The Voices of New Directions

“I guarantee you’ll be blessed”

POSTED: 11.18.22 | CATEGORY:


November is National Adoption Month, and do we have a heartwarming story for you!

Meet the Drake Family. Karen and Ben Drake became certified foster parents through New Directions Youth and Family Services 8.5 years ago. Since then, they have opened their hearts and home to 21 children providing respite, foster care, and adoption.

“It’s a family affair with everyone on board,” said Karen. Karen and Ben Drake have 5 children including adopted twins, and one granddaughter. They are currently fostering a child and are in the process of adopting.

Caring, Available, and Trustworthy is how Karen describes the support the family receives from New Directions foster care team. The New Directions team visits in-home weekly and is in near-daily contact to provide support and help with the more complicated aspects of therapeutic fostering. Karen says the team is always a call or text away and readily assist, especially when documents or paperwork is needed. Karen explains that not everyone understands the process, courts, parental rights; having workers who are caring, available, and trustworthy provides her with support and assurance.

When asked what the family is most proud of, Karen gives two highlights. First, “we feel blessed to have these children in our lives. It’s a family affair with everyone on board,” said Karen. The family meets to prepare for the children coming into the home. Everyone is giving up something, whether it’s bedroom space or sharing parents’ time. Karen and Ben want to instill in their children the need to love and care for others. They hope fostering and adopting is something their children will carry on.

Second, Karen finds fulfillment in being able to maintain caring relationships with birth parents. She says it is especially rewarding to mentor, guide, and offer positive encouragement, especially under trying circumstances. It’s an extension of fostering and opportunity to treat others with compassion, and, in her experience, it has been mutually beneficial.

“Keep going!” is Karen’s advice to those contemplating foster care and adoption. “You will face natural apprehensions and fears,” she says. Karen relates that she and Ben started and stopped the certification process. However, through prayer and research, they were able to discern it was the path for which they were called. “It’s on your heart for a reason. Take one step at a time, one day at a time, and seek support from people who have walked the path,” says Karen. There are many challenges; it is important to know your family’s limits, and not every situation is right for your family. Yet, “even challenging circumstances provide ways to grow”, and summing it up Karen states, “The rewards have been tremendous.”

The question, “why foster or adopt?”, is often thought or asked. As teachers, coaches, and an administrator (Ben), the Drakes have a heart for children, saw a need, and opportunity to put their Christian faith into practice. Karen says, “Loving someone else keeps us grounded. If you follow your heart, I guarantee you’ll be blessed”.

Tips to Identify and Prevent Bullying

POSTED: 10.12.22 | CATEGORY:


Bullying used to be something that happened mainly in school. It was like a whisper in an ear followed by a sad look on the face of one kid and a look of satisfaction on the face of the other. And while that still exists, social media has changed everything. Kids can no longer escape bullying by retreating to the safety of their homes anymore and noticing the signs of bullying has become harder for parents, teachers, and caregivers!


Helping identify the signs of bullying:

When trying to identify if your child is being bullied, daily micro-observations are key. Keep an eye out if an outgoing, talkative child suddenly becomes quiet, sad, or withdrawn. And take notice if there is a change in behavior, grades, or if they have started to have angry outbursts. These are all signs that something is going on, and that something could be bullying.


Getting kids to talk about difficult topics:

If you see changes in your child and suspect there’s something going on, invite them to talk with you about it.

It’s important for parents and caregivers to try to be casual when approaching a difficult topic with their kids. Give them something to do to help take the pressure off. Think: food and fidgets! It’s very hard for kids to sit down and have a serious, look-me-in-the-eye conversation with their parents. Having a distraction might make them more comfortable.

Phrase questions in a casual way. Start by saying something like, “let’s play a game,” or, “let’s go get some fries.” Then you can follow it up by casually asking, “hey, I’ve noticed X, what’s up with that?” or, “what’s going on, you don’t seem to be close with so-and-so lately?” Keep in mind, that when you ask your child what is going on in their life, you are inviting your child to share – not demanding that they talk to you. If your child is being bullied, they already feel powerless, and you don’t want to make them feel like you are stealing any more power away from them.

Remember, it is a privilege for your child to share hard things with you, so you do not want to overreact, yell, scream, or immediately takeover the situation. You want them to continue to share with you, and if you have a visceral reaction, they will be less inclined to share again. This is made increasingly more difficult with social media because if they don’t talk to you about it, it usually goes unseen and unheard!  Additionally, when dealing with bullying on social media it can be difficult because a parent’s or caregiver’s first inclination is to say to delete whatever app they’re being bullied on. But deleting the app is not necessarily the best solution since it would be like punishing the child being bullied while allowing the bully to continue bullying others on social media.

Do your best to listen patiently while they share. Even though you might be feeling protective and may have some suggestions on how to handle the situation, it’s important that children feel heard first. Remember, you’re only asking kids how they’re doing. You didn’t ask them what was going on so you could step in and to fix it – you only asked them to share it. Listen to what they are sharing with you first, take a breather, then work on deciding the next step. Address your child’s concerns by saying something like, “that’s not cool, it seems like there’s a lack of safety,” or, “this is the direction I want to go in and I’m curious what you think about that.” Remember to take a breath and do your best to resist the urge to immediately fix the problem for them. It’s best to get your child’s opinion on the matter. Getting a kid’s opinion is not giving up your authority as an adult, it’s simply finding out how your words and actions may affect the child, based on their experience as the one being bullied.


Taking back power:

Kids may believe they are being bullied because they’re weak, ugly, have a lisp, or some other reason, but none of these things are true. The truth is that no matter who you are, a bully will walk into a room and assess you, find out what your ‘weaknesses’ are, and they will attack. Bullies attack ‘good traits’ too – like being ‘too smart’ or ‘too nice’.  It’s important to remind children that a bully did not pick them because they’re weak, the bully just picked them, and then found a weakness. We all have weaknesses and we all have strengths, but bullies don’t acknowledge strengths, they only exploit weaknesses. By constantly picking on weaknesses, they try to take power from others. Encourage your kids to not give bullies a reaction and instead respond with something neutral and dismissive like, “whatever you say.” By doing this, kids can start taking their power back and not give the bully a victory. We realize this is much harder than it sounds!

Remind your children that this is very difficult to do, but if you only remember one thing, remember: nothing lasts forever! For example, when you’re having a really good time it doesn’t last forever, but you enjoy it while it lasts.  Likewise, when you’re really struggling, you may need someone to remind you that it won’t last forever either. The struggle that your child is facing in the moment will be only a small portion of their life, so if they can figure out a way to make it better or get through it, remind them that it’s going to change. Change is the nature of the world, so know that the struggle will not last forever.

Kids generally live in the moment, so being bullied can feel like forever for them. As a caretaker, you can help them through this time by giving them things to focus on outside of the part of their life where they are being bullied. Having and creating calendars to countdown to next big thing you’re looking forward to can help kids to recognize that time marches forward and things do change.


Empowering kids and building up their confidence:

Sometimes even parents and caregivers can unintentionally bully their kids. One example might be saying things like, “you need to do what I told you to do, because I told you to do it.” Which is okay to say sometimes, but if that is the response every time, children will feel that they seldom have any control and may try seek out control by bullying others.

If you want to have a healthy emotional relationship with your child, keep in mind that when you tell them to do something, it shouldn’t take their power away. Try to give them some choices. Choices are good opportunities to learn responsibility and can help them feel empowered. Giving your kids choices, like “do you want tacos, hamburger helper, or beef stroganoff for dinner?  I’ll let you decide tonight,” is one example of a way to introduce choices to your child. The phrase, “I’ll let you decide tonight,” is such a powerful phrase and the decision that they’d be making isn’t huge – each option that is provided uses ground beef which might be exactly what you’re trying to use up in the fridge. If you come up with acceptable options and allow them the freedom to choose, kids will feel empowered.

Additionally, children need fair amount of self-esteem. Build up their confidence by complimenting them, but realize that kids tend to be uncomfortable with compliments. With that in mind, when you compliment them, don’t leave room for kids to say thank you. State any compliments in such a way that the good things that you are saying about them are presented as a known fact. Don’t allow them to dismiss or deny it. Be sure to spend time together, so that kids know that they are important!


Helping to stop bullying behavior:

Usually, when you cannot change the child’s desire to bully someone it’s because they are gaining something from it. For that reason, whatever they believe that they are gaining from their bullying behavior is important to recognize. You need to find out what it is they’re getting from their actions and replace it with something healthy.

Try asking them about why they behave the way they do. For example, if you ask your child, “it doesn’t seem like this behavior is working well for you because you get detention every day and can’t have lunch with your friends.  Don’t you want to have lunch with your friends?” You may find out they don’t have any friends and to them it’s less painful to have detention every day during lunch than it is to sit alone. When you start to see the motivation for their behavior, changes can be made.

Sometimes, it is a little harder to figure out what their motivation is. Have you heard a child say, “I don’t know. Just because,” when you ask them why they did something? Kids often don’t know why they do things, so it’s your job as an adult to figure out their motivations. After discovering why they have taken up bullying behaviors, have a conversation, and approach the topic without coming off as judgmental. When you have a conversation without judgement, kids will be more comfortable opening up and you can get some real answers. That’s when you can start to motivate a change.

Keep in mind that every situation and every child is different, so having a conversation and finding out motivations is key!


Margaret D. Flannery, LMSW
School Social Worker
Henrietta G. Lewis Campus School

Response from New View Alliance, New Directions, and Gateway Longview


We are hearing so many responses to Saturday’s mass shooting. Tragic. Senseless. Hate-filled. Horrific. They are all true but do not really capture what has happened. The event is so much deeper than our ability to define it in simple terms. Saturday’s shooting is a continuation of the events that have become endemic in American society. Sandy Hook. Ahmaud Arbery. Greenwood. Emanuel AME Church. This message does not have room for all the examples. Saturday’s murders are local but the geography does not define our outrage– and grief. These feelings are especially true for our black and brown colleagues and friends. We recognize that you are impacted by the recent events differently, more personally, and we cannot imagine the feelings and burden you must be carrying.

However, we must do more than have heavy hearts–we must take action. We must mobilize society as a whole to eliminate the racism and hate that is endemic in our communities. As partner agencies, we vow to join together and with others who stand strong against racism, prejudice, bias, or any other belief or behavior that diminishes the inherent worth, potential, and beauty of every human being. This is the foundation of our collective mission and the reason we exist. We believe every person has a unique purpose, deserves equal opportunity and respect, and has distinct greatness.



James W. Coder, CEO |  New Directions Youth & Family Services, Inc. and CEO | New View Alliance

Carolyne DeFranco, CEO | Gateway Longview and President | New View Alliance



Resources in Response to the Buffalo Supermarket Hate Crime

The recent racially motivated hate crime at the Tops supermarket in Buffalo New York in which the perpetrator targeted a Black community and has expressed white supremacy and anti-Semitic leanings has evoked a range of emotions and concerns of safety across the United States. In response to this event, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network has developed resources to help children, families, and communities navigate what they are seeing and hearing, acknowledge their feelings, and find ways to cope together. These resources include:

Psychological First Aid and Skills for Psychological Recovery

The NCTSN also has resources for responders on Psychological First Aid (PFA; En Español). PFA is an early intervention to support children, adolescents, adults, and families impacted by these types of events. PFA Mobile and the PFA Wallet Card (En Español) provide a quick reminder of the core actions. The PFA online training course is also available on the NCTSN Learning Center. PFA Handouts include:

From the National Mass Violence and Victimization Resource Center

Disaster Helpline

SAMHSA has a Disaster Distress Helpline – call or text 1-800-985-5990 (for Spanish, press “2”) to be connected to a trained counselor 24/7/365.

Additional Resources

For those that are needing technical assistance or additional resources, please don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Melissa Brymer at

Emergency Supports Available

Erie County’s Crisis Services is available for those impacted by the tragedy in our community this weekend. Mental health counselors from BestSelf, Endeavor Health of WNY, Crisis Services, and Spectrum Health in association with the Erie County Department of Mental Health will be available at the Johnnie B. Wiley Sports Pavilion Monday, May 16th from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. located at 1100 Jefferson Avenue, Buffalo 14208. All are welcome.

  • The Erie County Crisis Hotline is available 24/7 by calling (716) 834-3131.

  • Crisis Services Kids Helpline (716) 834-1144 is available for youth under 18 years of age for confidential support.

  • Spectrum CARES is available for youth under age 18 to obtain emergency mental health support at (716) 882-4357.

  • Niagara County Crisis Services can be reached by calling (716) 285-3515 for emergency support.

  • OGH 24 Hour Crisis Line can be reached at 1-800-339-5209 to obtain emergency mental health support.

  • The Chautauqua County Crisis Hotline can be reached at 1-800-724-0461 or text “Talk” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline– 1-800-273-TALK(8255)

True Bethel Baptist Urgent Response is available for spiritual support and prayer (716) 903-4261

Reverend Theressa Johnson is a Spiritual Minister specializing in Grief and Healing. Rev. Johnson would like you to know she is of diverse culture, was raised in the Jefferson Avenue neighborhood, and still holds familial ties to the community. She has volunteered her services to anyone in need. You may reach her at (716) 481-2799.

Transportation Assistance

Families residing in the 14208 and 14209 areas can access Lyft and Uber using Code SHOPBUF for FREE transportation to grocery stores.

How Do I Access the Employee Assistance Program for Support?

ESI Employee Assistance Group can provide 24/7 professional counseling. All employees and their family members are eligible for counseling with professionals who hold Masters and Ph.D. degrees in clinical services who can provide in- the-moment assistance and support as well as referral to local providers. You can obtain ESI services by accessing their website at: or by calling 1-800-252-4555. Please see the attached EAP Benefit Summaries for more information.

Six Supportive Ways to Address Trauma that Shows up at Work

  1. Acknowledge what happened. …

  2. Start the conversation. …

  3. Practice Emotional Intelligence. …

  4. Share relevant resources. …

  5. Monitor staff well-being and check-in often. …

  6. Be aware of the signs and side-effects of trauma and stress. …

  7. Move forward together.

Meet Foster Mom, Kimberly!

Say Hi to Foster Mom, Kimberly! Kim has been fostering with New Directions for just over a year.
Working in the child welfare system for nearly 20 years, she always wanted a family of her own. She initially explored IVF, but when that wasn’t going to work out, it led her to the decision to foster. Kim absolutely loves children, and combined with her work experience, she thought this was the best fit for her. She also loves giving back to the community and providing children a safe and stable place, and eventually permanency.
Kim is currently fostering one child, bringing him home from the hospital when he was only two weeks old. They just celebrated his first birthday!

Kim’s favorite thing about fostering is the joy that it brings to her life. Every
day is a different, watching him grow and learn new things. Her favorite part of the day is picking him up from daycare after a long day and seeing his smiles and excitement to see her.

It’s essential to Kim to provide a safe, loving, nurturing home for children, and
 helping them learn, grow and develop, whether it’s temporary or permanent.
There have been so many meaningful moments throughout Kim’s fostering journey. One of the more recent moments she shared with us was when her foster son started to walk with the assistance of his toys. “I literally cried and was so happy and excited to see him reach another milestone.”
Thank you Kim, and all foster parents for the incredible work you do and the impact you have on the children in your care!

Celebrating Women’s History Month – Joan Payne


New Directions’ Responsibility Award is represented by the legacy of Joan Payne

Joan Payne – far left

No situation was too small to be considered important by Joan Payne. For Joan, if a child needed something, there was no question that it would be provided. In her time as a night worker she kept watch over the Keep and Hodge wings for children who couldn’t or wouldn’t sleep. Her sincere, motherly caring and her dedication to making sure the children were safe and well-rested were an irresistible force that induced sleepiness in any child.

As a cook, her mission was to ensure that the Home was well provisioned, that children were well-fed, and that tasty, attractive meals were served on time. Because of her concern and feeling of responsibility for the success of each child, she often volunteered to take a particularly energetic youngster who was having lots of living group conflicts into her kitchen to learn some culinary skills. While the child was there, cooking became less important and caring became more important.

Joan was the essence of responsibility. She was dedicated and dependable. She liked the children and cared deeply about them. She knew how to talk so kids would listen and how to listen so kids would talk. She treasured her time with the children at Wyndham Lawn and made it happier place for children and staff, all because her sense of responsibility covered anything and everything.

Laurie Hurd – Celebrating 25 Years!



For our first Staff Spotlight of February 2022, we’d like to send a big thank you to Laurie Hurd for her outstanding efforts to keep our employees safe!

Laurie has been crucial to making the agency run smoothly and safely during the pandemic. She is the Health Coordinator for New Directions. You may have spoken with her if you’ve been out of work sick recently. She does health screenings and makes sure everyone is well before returning to the workplace, which has been an important and busy job in the past few years!

Laurie graduated from Jamestown Business College with an associate degree. She began working for the agency in September of 1997. She initially worked in Health Services as the Medical Billing Representative for our youth until 2017, when she made the decision to switch over to Human Resources and work with the employee side of New Directions.

Laurie completes disability, Paid Family Leave, and Workers Compensation benefits for employees. She works with medical providers to ensure that employees are able to return to work quickly and safely. During the Covid-19 pandemic, New Directions employees are dealing with health concerns and stress. Laurie wants everyone to know that she is here to answer any of your questions or find out those answers for you while being sensitive to what you are enduring.

Laurie’s favorite aspect of her job is her co-workers. She can go to any one of them in any department and they are always willing to help out. They are a great support system and great friends. Laurie is jovial and everybody knows her loud and smile-inducing laughter around the Randolph Campus. Laurie said she lives up to her last name – “I am hurd!” In her spare time, Laurie enjoys camping, traveling, and spending time with her children and grandchildren. Laurie describes herself as resilient; “life has taught me that.”

Thank you, Laurie, for keeping us safe and for caring about everyone’s well-being during these difficult times!



November Staff Spotlight – Todd Nugent’s 25 Year Milestone

POSTED: 11.24.21 | CATEGORY:

Todd Nugent – Senior Support Specialist, Randolph Residential

This month, we will be spotlighting Todd Nugent for his milestone service achievement!

Todd began working for New Directions in August of 1996. That’s 25 years of service! Congrats, Todd!

Todd attended college at SUNY Brockport and earned a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education. He started out his career as a Youth Counselor on Unit 6. He was then promoted to Assistant Supervisor (renamed Senior Support Specialist) on Maple Suite. Todd has consistently stayed with the younger, more behaviorally “challenging” youth since Day 1. He is especially gifted in working patiently and connecting with young kids.

Todd works directly with children on a day-to-day basis. He builds relationships and teaches them positive ways to express themselves when upset and frustrated. He helps in preparing kids to either go back to their families or to move on to a lower level of care, such as foster care or adoption.  That is what means the most – seeing kids return to their families or to get a family of their own and leave residential placement. Todd is also a fun individual to be around, and his coworkers always have fun when he is working.

Todd’s favorite part of working at New Directions is watching the kids grow and watching them be able to be kids. It is always rewarding seeing them play and use their imaginations and build relationships with other children.

Todd is kind, supportive, funny, empathetic of others, and would do anything for anyone. Todd enjoys camping, hunting, fishing, traveling, and enjoying life with his wife Jamie (in the photo above) and their dog/fur kid Reggie! Fun fact: Todd is afraid of heights but built up enough courage to go on a hot air balloon ride last year!  Also, some people think he is quiet. According to Dawn Skinner, “Let’s just say he is quiet at times, but there is a fun and crazy side to Todd that people love and so do the kids”.

Thank you, Todd, for your constant dedication to the kids in your care and to New Directions!


POSTED: 11.18.21 | CATEGORY:


Home-Like Setting Helps Teens Prepare for Independence


LANCASTER – New Directions Youth and Family Services has announced the opening of its newest agency operated board home for teens at 5522 Broadway Avenue in Lancaster. The new home began welcoming its first residents in November 2021.

The home was previously the site of a youth shelter operated by Plymouth Crossroads. New Directions purchased and renovated the home with funds from New Directions Foundation. “The neighborhood and community have been very welcoming,” said Mark Wickerham, New Directions’ Director of Community Based Programs, who coordinated the homes’ renovation. “The location opens up many opportunities for youth.”

The New York State Office of Child and Family Services certifies Broadway House as an approved site with a maximum occupancy of six older teens. The home is staffed at all times. Youth must attend school and are encouraged to participate in extracurricular activities and/or hold part-time jobs.  They do all this while also acquiring life skills and receiving support to identify and stay connected to important persons in their lives.

“Within this unique community-based program we have the privilege to serve youth and their families while providing youth an opportunity to thrive in a safe, home-like setting that supports them to develop and sustain positive lifelong family relationships,” said Julie Tomasi, New Directions’ Chief Operating Officer of Child Welfare Programs.

New Directions also runs agency operated boarding homes in Falconer, Westons Mills, and a group home for pregnant and parenting teens in Salamanca. “For many youth the path to success is in building positive relationships within a therapeutic community setting,” said Jim Coder, New Directions’ Chief Executive Officer. “New Directions is open to opportunities and is fortunate to be able to meet a need that existed prior to the pandemic.”

New Directions invites interested community stakeholders to make an appointment to tour the residence and learn more about the program by contacting Jim Karpinski, Program Coordinator, at 716-391-1769. For more information on New Directions’ services for children and families throughout Western New York please visit


About New Directions Youth and Family Services:

New Directions Youth and Family Services is a 501(c)(3) non-profit agency with a heritage going back 150 years. Its mission is to foster resilient, self-reliant families and permanence for at-risk children in the shortest time possible, by promoting safe, respectful, responsible, and goal-directed behavior. The agency’s mission is promoted through dedicated, caring staff and by employing its treatment philosophy of Normative Culture. For more information about New Directions Youth and Family Services, please visit

Spooky Stories of Wyndham Lawn

POSTED: 10.27.21 | CATEGORY:

In the spirit of “Spooky Season”, check out these Staff Stories from the Mid-1980s thru the Early 1990s recorded in a journal:

1987 11:30 PM – 12:00 AM
A staff member was doing rounds when they witnessed a small child run into the dining room. Staff followed, but no child was there. Staff in the nearby unit heard and saw nothing – reported no children were missing from unit.

1987 2:00 AM
Staff walking the building heard footsteps and stopped to look. The staff didn’t see anything but in their mind visualized a Revolutionary British soldier.

Staff heard piano playing, walked into the living room and witnessed a woman sitting at the piano playing a tune. The woman faded away as the staff approached closer.

December 1988
Staff heard a door open and close, footsteps followed. When he went to look, no one was there.

January 1989
Staff saw an image out of the corner of their eye walking into the dining room of someone dressed in dark blue. At first the staff thought it was a coworker, but as she approached the person disappeared.

June 1989
Staff heard footsteps in the living room, but no one was there when he went to inspect.

August 1989 3:30 AM
Quad night worker saw an image of a female face coming down the stairs at her as she walked up to check the children. The face faded as it came closer to her.

August 1991 1:00 AM
A night security worker was sitting at a table in the main administration office. He was looking at a notebook, worrying about spilling his soda on it. As he was looking at the soda can, the can slid 5 inches slowly towards the notebook. The table was completely level.

If you’re interested in more spooky stories, there was a book inspired about the spooky happenings of Wyndham Lawn titled “Mystery Up the Winding Stair” by Helen Fuller Orton!

October is National Bullying Prevention Month


Unite for Kindness, Acceptance, and Inclusion

By Narda Gatgen, LCSW-R

Did you know October is National Bullying Prevention Month?  The national campaign in the United States was founded in 2006 by Pacers National Bullying Prevention Center. This campaign focuses on preventing bullying, and promoting kindness, acceptance, and inclusion. Let us start with a trivia Quiz:  See how many of the following bullies you can match to the TV show, movie, or cartoon.  No cheating looking at the answer key. 


  1. Johnny Lawrence                                  6. Bluto
  2. Regina George                                       7. Sid Phillips
  3. Scut Farkus                                             8. Cartman
  4. Draco Malfoy                                         9. Nellie Olson
  5. Nurse Ratched                                     10. Richard Vernon


Answer Key:

  1. Karate Kid 2. Mean Girls 3. A Christmas Story   4. Harry Potter Series 5. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest 6. Popeye 7. Toy Story 8. Southpark 9. Little House on the Prairie   10. The Breakfast Club.


Although these are fictitious characters, we all can probably relate to at least one of the above having encountered someone similar. Bullies show up in all age ranges. 



– 1 out of 5 students report being bullied

– Students/kids experiencing bullying are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, school avoidance, and other negative health effects.

– Students with disabilities (emotional and physical) and students of color experience bullying at a much higher rate than listed above.

– 70% of LGBTQ youth report having experienced some sort of bullying. 


Do you long for the old days when parents and teachers’ advice for being bullied was “Don’t be a tattletale”, “mind your own business, and ignore them”, “There are bullies everywhere in life you have to toughen up and learn how to deal with them”.   Many of us growing up heard these statements, and our employees in their 20’s were still hearing this during part of their formal education, then experiencing the shift to discussing bullying.  As noted above, in the early 2000’s, the campaign began spreading bringing attention to this issue, educators and parents began tackling this very real problem.  Now it is not uncommon for this to be discussed in the classroom, at home, celebrities speaking out on public service announcements, and anti-bullying messages being incorporated into children’s tv programming. We are doing better, but still have a long way to go.  The very real occurrence of bullying and the power it has on youth goes way beyond hurt feelings. The real and damaging effects are traumatic for many, and sometimes fatal for others. 


Youth now have the added pressure of witnessing or experiencing cyberbullying.   Mainstream access to computers, cell phones and other devices allows bullies into our lives and into our homes.   Cyber bullies are not physically present and visible but can hide and be anonymous.  This type of bullying extends beyond school hours, and into our private lives, homes with access to our kids 24 hours a day 7 days a week. This type of bullying leaves kids vulnerable and parents and educators often unaware.  Clearly times have changed and helping our kids be safe in the wonderful world of technology is a challenge.  Still wishing for a simpler time? Despite the challenges of navigating our present world I believe when we know better, we do better.  Parents and educators and schools are promoting and enforcing an anti-bullying environment and acting when there are safety concerns.  School policies and protective measures are being addressed as well as codes of student conduct.  Youth are encouraged when they see something or experience something to say something, report, confront and support their fellow peers.  


Reading intake information and referrals for nearly 30 years at New Directions for youth entering Residential care, Foster care and Agency Operated Boarding Homes it has only been in the past 10-15 years that the mention of bullying has been listed as a common concern or experience of the youth we serve.  A sign of the times?  Bullying has always been present, but service providers recognize the impact and see the correlation to depression, anxiety, school avoidance, suicidal ideation, and many other behavioral and health concerns. When adopting Normative Culture at New Directions, the concept of peer-to-peer support was a key element.   The shift from “mind your own business” to ” your peers are your business and need your support” is an aspect of promoting safety. It is noted in a study (Davis & Nixon 2010) that students who experience bullying report supportive actions and allying from their peers or bystanders was more helpful than actions by educators or self-actions. 


This Month:

-Check out the Pacers anti bullying website,

-Talk to the youth in your life about anti-bullying efforts, what they can do and encourage them to report concerns to a trusted adult.

-Do something kind when you see despair.

-Recognize Unity Day on October 20th, wear orange.


 Unite for kindness, acceptance, and inclusion. 


Kindly submitted,

Narda Gatgen LCSW-R

Clinical Director Residential & AOBH Services

Skip to content