"What!! You're back again?"
I find myself far too often saying these words aloud as students are entering the Workforce/Career classroom workshops. I have questioned students, staff and administration about this dilemma and from students the variety of responses are defenses, justifications and excuses; while from staff and administration responses pertain to environment, education and opportunities.
Most of these youth that I am speaking to unfortunately have had little to no structure, mentoring and guidance in the home from a very young age. As we are all aware, youth are very impressionable and look for the guardian to provide all of the basic necessities, in addition to showing them how to live a healthy and productive lifestyle. The guardian in the home who is ultimately responsible for the child's well-being is entrusted to provide each child with unconditional love, structure, support, healthy boundaries, role-modeling and critical basic life lessons (right/wrong, feelings, successes, failures, etc.). From a young age when a child is exposed to dysfunction on a regular basis they really begin to view the world in a different light. All youth even with the proper guidance and support system at home will make poor decisions over time, however when a child is given no direction whatsoever, poor decisions become more frequent and can escalate into more serious matters.
Youth building is the most important aspect for youth to be successful in the community; especially when they are encountering behavioral issues or have become part of the Juvenile Justice System. In the many conversations that I have had with administration and staff in our youth centers, they recommend and strongly agree that helping juveniles to build skills reduces recidivism and permits them to be more successful in the community.
Active Youth building tools:
- Family therapy with the guardian and the child in the home
- Role Modeling/Mentoring - Big Brothers/Big Sisters program (Foster Grandparent program
- Physical fitness, exercise, and nutritional education
- Ensuring the child remains enrolled in school to get a High School diploma, GED
- Teen Parenting Awareness
- Interest in the Arts - Music, art work, poetry etc. Expressive Paths program
- Competency development skills such as Social and Business etiquette, respect, proper attire, community expectations, job readiness, life skills, etc. (Penn State Extension - Community Bridge Program)
*Strongly Recommended Youth building tool:
- In temporary detention and in long term placement sites, have youth gain the technical and trade skills (Vo-tech; plumbing, electrician, carpenter, auto mechanic, technology, beautician, CNA etc. Peek interest in those youth who may not feel the most comfortable in the classroom setting but have displayed interest in working with their hands.
We know that nothing works every time or on every youth detainee but we do know that in the right circumstances, we can reduce criminality and change young people's live, and the major way that we do this is through education and skill building. If we educate people, we can make them employable, we can get them into jobs, change their environment and reduce the delinquency and criminality.
Who is to pay for these on site, specialized youth training programs? I don't know but we have to figure this out. "Either we pay now, or we pay later."