The essential service of Youth intervention has been ignored for too long. Not recognizing it as an essential service has jeopardized public safety, wasted endless dollars, and stolen happiness from our youth.
Too often youth are dealt a hand in life that they did not ask for. No youth should be expected to grow up with abuse, neglect, unpredictability, or a lack of unconditional love. But the number of youth living in trauma continues to increase at an alarming rate. I have worked with at-risk youth most of my adult life and have seen the problem escalate beyond manageability.
As a society, our lack of action means we have been participants in allowing this to occur. Our apathy has created an unsustainable and unjustifiable situation that must end.
A social movement to give our at-risk youth a voice and demand that Youth Intervention be available is needed. It needs to start now. A society that has become immune to the perils of its youth is certain to implode with steady and increasing social unrest.
An effective social movement to promote Youth Intervention must:
- Be concise: Detailed descriptions of a complex and deeply embedded social injustice bogs down progress. The problem must be explained in a manner that is clear and easy to understand.
- Be easy to engage in: When people are burning the candle at both ends, anything someone is asked to do must be simple. People cannot be expected to give on an endless basis.
- Provide gratification: People need to feel as though they are making a difference. When becoming involved in a movement, their actions must have an impact.
- Be inclusive: People need to know they are part of something bigger than themselves and that others are engaged too. When shared with many others, their actions and impact are multiplied.
- Offer training: People don’t engage when they feel unprepared. Training helps an individual feel prepared and confident.
- Include an emotional appeal: People act when there is a personal connection. An emotional connection to the lives of our young people will trigger engagement.
- Include youth: Empower young people by providing opportunities for them to tell their stories. Their voices will make a stronger emotional appeal and connect with a wider audience. Youth in the movement will carry the torch for the next generation and provide longevity.
- Have a clear outcome: The “ask” must be clearly defined, observable, reasonable, measurable and obtainable.
- Be sustained: The movement must continue until all youth have the support they need. There is no fixed end time. Actors in the movement may come and go, but an entity must keep the momentum going.
The Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA) has been advocating for at-risk youth for many years and has saved many lives as a result. But with the number of at-risk youth going up and not down, the only solution is to create a social movement.
We are developing a campaign to kick start this movement. To be launched early summer 2017, we hope you will be part of it. To do anything less is simply unacceptable.
Paul Meunier is the Executive Director of the Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA).