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What's New at KidsPeace

News and Notes from KidsPeace

TeenCentral.Net Takes Domestic Violence Head On

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TeenCentral.Net has been providing teens with solid, no-nonsense advice and resources since 1998, but the latest addition to the site may be its greatest achievement. This new section is a tough, realistic discussion of domestic and dating violence that makes no attempt to soften the damage kids sustain from this growing problem. "This is one of those topics that isn't discussed much among teens," says TeenCentral.Net Director Dr. Julius Licata. "There is shame associated with being abused or witnessing a parent or other family member suffering abuse that makes this a taboo subject." According to Licata, teens also feel that any abuse from family or boy or girlfriends is their fault and treatment they deserve. "This section of our website is designed to give teens information on domestic and dating abuse and teach them where to get help anywhere in the world," according to Licata.

Designed in a graphic novel format, this section is very gripping and stark in its presentation. It discusses the feelings teens have about abuse, simple examples of what constitutes domestic or dating abuse, where to turn for help and how to stand up to an abuser and find a safer place. "We tried to answer potential questions teens might ask about the subject," Licata explains, "and give them all of the information they need to contact a person or organization for support and extrication from the situation." He adds, "It is never easy to stand up to abusers, whether they are parents or the person you are dating, especially since there are typically self esteem issues for the abused teen. We hope that we can convince our members that they are valuable people who do not deserve abuse. We also want to instruct all teens to look for signs of abuse in family members or friends and offer their support."

Another feature of this new section is an interactive board game that allows teens to learn about domestic and dating abuse through a series of questions, which, if answered correctly, move your play piece around the board. If a teen does not do well in the game, she can re-read the information and try again until she wins. "We hope to change the lives of many teens who are suffering needlessly at the hands of adult or peer abusers and encourage friends to recognize the signs of abuse and offer assistance to a peers who are in abusive relationships," says Licata. The development of this new section was made possible by a grant from Verizon.

TeenCentral.Net is a free, anonymous website sponsored by KidsPeace, the organization that has been providing services to children and adolescents since 1882. TeenCentral.Net has always been a forum where teens could express their every thought and receive nonjudgmental answers to their most intimate questions. Master's level counselors read each posting before publishing and respond to every posting within 24 hours. The site contains postings from many of its 590,000 members, celebrity stories about overcoming problems in their teens, news aimed at teens, a section on weight awareness, a guide for quitting smoking and recommendations about books that appeal to teens. Hundreds of volunteers assist in the operation of this website, and the growing number of monthly hits speaks to the popularity of this site. Access the site at and learn about all of the features that appeal so to teens. The site also has a Facebook page that has a growing following as well.

KidsPeace Associate Remade into Better Person

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KidsPeace electrician Al Barnes returned to work at the Orchard Hills Campus in Orefield, PA, this week, and he was extremely happy to be back. In July, Al  had a terrible motorcycle accident on his way home from work, and his life changed forever. Al was placed into an induced coma to keep him from moving after a severe head injury that caused significant swelling to his brain. It was a touch and go situation for a while, and doctors were not sure if Al would survive. But Al's family and KidsPeace colleagues had no doubt that Al would be back -- he has so much to do.

In addition to his regular duties at KidsPeace, Al is also a pastor who has his own church in Allentown, PA, and who volunteers after work to listen and give hope to the children at KidsPeace. He was sorely missed while he was gone, and his flock and co-workers did not forget him. In fact, they held a fundraiser to help defray his medical and living expenses while he was recuperating. Al spent three weeks in the hospital and another three weeks at a rehabilitation center before going home for the long journey back to full strength. He had surgery again in October to insert a plastic plate in his head to protect the injured area. He went through months of physical and occupational therapy before being pronounced ready to drive and return to work last week.

Al refers to himself as "the Miracle Man of KidsPeace" and firmly believes that his amazing recovery was the result of prayers and positive thoughts from his "KidsPeace Family" and members of his church. Al affectionately rubs his now bald head and points out his deep scars. "This plate is held in with titanium screws," he says, "so if someone tells me I have a screw loose, it may be a true statement." Always a man of great humor, Al acknowledges his gratitude for his gift of recovery with frequent jokes and a constant smile.

The 48 year old Barnes was overwhelmed by the happiness the KidsPeace staff showed when he returned. "People told me they were close to tears over seeing me," Al confides. "I can't get over how many people are so glad to see me!" It was no different at his church. After he left the rehabilitation center, Al went to a Friday night service and planned to stand to address the congregation for five minutes. Twenty minutes later, he stopped talking because he voice was going, but his energy felt limitless. Al's church is the Kingdom Roadhouse, where he preaches every Friday evening to visitors from all denominations and faiths. Many members are bikers who really relate to Al's biker persona. The children at KidsPeace are drawn to Al's calm and spiritual nature and turn to him for spiritual guidance. Al volunteers with the Spirituality Committee and participates in events such as Gospelfest.

When discussing his miraculous recovery, Al says that he "received a do-over from God, and God remade me into a better person." He says that his faith is stronger than ever, and that he he can hear God better than ever before. Now that he is running on all cylinders again, Al plans to visits victims of motorcycle accidents in the hospital and rehab centers to provide counseling and offer prayers. "I have a unique perspective now, and very few people could fill that space like I can," Al says with a smile.


KidsPeace Executive Director Helping Georgia Draft Performance-Based Goals

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KidsPeace is pleased to announce that Executive Director of KidsPeace Georgia, Scott Merritt, has been selected by the Georgia Department of Human Services to contribute to the development of performance based goals to improve the outcomes of children placed in foster care throughout the state. Scott will join 7 other Child Caring Institutions (CCI) leaders and executives who will meet throughout the first part of this year to develop the State's goals. The establishment of this committee is in response to The Federal Government's emphasis on achieving permanence for children who are in the State's Foster Care System.

The performance-based model will reward organizations that successfully place children in permanent homes with family members or in adoptive homes or Independent Living Programs. These organizations will be expected to meet specific outcomes while the children are in their residential program and when they step down from their facilities. If the outcomes are not achieved, the responsible organization may face penalties, while successful outcomes will result in additional revenues.

According to Merritt, "The State is also implementing a Permanency Based Initiative that will provide opportunities for organizations such as KidsPeace to continue working with children we have treated after their discharge. The purpose of this initiative is to ensure a smoother continuum of care under our supervision with the goal of achieving permanency. Organizations that decide to be a part of this initiative will be compensated according to how well they met the Performance Based Goals, which are currently being developed."

Merritt, who has directed the KidsPeace facility since it opened in 2004 feels honored to have been selected to participate on this committee. "It is very exciting to be involved in this new focus from the beginning," he said. "Georgia is totally committed to this project."

KidsPeace Urges Teens to Resolve to Join TeenCentral.Net

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A new year offers opportunities for new beginnings and resolutions to do things for ourselves that will make us happier, healthier, stronger and better able to deal with everyday issues. The experts at KidsPeace urge teens to log onto TeenCentral.Net and join this active community in writing about their concerns, learning how to stop some bad habits, receiving advice from trained counselors and offering support to other teens who have posted about the difficulties they are facing. TeenCentral.Net is free and totally anonymous, so teens can be open and honest and know that they cannot be identified.

With more than 490,000 members, TeenCentral.Net is very popular with teens from around the world. "No matter where a teen lives -- in cities, small towns, busy suburbs or other countries -- the problems are pretty much universal," says Dr. Julius Licata,  director of TeenCentral.Net. Teens have questions or issues they feel they cannot discuss with their parents or friends, and TeenCentral.Net offers a safe environment to express themselves and receive advice from Master's level counselors." Licata helped create the site in 1998 and has been shepherding its growth ever since. He is extremely grateful to the volunteers who screen and answer the posts and ensure that no one can be identified by anyone who visits the site.

TeenCentral.Net is always adding new resources and interesting content to the site, including a news section that is relevant to teens, videos and stories about celebrities who experienced the same things members are experiencing, books of interest to teens and helpful information about weight awareness and how to stop smoking. "Right before Christmas, Amanda Seyfried, the popular actress from 'Mean Girls,' 'Mama Mia,' and 'Big Love,' visited TeenCentral.Net in Pennsylvania and filmed a short video that tells teens why she is a fan of TeenCentral.Net and has been since she was a young teen," Licata adds. "There are sports stars, musical groups and other celebrities who support us and take the time to tell their stories on our site."

There is also now a FaceBook page about TeenCentral.Net that keeps teens up to date on what is happening on the site, and new teens join every week. Although there is not a separate site for adults, parents can write for advice and receive private emails with the information they need or recommendations about where to go to find answers. 

Teens post about family issues, boyfriend or girlfriend troubles, problems with friends, school difficulties, sexuality and concerns about friends who are need help. No subject is taboo, and counselors provide factual, non-judgmental answers to each post within 24 hours. Many teens have posted that the advice they received from TeenCentral.Net changed their lives, helped them out of bad situations and directed them to service providers in their areas that could help them with serious problems.

Licata encourages educators, parents, mental health services providers and counselors to guide teens to TeenCentral.Net so that they can "Log on and work it out," whatever their problem may be. For more information about the site or to order cards to distribute to teens, email or call 610-799-7912. "Make this a safe, less troubled year for the teens you know," Licata says.


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