Since starting to write Urban Tidepool, many people who learn of the nature of the project have commented, “Oh, you must find writing that to be so cathartic!”  Or, “You must be finding the process to be very therapeutic!”  (You can tell right there I hang around with a lot of social work-y types!) My answer, at first stumbled over, has become smoother going into the third year of work, and I usually say something like, “Well, maybe it will.” It leaves the door open for hope, right?

But the truth is, and my spouse and reading team will attest, this has not been cathartic. It has been hellish painful. The point is, though, that writing for catharsis was never the goal.

The goal all along was to tell a story that will raise questions about where the gaps are in the systems and institutions where kids can get lost. First prompted to begin writing during the It Gets Better buzz, I wanted to open a dialogue about kids surviving situations that A) drove them to desperation and B) drove the compassionate adults around them to search out ways to reassure them that this, too, shall pass and C) took a critical look at some systems and institutions that allowed said situations to get so desperate in the first place.

Over the weekend, I gave presentations in North Carolina on adolescent development and LGBT youth and the current trends in working with LGBT youth.  I give presentations like this often and it always generates wonderful conversations about creating safe spaces for LGBT kids. As social workers, we are trained to look for the red flags, to look for warning signs that let us know that one of our kids is in danger. When I left the training Saturday, another question crossed my mind, another intersection of social work and Urban Tidepool. What about the kids who are not sending up the red flags for us to notice, but who need help desperately? What can we do there? How can we even find those kids?

Here’s a shout out to my friends working in social services and education, who have dedicated stress-filled, underpaid careers to caring for kids who hurt, and caring for kids who hurt themselves. As a professional system, how would you rate us at ferreting out those kids who hide in plain sight, bleeding right in front of us, but never once ask for help? I worry about the kids who live on the honor rolls while internalizing chaos at home, or who come home internalizing the chaos they endure at school, until they are percolating like little coffee pots with feet. We all know kids like these. And it makes me wonder, while we’re exploring the gaps in the systems and institutions where they grow up, if telling the story contained in Urban Tidepool can facilitate conversations with those straight-A, overachieving kids hiding right under our noses.


  1. Holly Phillips says:

    I can’t wait to read your book……..

  2. Thank you, Holly! I am hopeful it’s a sooner rather than later situation!

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