the youth movement overall for young people across various systems. And
so I want to walk through a brief visual exercise if you all on the phone will do this with
me. So I want you to imagine a person who has the following life experiences and outcomes. So someone who has two Masters degrees, who
is a published author, who is the CEO of her own business at 26, an executive director
of two non-profit organizations, a national and international consultant and speaker,
and serves on the board of directors for three separate organizations, both national and
international, all before the age of 30. So I want you to imagine what that person looks
like, where they might have grown up, what their family life might be like, where might
they be now, where do they work, and hold that thought. And now I want you to imagine
someone who has these life experiences. Somebody who is experienced abuse, neglect, and trauma,
all throughout her childhood, somebody who went into foster care who was separated from
family and most of her siblings, has multiple mental health diagnoses, has suicidal ideation
starting at 14 and well into late 20s, and who lost a full-ride in college due to alcohol
abuse, due to unmet mental health needs. So imagine what that person looks like, what
are they doing with their life, where might they live, what might their family life look
like, what are their outcomes, where do they work. And so I like to open with that thought because
a lot of times I ask audience members if that could possibly be the same person. And most
of the time they say, no. But both of those people are actually me, and so I like to share
that as the opening and just talk about that, you know, yes, I been able to accomplish a
lot of things in my life, and at a very young age. But a lot of that was done at a cost.
And that was done because I didn’t do the right amount of treatments. I didn’t have
opportunities that I needed to for my personal development, and so I channeled a lot of my
negative experiences into my professional life almost to an unhealthy point. And so
that’s why I share those things today. Also, to talk about how we view young people and
how we view young people who come from certain situations and experiences, because, if you
see the second slide, if you imagine that young person who went through all of those
terrible experiences and you look at the statistics that are out there, it’s very difficult to
imagine that that person could have accomplished all of the things on the first slide, and
I absolutely believe that if we change the way that we view young people who are in these
situations, that more and more of them can accomplish, you know, what is on the first
slide, and we just have to be able to see that and believe in them in that potential. And so I did experience a lot of abuse and
neglect growing up. I grew up in a household where both of my parents were addicts. My
father was also an alcoholic. My mother, my biological mother was in and out of prison
throughout my life. And my father, who started out as an alcoholic, eventually got more and
more into drug use, not dealing with his own mental health issues, and eventually led me
to be sexually abused when I was 12. I had to live with him and raise my five younger
siblings after that point, until I was 15, until I felt safe enough to finally say something
to somebody, and that was actually my boyfriend when I was 14, my very first boyfriend. And
we finally told my mother together, which led to us going into foster care, me and five
of my younger siblings, and we all got split up. And I was really fortunate, I had one
emergency placement and I was moved to another emergency placement where it was to be just
a few weeks until they could find another home for us, and I ended up being able to
stay with that family. And one of my younger sisters eventually came
to live with me there, and we were both adopted in 2012, so just a couple of years ago, so
I was 28. So I was very fortunate with that. All through high school I very much tried
to have what I imagined to be a normal life. It was very difficult to be in a high school,
and I felt shame of being in foster care. I felt shame of being who I was as a person
because of the traumatic experiences that I had had and the image of myself that I held.
I was forced to go into therapy whenever I entered care because of those experiences.
However, it wasn’t very effective for me; one, because as Courtney mention before, my
brain wasn’t developed enough yet to override the emotional responses and to make sense
of the experiences that I had and the effect that it had on me. And the other sort of ironic
thing is that is I do have a diagnosis of PTSD and I still receive mental health services
for that today. But part of that diagnosis is avoiding anything that reminds you of that
experience that causes that. And so treatment is one of those things that reminds you of
your experience, and so I avoided it at all costs. I wasn’t ready, and it wasn’t a trauma-informed
way of engaging me in therapy. And so, for me, it didn’t really work well.
I was fortunate, again, that I didn’t have the behavioral issues in high school. I was
so scared to be moved again that I really hid anything that was happening with me, any
negative experiences or thoughts and really just tried to live externally as what I viewed
to be normal so that I could have a normal teenage experience in high school, and that
led to a lot of pent up issues for me whenever I went into college. And so because I didn’t
have treatment, because I never had an opportunity to talk about what happened, I didn’t have
supports to deal with anything that had happened, I entered college and independence, and I
ended up doing what I had seen growing up and that was drinking. When I was depressed
or upset or when I would have flashbacks or really any emotional response that I had,
that’s what I turned to because that’s the only thing that I really knew how to deal
with anything. So, for me, college was a really, really difficult
time, and through that experience, you know, a lot of the things that young women that
we hear happen, I did do those things. I was very promiscuous. I would think that any male
that gave me attention was love, because I didn’t know the difference. I hadn’t had the
opportunity to have a relationship with an older male that was healthy and showed me
what love really was. And so we know that young women often go through those things,
and especially when we join sororities, when we have our first taste of freedom, and starting
to learn to control what we’re doing and learn about what alcohol does and how it can manage
all of that. I certainly had issues with that, and I ended up losing my full-ride scholarship
to college because of that. And it was really easy for me at the time to kind of cover it
up, and be just like well that’s what everybody else is doing, and so, you know, pretend that
it wasn’t because of a larger issue and it wasn’t until well into my 20s when I graduated
college and got a professional — amazing professional job traveling around the country,
helping foster care systems to develop youth advisory boards and helping to train young
people to be leaders that I really had some severe suicidal ideations. And I got to the point of thinking about how
I am going to do this, what’s going to be the best way when who discovers me and has
to see — you know, walk in on that, and I just had a moment where I woke up and I was
like, why am I feeling this way? I have friends, I have family, I have a good job, I don’t
understand why I’m feeling this way. And so that’s really the point that led me to go
and seek help, and that was the point where I really — it was several years of seeking
the right kinds of treatment. I tried several different types of therapy, and nothing every
really clicked, although it did help me to treat the depression that I was having, helped
me to sort of get my head above water. But it wasn’t until I found a trauma-informed
therapist who was very skilled in treating that specific kind of trauma that I was able
to find healing, and through that year, and also was able to attend the BRSS TACS summit
on youth and recovery that Sarah had mentioned as well. And that’s where I really found and
discovered what recovery is, what it could be. And also learning about trauma was what was
really important for me. So some of the lessons that I’ve learned, and I’m happy to report
now that, you know, healing takes time, and for me it’s taken a lot of time, but different
areas have healed at different points in my life. And so overall, now getting into real
recovery and understanding what it means has been really significant for me. And so some
of the things that helped and that I finally learn that helped or that I wish I would have
had earlier, asking how are you really. I would very much mask and pretend like nothing
was wrong because that was what I thought people expected me to do, and I needed to
live up to that expectation, very similar to what Courtney had mentioned, and I didn’t
want to deal with what had happened. I didn’t want to have to admit anything like that.
And, really, to be honest, only in the last year, have been able to say those words out
loud because of the immense amount of shame that does come with that experience and comes
with the society around women, and feeling like we’re alone, having someone who can ask
how you’re doing but then be like, yes, I know that I understand that I’ve been there
too. And so not feeling isolated and having that
option to talk about what happened in a way that is safe. Meeting youth where they are,
again, this goes back to my experience with therapy, but, really being able to decide
when and how I feel safe to be able to start opening up and sharing those levels of experience
and really working through healing and treatment. Understanding how the experience impacts the
professional world. So I was very fortunate to be a young person who had drawn to working
in this field, getting to support youth leaders. At 18 I worked at the Independent Living Program
for three years, and then throughout my career was able to join the National Resource Center
for Youth Development and use my experience to make systems better for other young people.
And that experience in and of itself has led to so many healing pathways for me, and that’s
why I joined Youth Move, is to ensure that those opportunities happen for young people
across any system that touches a young person, because that is what got me here today, having
the appropriate people in my life, but supervisors and mentors who could meet me where I am,
who could ask how am I really doing and provide that safe space for me to actually share what
was really going on with me instead of having to say that I’m fine, I’m good, and pretend.
Having other young professionals with this experiencing, being able to connect and have
that peer support, that peer sharing happen was really important for me. Mental health
recovery, I talked about the trauma treatments, having the appropriate treatment that was
what I needed, not what somebody else said that I needed, and we all know that in foster
care a lot of times trauma is what is actually happening to young people. Even going into
foster care is a traumatic experience. But a lot of times those behaviors that show
up are mislabeled and then treated with medication, when, really, it’s a trauma therapy that needs
to happen, and so that was the case for me. And talking about trauma and recognizing it,
it wasn’t until I saw a speaker when I was 25 years old attending a conference, talking
about trauma and talking about what happens to people and how your behaviors develop for
people who have experienced trauma and that was when a light bulb went off for me, when
I finally recognized I had trauma. That’s why I was the way that I was. That’s why I
could never feel normal and that there was a word for it and that there was a treatment
for it, and there was a way to feel better. And so acknowledging that trauma happened
but having information and knowledge around trauma and having opportunities to share with
other people who have had similar kinds of trauma, really important. And then youth development, I was so fortunate
to grow up professionally in an environment that got and taught positive youth development.
That made the biggest difference for me. Having people who believed in me, saw me as a resource,
were willing to meet me where I was and work with me in a strength-based way was really,
really important. And so know I’m running short on time, so I’m going to go through.
I did want to mention just really quickly some of what our Youth Move chapters are doing
around girls issues. So they have found — some of our chapters have found that they start
out with a mixed group and then ended up sometimes with a group of males, and they were kind
of noticing that and wondering what happened. And so in discussion with the girls, that
sometimes girls don’t feel safe to open up and engage, and if they’re not engaging then
they’re not going to stay. And so having a place where that is directed by young women
and the young people in the groups and having options for young people to select and girls
to select if they want to go and do basketball or if they want to go and do something else. And some of our chapters are watching the
misrepresentation videos. They’re having the young women and young men watch it separately,
have discussion groups separately to talk about what society is placing on our young
people, especially our young women and abuse of young women and how that affects how we
carry ourselves, how we relate to each other, how we relate to men, how we see ourselves,
how we develop. So a lot of those really important conversations that are just not being had
nearly enough. You know what, Lacy, I think we’re going to have to wrap it up, just so
that we can move into closing comments from everyone. Yes, that was my last slide, just
mentioning that it’s not enough to have treatment. We also need peer supports, and I absolutely
needed both of those. So I know that we have some great questions and panelists, so I’m
going to move into that. Okay, great. And thank you so much for taking
the time, sharing your experience, strength and hope, and then also some of the work that
Youth Move is doing, some of the — all of you are just so inspiring. We only have a
few minutes left, so we did have a couple of questions that we wanted to use as panel
questions. And I don’t think we actually have time to go into them in depth. So I’m just
going to read what those questions are and invite each of you to give a closing comment
that can lead in those particular questions. The questions are what is important to girls
in recovery that people don’t talk about? And I think, actually, several of you have
touched on those, and then the other is what do you see developing that is really helpful
for girls in recovery, thinking back in terms of that youth development piece and some of
the recovery supports that you’ve been seeing and what’s made a difference, identifying
maybe that one thing that you really see developing that’s helpful for girls in recovery, and
then we’ll go ahead and close. I believe that — Courtney, are you on the line? Okay, so we’re going to do Courtney last,
because she’s actually on the way to the airport to go to that Young People in Recovery Conference,
that leadership conference. Karen, why don’t we start with you, and we’ll just go in the
order of the pictures. Great. Well, first, I really just want to thank Sarah and Courtney
and Lacy for sharing their stories. It’s one thing to put up the research and theories,
but it’s really another thing to hear how it comes together. So I think it made for
a very powerful panel. I think that, you know, to your first question, what’s important that
people don’t talk about, I think each one of you emphasized the importance of having
the right peer group and the importance of that group actually having girls and young
women in it. And I think we don’t talk about that enough.
That’s important in general. But I think you all have made it very clear how critically
important it is to have that right peer group available, as well as mentors in recovery
and how much gender and age do factor into that. But I think, in general, what’s developing
that’s really helpful is the sense that, in general, we’ve done a disservice to girls
because of that triple bind, and so some of the more general movements, girls code, et
cetera, that are really sort of trying to very aggressively break down some of the barriers
that end up being real stressors, as they were described, I think, give us some encouragement.
Thank you. Lacy? I think just providing opportunities for young people, especially young women,
to learn about peer support, to have opportunities to share with each other but also to participate
meaningfully in their own treatment and recognize what they need, and giving them the right
information, seeing young people as resources. And just believing that healing is possible
can be really powerful. Okay, thank you. Sarah? Yeah, I think one thing that girls need for
their recovery that isn’t talked about a lot is just these safe places, whether that’s
with a mentor, someone within the recovery community, a teacher, whomever, that they
can really be open and honest with about what’s going on in their life and how they’re feeling.
And for that person to then appropriately respond, not victim blame, not shame them,
not put them down. They just need to support and build them up so that they can heal and
they can move forward. And I’ve seen exciting things that are developing, all the recovery
high schools and the alternative peer groups, having places where girls can see other girls
who are doing well. Great. Thank you so much. And I think that
Courtney has switched over to her cell phone, but I’m guessing that she’s not available
for a closing comment. Courtney, can you hear? So I just want to take a minute and thank
all of you for the tremendous amount of work that you’ve done in the past, that you’re
doing in the future on behalf of girls everywhere, and such an inspiration. And I agree, Karen, it’s bringing that identification
of what’s working and those shifts in transformations so that we build systems that work, but also
really hearing what works for people and giving that inspiration and hope, and I think that’s
part of the message that we can give to everyone as a result of this panel. I also want to
say a special thank you to Sharon Amatetti, SAMHSA’s women’s issue coordinator, for making
this webinar series possible, and a gigantic thank you to our speakers, Karen Pittman,
Sarah Nerad, Courtney Lovell, and Lacy Kendrick Burk for taking the time to be with us today
and for everything else that you do building opportunities for girls. I want to acknowledge
and thank Nailah Harrell, the Girls Matter coordinator; Emily Eagle and Noah Schifman,
our technical team; and Kristin King, and the many other staff who have helped spread
the world. And a final thank you to all of you for participating
in this conversation and reminding you all that girls matter. We do have a couple of
important announcements, particularly for those people who are seeking CEUs, remember
that you must complete the brief satisfaction survey. The link to it is being posted in
the chat box, and it will also be e-mailed directly to you. It doesn’t show up immediately
in your e-mail, so it will take about an hour for it to get there. The survey will be available
for completion until Thursday, July 31st, and you must complete it before July 31st
in order to be eligible for the CEUs. All qualified attendees for today will receive
an e-mail with instructions for obtaining your certificates of attendance by August
14th. And I just want to say another round of applause and thank you. You have to imagine
them since you can’t see us, and make it a great day. Thanks, everyone.

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