The circumstances that lead to a young person needing Youth Intervention have a common theme…they are often linked to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). These experiences include forms of abuse, neglect, or other family/household challenges.
It is difficult enough even in a loving, caring, and supportive environment to help young people develop into healthy adults. Most young people who need Youth Intervention have unstable environments where productive life skills are often not demonstrated or taught.
These are young people who were dealt hands most of us would not want or wish upon anyone. It is wrong to simply label them as “bad kids.” They want a better future than what they see among adult family members and neighbors. They are capable of great things.
Their adult family members and caregivers are not bad people either. Like you and me, they are trying to find their way in the world.
Youth Intervention supports environmental factors for healthy human development
In the most global sense, Youth Intervention provides:
- Unconditional positive regard – Regardless of the quality of the building or the logistical planning that goes into programming, the ability of a caring adult to build a trusting relationship will best determine the success of that program. These caring adults love young people unconditionally for who they are while holding them accountable for what they do.
- A connection to their community – Too often young people feel disconnected and rejected from their community. Common responses are acting out (e.g. anti-social behaviors) or withdrawing (e.g. chemical abuse or mental health issues). Youth Intervention connects young people to their community in a positive way.
- A choice for social interaction – Young people with ACEs in their history tend to find each other and become friends. This situation leads to them developing additional habits that hinder healthy development. Community-based programs provide young people with healthier alternatives for social interactions and friendship selection options.
Youth Intervention replaces skill deficiencies with skill assets
The Search Institute outlines the developmental assets that are needed to help young people be contributing members of the community and be personally invested in the community’s well-being. These assets can be taught and role-modeled.
For young people struggling to develop these assets, their adult family members and caregivers are often living with their own developmental liabilities as a result of childhood experiences. These limitations make it difficult to be effective role models for some or many of the developmental assets.
Youth Intervention supports young people and their caregivers in filling that gap. By supporting asset development, Youth Intervention helps young people become part of the community.
Working with young people is difficult, but that’s not the biggest hurdle
The biggest challenge is not proof of positive outcomes. The biggest challenge facing Youth Intervention is that not enough people understand its real value.
As a result, too many young people do not get the help they deserve. It means youth workers don’t have access to the resources they need to effectively work with young people in building these core developmental assets.
Too many in the community see young people and their caregivers as ‘problems’ and that perspective has not served us well. It has created an unsustainable situation and we all pay the price for the service gap. Youth Intervention works, it saves money and we need more of it.
Paul Meunier is the Executive Director of the Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA).
YIPA provides relentless advocacy in Minnesota and exceptional online training for youth-serving organizations and youth workers everywhere. Join us!