YWCA Northeast Indiana
For over 122 years, the YWCA of Northeast Indiana has focused on eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all human beings. The YWCA of Northeast Indiana strives to provide safe places for women and girls, build strong women leaders, and advocate for women’s rights and civil rights in Congress. To the end, the YWCA Northeast Indiana has intentionally stuck to and honed in on “what we do well,” according to Deborah Beckman, executive director. Beckman comments, “We feel like we are the experts in domestic violence and that is what our staff is trained to do.” In addition, one of the YWCA Northeast Indiana’s key areas is racial justice which offers English as a second language, GED and citizenship classes specific to non-English speakers, as well as, computer courses to assist with job placement and increase employment opportunities. According to Beckman, the success of the programs rely on building trust and cultivating a culture of volunteerism.
Using Organization’s Talents and a Client-based View: Promoting Self-Sufficiency, while Enhancing Communication Amidst Diversity
For over 122 years, the YWCA of Northeast Indiana has been focused on the empowerment of women and racial justice. Founded on Christian principles, the YWCA Northeast Indiana’s mission is to eliminate racism, empower women, and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. To this end, this organization has proven successful, especially in two core service areas: addressing domestic violence and promoting racial justice.
Addressing Domestic Violence
Establishing the first shelter in the state of Indiana for domestic violence, in 1976, the YWCA Northeast Indiana serves as an advocate and safe haven for women suffering from domestic violence. Deborah Beckman, the Executive Director of YWCA Northeast Indiana, notes,
“We’re in our 40th year of doing services and from that time it has increased from having a safe haven for women and children in the community. We built our current building in 1986 and in the process of renovating and building a new shelter. We merged with another organization [Hope House] last summer, and we will be incorporating that into the new facility that provides addiction services for women…One of the things that we know about domestic violence and addiction is that it often goes hand-in-hand. It was a great opportunity but also a very long and full process.”
The YWCA Northeast Indiana is very excited for what the future will bring. The nonprofit started with the crisis shelter. Fast-forward to today; they now have prevention education services that serve a six-county area. The organization also trains partner organizations in other service areas as well. The YWCA Northeast Indiana also has established a domestic violence prevention education program approved by the state’s department of education and is in compliance with the
Heather Law (a bill designed to encourage schools to address adequately, issues of dating violence and healthy relationships).
To determine the effectiveness or impact of its domestic violence education programs, the YWCA Northeast Indiana administers both a standardized pre and test with all the students. Beckman explains further,
“We went through the certification process with the state of Indiana to develop our curriculum as the best practice. In addition, I am proud that we’ve created a continuum of services in our organization of domestic violence. Also, in addition to the crisis shelter we have crisis services that work with people out in the community who may have other resources when it comes to housing but they need other components and the entire intervention piece that comes with it.”
The YWCA Northeast Indiana encourages self-sufficiency of its clients and students through one-on-one case management, advocacy, and tailored safety planning as both a community-based program as well as a longer term home-based program. The YWCA Northeast Indiana staff works directly with clients in their homes to make sure they are re-building their lives after the crisis of domestic violence, by going back to school, cultivating new employment plans, or learning to maintain their own residence. According to YWCA Northeast Indiana leadership, any of these tools can work towards self-sufficiency.
However, the YWCA Northeast Indiana staff identified communication and making sure the clients stay connected as a major challenge for them. With an estimated annual budget of $2.1M, the YWCA Northeast Indiana has intentionality stuck to and honed in on as Beckman states, “what we do well.” This mantra is a mechanism, which has helped the organization to continue to provide quality services and stay connected to clients and the community they serve. Beckman explains,
“We feel like we are the experts in domestic violence, and that is what our staff is trained to do. Then we partner with others that do the other things well, so we do not have our own counseling department as such. We don’t do therapy, but we contract with another organization here in town who provide on-site therapy for those who would prefer to do it not on our site. So some things like that where we are working with multiple partners in the community to make sure our clients are getting the best of that service it is instead of dabbling in things that aren’t our expertise area.”
When asked which components of the program that are replicable to other organizations, the YWCA Northeast Indiana identified the education pieces. Much of what the YWCA Northeast Indiana does is to educate and increase awareness because it is tough for people to understand what healthy relationships look like. Also, in the age of technology, YWCA Northeast Indiana is expanding their services. By initially starting with implementing education components of their program at the middle school and high school stage; the organization is now doing a lot of work with digital bullying and technology in the elementary school age children as well as parents.
Promoting Racial Justice
Beyond domestic violence, another of the YWCA Northeast Indiana’s key areas is racial justice. The organization notes that racial justice is a challenge to address because sometimes the community thinks there aren’t any racial issues to address anymore. According to YWCA Northeast Indiana, Fort Wayne has been a huge resettlement community for refugees, especially a large segment of Burmese. Staff from the YWCA Northeast Indiana work with the Burmese population and other refugee populations. They started out administering a few English as a second language and computer classes to assist with job placement and increase employment opportunities. Beckman remembers,
“We are located very close to one of the apartment complexes that have a lot of refugees and immigrants, and that’s when we became kind of a community center for a lot of the work that we do with them. Initially, we were doing English as a second language and computer classes to get computer skills up to speed because a lot of people were looking for work and if you don’t have access to a computer or don’t have the computer skills you couldn’t apply for any jobs.”
Over the past few years, this program has grown to include multiple classes that were specific to non-English skills and also citizenship classes. For instance, in 2015, the program assisted 15 students in gaining their citizenship.
According to Beckman, the success of the program relies on trust building with the refugee community and cultivating a culture of volunteerism. She contends,
“Our experience was the population knows what they need, and it wasn’t, we need to ask you what you need.”
To build trust YWCA Northeast Indiana staff began to develop their curriculum around what the refugee and immigrant community identified as needs. Most of the classes are facilitated by trained volunteers to maximize resources. Utilizing interns and volunteers from the vast array of colleges and universities in the area, the YWCA Northeast Indiana can capitalize and leverage its human and other forms of community capital. YWCA Northeast Indiana is also present at a lot of community events to give out information not only for client services yet how to get involved. Having a great volunteer-base helps instruct and builds trust with those communities and helped the classes to grow. The increase in confidence is due in large part to the word of mouth from volunteers and program participants. This form of advertisement works for the particular populations which the YWCA Northeast Indiana provide services to. Beckman notes,
“It helps to have another person [they know] telling them that we are trustworthy and a stable organization for them to work with.”
While the overall YWCA mission statement is the same across the United States, the local affiliate’s program services are tailored to individual communities. Although they offer some of the same programming of domestic violence and provide aftercare programs, the uniqueness of any YWCA is that its design is based on the needs of the community. Therefore, YWCA Northeast Indiana is not duplicating what another YWCA is implementing because each’s programs are community catered.
Beyond refugee immigration education programs, the YWCA Northeast Indiana also offers an exemplary communication program, the Diversity Dialogue. The Diversity Dialogue is a program to encourage awareness and acceptance of diversity. The YWCA Northeast Indiana’s Diversity Council hosts monthly Diversity Dialogues, where they invite panelists and guest speakers to help lead the community in compelling conversations on interesting topics relevant to the community. This initiative started with the YWCA Northeast Indiana’s racial justice programming many years ago as an avenue to train staff. The staff would discuss some of those difficult topics and learn about different cultures and how to relate it. It started out as a staff training and then gradually evolved to engage the community in discussions with the staff. The dialogue sharing events are hosted on a Monthly basis during the lunch hour. The conversations include community stakeholders, such as community groups and coalitions, to help identify topics and issues for discussion. For instance, one topic was a stand against racism, which was hosted in conjunction with a local art gallery and showcased an art display on racial justice issues. Staff requests community stakeholders and residents to provide feedback on each of the different dialogues and suggested topics which are reviewed at the end of the year to prepare for the following year.
According to Beckman, what makes each of the racial injustice programs successful is having well-trained staff. She contents,
“[What makes the programs successful is] a staff that are dedicated to our mission and very passionate for the organization and for the work. The other thing is really being true to our roots, and what we are good at and really focus and understand where they are coming from on the issue.”