Answering the kids question
What’s wrong with kids these days?
I am sure there are a multitude of ways individuals in our community might answer the above question:
“They are lazy.”
“They do not respect adults.”
“They spend too much time in front of TV and computer screens.”
But I would concur with the following view, stated by the Childrens Defense Fund in its “Cradle to Prison Pipeline” report:
“... adults are what’s wrong with our children.”
Adult hypocrisy is on full display for our youth to observe and learn from, again as stated in the CDF report:
“... adults telling children to be honest while lying and cheating in our homes, offices and public life. Adults telling children not to be violent while marketing and glorifying violence; … Adults telling children to be healthy while selling them junk food and addicting them to smoke and drink and careless sex.”
What is there for us to do in the face of all these negative influences? Well actually, it is not rocket science. There is a great body of evidence and research around what it takes to transition even the highest risk youth to successful adulthood. The only question is whether our community has the will to follow these well-described formulas for success.
The Project on Effective Interventions at Harvard University has provided a blueprint whereby, communities can increase rates of successful young adulthood by working effectively toward the following goals:
- Youth are prepared for employment and higher education.
- Youth have expanded labor market prospects.
- Youth have increased prospects of thriving, belonging and engaging.
- The highest risk youth receive effective services and supports.
The good news is that there is a local effort that is trying to make headway on at least three of these four goals: Sonoma Valley Teen Services. The bad news is that they are woefully under-resourced to be able to do this job at the scale that is needed. Their successful award by Impact 100 last year went a long way toward establishing a foundation and service model that is working well with these youth.
Today they have a successful youth-run food business, Lovin Oven, and other services and activities, at their Sonoma Valley High School and Boyes Springs, locations that are steering hundreds of youth away from negative behaviors.
But this is not enough by a long shot. Increasing the number of youth making a successful transition to adulthood is not the sole responsibility of any single agency; rather it is a shared community concern. And that means this community cannot sit back and watch this promising effort go down the predictable nonprofit path of constantly trying to piece together funding from a variety of sources just to maintain itself on a yearly basis. This is a recipe for, if not ultimate failure in the long term, then at the very least, providing a level of services that only scratches the surface of the problem.
What Sonoma Valley Teen Services needs now is another substantial grant or support from a wealthy donor to build on the solid foundation laid by the Impact 100 grant.
They need an endowment that will act to sustain them as a strong pillar in the community for decades to come.
They need caring adults in the community to supplement their existing dedicated and effective staff and to provide these youth with not only additional services and classes, but – more importantly – role models and supporters.
These youth deserve to know that this community values them and is invested in preparing them to be the future stewards of our local economy and community institutions.
If we are not prepared to do this, well, then just let’s be honest in answering the opening question of this essay: What’s wrong with kids these days? We are.
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Edwin Ferran is director of Learning and Innovation for the Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County. For more information on how to support this effort, e-mail him at email@example.com.