05/10/05 — Caring early: Community has a stake in direction of children’s lives

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Caring early: Community has a stake in direction of children’s lives

You see them every day, in every county and town across America.

They are adult results of youths who have lost their way.

Some are unemployed. Some are underemployed. Some have no high school diploma, and some have already become regulars in the court system.

Their plight is not our fault. Often, they are the product of homes that were full of poverty, lack of education and sometimes violence. They might not have two parents, although that is not necessarily a predictor of future trouble. They might be the children of parents who are more like children themselves, or who are suffering from drug and alcohol addiction.

Their schools might have tried to help, but there is little a teacher can do in six to eight hours when that same child must return to the bad influences for the rest of his day and on the weekends.

That’s the bad news.

Now, here is why as a community we should care and what we might want to think about doing about it.

Those youths you see, and the adults they become, are the people who will be around this community for years. They do not have the skills to leave, and they have little or no incentive to change their lot in life.

So, to fix this problem, we have to address the issue early, before the bad habits are formed and the die is cast.

Youth programs like Boys & Girls Club, Boy and Girl Scouts, church youth groups, after-school programs at various schools and a variety of other activities that offer children from all walks of life the chance to experience a different view of the world, and to possibly find a mentor who could change their lives, are critical.

So, organizations like these, and ideas that find more ways to keep children out of trouble after school and beyond, deserve our attention and support.

A child who has nowhere to turn, and who has few people to turn to, easily loses his or her way. By making it possible for him or her to turn to anyone, we stop that cycle early and maybe keep a young man or woman from making the wrong choice.

That is a win-win situation for everyone.

Published in Editorials on May 10, 2005 10:30 AM