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Oct 04, 2017

Employee Spotlight—Sina Youssefzadeh

Sina is a passionate advocate for marginalized youth and social justice. Five years ago when he moved to Portland and was involved in grassroots social justice work, he learned about Janus’ work in the community and applied for a Crisis Intake Specialist position at Harry’s Mother, our Runaway Youth Services program. Since then, Sina has continued to help develop a trauma informed approach to the work done within his cohort, build relationships with youth and families and offer referrals to other partnering agencies. We talked to Sina to find out more about what he does in his current position.

What does a Crisis Intake Specialist do?

I work with youth and their families, who come to Harry’s Mother, build relationships and help navigate them to services. The goal of Harry’s Mother is to reunite youth with their families safely whenever possible, help youth in crisis build life skills to better advocate for themselves and offer resources and referrals to other partner agencies, which helps to build a network of support for each individual. I spend a lot of time listening to youth and their stories of hardship and offer tools needed to prevent similar hardships from reoccurring. I also provide referrals to family counselors and outside agencies help triage multiple crises when youth access our intake center, work alongside case managers to understand a client’s current situation better, and collect information on clients for intakes into our shelters.

At Harry’s Mother, we run a short-term shelter for youth in crisis between ages 9 and who are in need of respite from their current living situations. Additionally, there is a long-term shelter for survivors of sex trafficking where we offer similar services to help them regain their life.Separate from our shelter programs is the Juvenile Reception Center where we work with youth ages 9 to 17 detained for non-violent crimes or misdemeanors. The hope of the program is to offer support and services to those youth and their families as an alternative to the juvenile justice system.

Why do youth run away from home?

Youth run away from home for a variety of reasons that can often be outside of their control. Some of the reoccurring situations we see at Harry’s Mother include a cycle of homelessness, substance-abuse issues, a lack of care from their guardian, prolonged abuse from family members and marginalization of LGBT youth. Often I see that guardians do not have the proper tools to help guide youth, and this leads to long-term life troubles that they pass onto their children. In recent years, we have seen an increase in youth running away due to issues from transitions within foster placements and other institutions. When youth feel overwhelmed by societal pressures and expectations at home, running away is empowering. At Harry’s Mother, we strive to build genuine connections with youth so that when they are ready for help they have an option that they can trust.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

A major part of working with youth that is often underestimated is the day-to-day work of building trust in our relationships. This work often has ebbs and flows as each person is different, but we see results when we have youth who are choosing to work with us on a long-term basis. Change is a constant process that can be incredibly hard for a young person, especially if they feel alone in that process. When I see so many youth who return even just to say hi and grab food, I feel like we are contributing to that process of positive change for the youth we work with.

What are some of the challenges of your job?

Social work is a difficult and strenuous field, given the constant changes in funding, staff burnout, high levels of trauma and lack of resources for our clients. More often, the actual work is beyond the job description and is incredibly intense and hard to forget when I leave each day. Regardless, I continue to learn and challenge myself, advocate for my colleagues and clients and strive to create an environment of positive change.

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