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As a youth-serving organization which provides most of our services online, we're all too aware the internet has limits. You can't get tested for chlamydia or pregnancy online. You can't get ongoing, one-on-one counseling or therapy where your counselor can hand you a tissue when you need one. The internet can't provide anyone a warm bed or a meal, an IUD, pre-natal care or an abortion. Google can't provide us HIV healthcare or emergency contraception.
As part of what we do, we refer users to offline services, but many of our users are often reluctant to seek out in-person services we or others can't directly vouch for. Years ago, we began to notice that when one of our users told another near them about a service they used and liked, or when one of our staff could vouch for having gone to a service ourselves, that often made all the difference in the world. Those users tended to feel immediately more comfortable using those services and were more likely to go and use them. Of course!
We all know one of the best ways to find quality sexual healthcare and other in-person care services is by asking people we know and trust for a recommendation. But that can be difficult, especially for young people: so many are either ashamed about sexual healthcare and other related services, or are afraid that disclosing they've had care will result in a breach of their privacy. Many young people don't even get care they need in the first place, so don't know anyone to refer someone else to, especially in areas where services are limited or where seeking out services presents a profound personal risk.
We know you can't always get a good recommendation in-person, so we're aiming to build the next best thing.
Readers can use our new online tool to find out who Scarleteen users around the world have gotten great care from that they'd personally recommend, and see listings of care services our staff, volunteers and allies know to be bonafide. Or, you can enter your own review to help others find services they need from providers you know are great, or add your review of a provider or service to an existing listing. If you're a service provider, you can enter information about your clinic, center or practice and it will be published for review. Any of the above can be done anonymously, so no one has to worry about privacy.
Services listed will be specifically youth-serving or open to youth: they may not be not adult-only. Because teens and young adults themselves will post reviews, young people will be able to have a real voice when it comes to how they're being served, and their peers can get recommendations from peers, not just from older adults. Before going live, listings for services/providers we are not very familiar with will be verified by a phone or email contact made by one of our staff or volunteers.
As an organization which advocates for youth and supports youth rights, we know too well how hard it can be to find services that truly serve youth well, especially around sexuality. We've heard from users who just didn't even know where to start in seeking out that care or were terrified to even try, fearing judgment or disrespect. We've heard from users who used the phone book or Google and wound up at places which couldn't serve them or wouldn't serve them; from users who thought they'd gone to a family planning clinic when they'd actually gone to an anti-contraception organization, thought they had been going to an abortion clinic or to all-choice options counseling when they'd gone instead to a crisis pregnancy center, or who were not served by providers because of their age, gender identity or economic status. We hope this tool can help to prevent those situations.
We also know there are fantastic providers out there who serve young people wonderfully: we want to make sure the millions of young people who come to Scarleteen each year can find out who those excellent providers are, so they (you!) can get the in-person services they (you!) need and feel more confident and capable in seeking them out.
Obviously, this is a big project, and one that, by design, we can't do without the help of our users, allies and colleagues. We know and have personal experiences or relationships with many clinics and other services, but as we aim to create an international database, and there are only so many pap smears or STI tests any of us can get at different clinics around the world. There's no way we can possibly do this on our own. We also know it couldn't be as good or as useful if we did: we want this tool to be very grassroots and very youth-driven.
Are you a young person who has gotten excellent care from a clinic, private or individual provider, center or shelter, or did a service still in operation serve you well when you were younger who you want to recognize and share with young people now? Are you or do you work for a provider of sexuality, sexual health, and/or crisis care services that serves young people and is dedicated to doing so well? If so, we're asking for your help by adding a listing or review.
Of course, if you're a young person (or any person!) looking for excellent services in these areas, we are thrilled to invite you to start using this new tool to seek out the services you want or need. Obviously, as we're just beginning to build the database, there won't be many listings to look through just yet, but keep your eyes peeled. We're confident that in no time at all, given how great our users and allies can be at helping us out, we'll have a plethora of listings for great help and care internationally. This has been a long project in the making, and we can't express how excited we are to finally roll it out!
Many props and thanks to our developer, Clara Raubertas, for all of her work with us on this. It was a big concept in which the executive director had a lot of big ideas she wasn't always so crystal-clear about (ahem), and Clara worked with patience and dedication to help make this happen. An additional and important thanks to all the individuals who have given us their financial support, at any amount: this is part of what your donations have funded, and we couldn't have done it without you.
(Because this is a new service, please let us know if you have any problems using it, or if you think we accidentally left something vital out. We expect there may be some things we need to refine as we build it further, and as always, your input is invaluable. Thanks!)
Update 1.13.11: Currently, we have a couple snags. Users may only pick one service at a time to choose from, and areas without postal codes are not working in the search. We're working out both of these issues, however, and expect to have them remedied soon!
Update 1.29.11: Snags fixed! Yay!
Also, a question came up as to why we have LGBQ services and trans and gender-variant services as separate tickboxes/options. Options like those, just like the options for teen-specific care, and survivor-specific care, are for folks looking for specialized care and specifically-inclusive services. Users may pick up to five different tickboxes for searches, not just one.
We separated LGBQ services from trans and gender-variant services because trans and gender-variant people have a range of orientations like everyone else, including heterosexuality, but primarily because a service which can or does serve gay, lesbian, bisexual or queer people well will not automatically serve trans or gender-variant people well, or offer the services trans or gender-variant people want or need. A reader suggested this was perhaps because we didn't understand trans people needed reproductive healthcare: quite the opposite! A trans person seeking reproductive healthcare could tick the box for that healthcare AND for trans-specific services to best assure they get that kind of healthcare from providers who also are educated about and able to serve trans people well with that healthcare or other kinds of services. In the same way, someone who wanted reproductive healthcare and was also an assault victim could pick two boxes to intersect that, or someone who was LGB could pick the two boxes to address that intersection. For anyone who wanted reproductive healthcare without narrowing that care in any way, they could just tick the box ONLY for that healthcare.
We're happy to discuss this more here, and just like any other part of the project: adjustments can always be made!