A Graphic Memoir About Working With Youth

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Spectrum Youth and Family Services


I have worked since 1981 with teenagers who are homeless, runaways, addicted to drugs and alcohol, in the criminal justice system, former gang members and victims of abuse and neglect.  I am now the director of Spectrum Youth and Family Services, the largest program in Vermont for this population.

I’ve written columns for Youth Today, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Huffington Post and Forbes. I wrote a book that was published by Paulist Press in 2004.  

Child welfare: Mark Redmond, director of Spectrum Youth and Family Services, smiling man with gray mustache, dark jacket, light blue shirt, yellow patterned tie.

Mark Redmond

Then I started telling stories on stage about my experiences with such youth and was featured on The Moth podcast as well as others such as Risk!, Strangers and The Lapse. A few months ago a good friend suggested that I put these stories down in the form of a graphic memoir.  

I loved the idea, but there was one problem: I can’t draw! But I found Heather Farrington, a fellow Vermonter, and paid her to sketch out one of the stories, below. This is one I told at a Moth Story Slam, and it’s one of my favorites.   

Any of us who have been working with kids like these will recognize how they can sometimes drive us crazy (that’s part of this story) while also doing or saying things of incredible profundity and depth that will often surprise if not stun us (and that’s in here too).

3 thoughts on “A Graphic Memoir About Working With Youth

  1. Karen, glad you liked the story and I know of the Sanctuary Model but haven’t worked with it specifically, although it is connected to ACES, which we refer to often in our work at Spectrum Youth and Family Services in VT.

  2. Thank you for sharing this inspiring story and the link to your book. I am wondering if you had heard about or were influenced by the Sanctuary Model in your work with young people because many of the values you express are shared in that model.