NCS this Month: A Message of Strength & Resiliency
A Message from our President and CEO
As we step into November, we step out of October, which was National Bullying Prevention Month. While the core of Northern’s mission is grounded in principles of kindness, compassion, healing, and respect for differences, staff in our programs work to implement specific anti-bullying tactics all year round.
Everyone knows that far too many children and youth are bullied by their peers for too many reasons, young people with behavioral health issues are at an even greater risk. These kids might be anxious or depressed, have socialization challenges, and be viewed by their peers as not only being different but undesirable and irritating. Children and youth who have been removed by the courts from their families (or are at risk of being) and placed in foster families and foster homes are also more vulnerable to bullying. This is due to being new to a school, being perceived as “poor” or uncared for, and schoolmates, teachers, and neighbors knowing of their family issues.
For children and youth with intersectional identities such as being LBGTQ, recent immigrants or refugees, or members of a minority religion, as well as those youth with physical differences such as being more overweight or underweight than their classmates, the risks multiply even more.At the same time, some of these same reasons that young people are bullied are the reason that they are at greater risk of being bullies themselves (for example, behaviors such a aggression, parenting and/or issues at home, and problems following rules.) Because of these factors, many of the children and youth we serve at Northern, whether in Philadelphia Public Schools, through our outpatient, afterschool and summer camp services, or through our foster care, adoption, and residential programs are directly and profoundly impacted by bullying, as victims and sometimes perpetrators. Outcomes from being bullied include increased behavioral health or issues at home, decreased academic achievement, dropping out of school, and sometimes even suicide. Bullies themselves can suffer from substance abuse and criminal and violent behavior continuing into adulthood.
Last week, our young people in Northern’s afterschool Partial and Wellness Program hosted an Anti-Bullying Talent Show, where they performed skits and recited poetry about how they and others have been bullied or bullied others. About 30 strong children and youth were joined by over 50 family members, friends, and Northern staff.
Each performing group based their group name of one of the seven principles of The Sanctuary Model. Each group offered insights into their lives – some heartbreaking, some funny, some hopeful. Two young men from a group referred to as the “Open Communication Wizards” expressed their personal feelings toward bullying in two different and creative ways. One child bluntly explained, “I am just 12 and I know how it feels to be bullied. It has gotten so bad that I hate going to school. I try not to hear what they say because when I hear what they say, I want to cry, just cry all day. I don’t show it. I just don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”
Another child bravely recited this poem:
“I am like everyone else.
I understand that people are different.
I hope everyone else will see,
That I try to be the best I can be.
I am like everyone else.”
Give Back this Holiday Season
For every group of kids, the message was one of resilience and strength in spite of (and perhaps also because of) the obstacles each young person has faced. I am extremely proud of our children and youth, not only for stepping in front of a large crowd to tell their stories, which for some was not easy to do, but also for their motivation to continue to heal, grow and learn from their experiences. I am encouraged, humbled and inspired to be a part of this great organization as it continues to walk alongside our children, youth and families towards bright futures.
In the coming months ahead, I am motivated, determined and excited to allow Northern Children’s Services to shine even brighter for our children, youth, families and staff as we take on the holiday season but we need your help to make this happen! Please help us spread the word and donate to our Thanksgiving Food Drive and Holiday Toy Drive. Every little bit goes a long way!