The Importance of Prevention: A Look at National Runaway Safeline and the Let’s Talk: Runaway Prevention Curriculum

By Lindsey Kahney, Prevention Specialist, National Runaway Safeline

The issue of runaway, homeless, and “throwaway” youth impacts every community and school in the country. We know adolescence is a difficult time. While all youth experience a certain degree of stress in their daily lives, imagine the added stress of not having a place to stay or feeling unsafe in your home. For anyone working with youth, it’s critical to be familiar with resources that allow young people to reach out and discuss ways they can feel supported.

“Growing up is a struggle and there will be obstacles, but you can face them.” – Let’s Talk youth participant

For more than 45 years, the National Runaway Safeline (NRS) has been the go-to resource for runaway and homeless youth and their families. Through our telephone hotline and online services, we provide a safe, confidential way for youth to reach out for support, resources, and options. This intervention work is vital, but we also realized it’s important to focus on prevention. We created the Let’s Talk: Runaway Prevention Curriculum with feedback from social service providers, teachers, healthcare workers, and other youth care workers. The curriculum is a free, 14-module prevention tool that helps providers teach youth how to: build life skills, seek out alternatives to running, and access trusted resources. Let’s Talk gives adults the know-how to talk to young people about the reality of running away, anger management, healthy relationships, drugs and alcohol, and much more.

“There’s always somebody out there ready to help you when needed – never think you are alone.” – Let’s Talk youth participant

Trauma-informed intervention

When working with at-risk youth, it’s critical to recognize that many of them have been impacted by trauma. We were especially mindful of this when we created the Let’s Talk curriculum and made sure to avoid language that may cause any retraumatization. We included small caution icons in the text to alert facilitators to sensitive issues and offered additional resources for youth who may need them. Ultimately, our hope for the curriculum is that youth learn how to be safe, build trusting and healthy relationships, connect to positive peer support, and be culturally sensitive. We want to empower young people to share their voices and explore potential choices when addressing these issues.

Be a partner in prevention

The Let’s Talk: Runaway Prevention Curriculum has already been used by individuals who work directly with youth in 41 states. The curriculum has been used in school classrooms, afterschool programs, basic centers, and transitional programs. Since the creation of the Let’s Talk program in 2007, adult facilitators and youth participants continue to provide positive feedback to our organization.

If you or anyone you know is interested in using this resource, please visit 1800RUNAWAY.org to download the English or Spanish version for free. Email prevention@1800runaway.org or call 773-289-1723 with any questions regarding Let’s Talk. If you’re a young person in crisis or know someone who needs immediate assistance, please don’t hesitate to call our 24/7 crisis hotline: 1-800-RUNAWAY.

Access Let's Talk Curriculum
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