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Safe Place Interview with Adolescent Counselor Rachel Sibbles

Bridge interviewed our Adolescent Counselor & Safe Place Coordinator Rachel Sibbles to learn more about the Safe Place network and how it helps underage youth find safety and security.

What exactly is Safe Place?
Safe Place is a national network of sites where youth under 18 can go to get help. Safe Place sites are marked by a yellow and black Safe Place sign, which means when youth go in there, they will be able to get connected to resources.

How is Bridge involved with Safe Place?
Safe Place sites are organized by region, and Bridge is the lead agency for the Eastern Massachusetts region. Bridge manages a Safe Place network of 42 sites in the Greater Boston area, which means that when youth visit these Safe Place sites, they will be connected to Bridge.

How do sites get added to Bridge’s Safe Place network?
When adding a new site, we try to look for organizations that are prominent in the community and that will be easy for youth to find. Then, once the organization has agreed to be a Safe Place site, Bridge will train the staff there on how to respond to any youth that may come in search of help and how to contact Bridge to let us know what is going on. We are currently in the process of adding new Safe Place sites at 31 Boston Centers for Youth and Families!

What is your role in the Safe Place process?
As the Adolescent Counselor/Safe Place Coordinator, I am responsible for identifying/recruiting/training Safe Place sites and for answering any calls that come in from Safe Place sites. I also work to share out information about Safe Place to the community as well as to make sure the Safe Place sites’ signage and training are up to date by completing yearly site checks. When I get a call from a site, my first job is to connect with the staff member at the Safe Place site to get any background information they have about the youth and their situation. Next, I speak to the youth directly and try to get an idea of how they are feeling and if they are ok. I try to reassure them, knowing that they are probably scared and need someone to talk to. Sometimes all it takes is a bit of guidance and someone to listen to them for the youth to realize they are not alone.

If they still need help, however, I let them know about the services Bridge offers, from counseling to emergency housing. If the youth at the Safe Place decides they want to use Bridge’s services, I will meet them at the Safe Place site and accompany them to Bridge. I will try to get basic background information about them and learn about their situation and if there is somewhere safe for them to stay that night (i.e., with a parent or a relative). If there is not, or if they are not willing to return home, we inform them about the option of the Basic Center and allow them to make the voluntary decision to stay.

What is the Basic Center?
The Basic Center is the program that provides temporary lodging for runaway youth for up to 72 hours while we figure out next steps. In addition to a place to stay, the Basic Center includes access to food, clothing, medical care, individual and family counseling, and aftercare services for youth who stay there. This gives the youth time to decompress and talk with the team at Bridge, who can help them reconnect with family and make both an immediate and a longer-term plan.

What is the goal of Bridge’s Runaway & Adolescent Services?
Our goal is always family reunification, so as soon as a new youth comes in, we try to find a way to get them back to a safe guardian. This may mean inviting parents or family members in for counseling to try and find common ground so youth feel comfortable going home. It can also mean reaching out to extended family to find a more stable, long-term housing solution.

Well, thanks, Rachel, for sharing more about Safe Place.
Happy to help!