How can those of us who care about at risk children, be more effective in bringing positive change to the politics, attitudes, people, and institutions that rule the lives of these children?

What has worked in your community?

What did not work?

Where do you go for help?

Share your comments here;

21 Comments

  1. Personally, I believe in making a difference from within the system. I am a CASA volunteer and, when I retire, I will be more active in this arena, particularly in keeping the opportunities to make such a difference in children’s lives visible within the communities around me.

  2. I believe firmly in the power of prevention – education and awareness for adults, teaching adults how to educate children about abuse and prevention skills at an early age; which really boils down to empowerment for all. Visit the websites: http://www.stopitnow.org , http://www.taalk.org , http://www.d2l.org for resources; also visit http://www.menstoppingviolence.org – where the organization conducts training on violence prevention. MSV also has a program called “Because We Have Daughters” – for dads and middle school daughters. In Georgia, we also have an initiative called “Better Brains For Babies” – resources to educate teens and adults about brain development, and the impact of children’s caregivers.

    I think that as a society, we need to think more globally – and act not only to help children after they’re hurt, but to create and sustain a culture of respect and peace where the hurt doesn’t happen, and people can thrive.

  3. I think it is important to continue to get the word out that there are so many kids who continue to suffer from the behavior of the adults around them. I think advocating for these kids by getting more programs like Wraparound in place could be helpful. However, I think people need to be more aware of the warning signs to look out for in children who are at risk and they need to take action sooner. Prevention is key.

    P.S. I totally agree with you Molly!

  4. I also think prevention is key. When we support families and give them ways to promote positive relationships, we take them back to the day their child was born. No parent thinks on that day, “I’m going to abuse my child.” Using literacy as a doorway (reading, writing, listening, communicating) all with a caring attitude, can make a difference.

    For those children in abusive situations, growing their ability to think, reason, problem solve and, yes, even escape from time to time via reading changes their world, breaks the cycle and broadens their viewpoint, their empathy, their hope and belief that there is a better way of life.

  5. The Search Institute has conducted remarkable and longitudinal studies which support the concepts behind “Developmental Assets” and Healthier Communities.
    Check out the Search Institute.

  6. I worked in advertising for a large corporation from 1973 to 1990. At the same time, I became the volunteer leader of a company based program that connected business volunteers with inner city kids. Over the years I learned that while the media occasionally give front page attention to tragedies affecting inner city kids, they seldom pointed to all of the neighborhoods of Chicago where poverty was high. They also only pointed at a few of the well-known agencies in the city. Worst of all, they turned their attention to other issues after a few days of follow up on the original incident.

    That’s not advertising. And it does not work to draw people to information about the issue, places where they can volunteer or donate money, or places where they can help build new programs. Nor does it keep people involved, and growing their commitment, for many years.

    In 1993 we created the Tutor/Mentor Connection to try to fill this void, and we’ve been applying advertising principles to help tutor/mentor programs grow in all poverty areas of Chicago every since. I encourage you to visit http://www.tutormentorconnection.org and see how we do this.

    Join us if this is your passion, or borrow the ideas and apply them to help kids in other places.

    None of us has the wealth, or power, to constantly draw a growing public attention to the issues of disadvantaged or neglected kids, but if we connect with each other at key times each year, and on forums like this an Linked in and Facebook, maybe we can draw more attention and resources to the problem than we can by working separately.

  7. My Own Children International Organisation is a grasroot non profit making organisation which has it headquarter based in Alberta, Canada and a chapter in Sierra Leone.We are very much hap[py to be part of this great family that cares about children’s welfear, the Sierra Leone branch is looking for support to help the vulnerable street children, war affected and orphans children in Sierra Leone. Many of these children are suffering in the street of Freetown and the proviences, we need an urgent support to raise and care for these brain drain children in Sierra Leone.

  8. We need more in-school education for students, parents and teachers. Additionally, having in school screening programs and psychiatric therapy would help. In my city neighborhood centers and community organizations try to pick up the slack but there is never enough money. Putting a patch on this problem which was brought to light back in the 70’s is just not enough. But then a kid with emotional problems is just not as cute or desperate looking as the kid in the wheelchair.

  9. Research is so incredibly powerful to support the need for positive adult connections. Search Institute, Bonnie Bernard and Poverty research all drive home the need for adults to have a pivotal role in the life of a child and the encouraging part is that a huge majority of kids that navigated their way out of poverty or severely challenged childhoods attribute their success to only one healthy adult relationship. Alignment Nashville has done amazing work in the Nashville area…alignmentnashville.org by bringing community leaders, nonprofits and individuals together to support the needs of schools and the kids in Davidson county. Schools have got to have the support of the community at large to identify and support kids that are at-risk.

  10. I believe Education will help to eradicate such problem all over the world,here in Nigeria we have people roaming the streets begging for alms and shelter. I believe these will be eradicated if an organization is mapped out to combat such problem all over the world. For example,have headquarters in USA and branches all over the world to take care of them and appoint a leader from each country who will be giving yearly report.

  11. Thank you, Dan, for sharing your comments about your mentoring organization! And Jeff for referring everyone to Search Institute and their wonderful research-based work on Asset Development, which of course goes right to the core of mentoring work. And Carol, for stating frankly that …”a kid with emotional problems is just not as cute or desperate looking as the kid in the wheelchair.” And the kids (and adults) with emotional problems not as easy to identify, or to work with… I would again reiterate that prevention is key – and obviously it’s underfunded. SO we’ll need to work however we can to increase funding levels, as well as think about whot to do in case funding just isn’t there. It is my belief that ALL children are “at-risk” – and unless we adults do something positive in our own communities to address this – with education, mentoring to develop positive, sound and stable relationships – they will only continue to be at-risk.

  12. When a child makes it into the system, and their parents are given a reunification plan, that is typically when I see the parents. I’ve noticed a couple of “common themes” here. 1) alcohol and/or substance abuse by the parent, 2) parents lacking BASIC parenting skills, and 3) anger management. Personally, to protect the children, I’d push more for drug/alcohol interventions and free community parenting workshops. You’ d be shocked at the number of parents that think “smacking” or “spanking” (to excess, while emotional) are still okay ways to deal with undesirable behaviors. Just some ideas.

  13. I could probably write an entire book about this topic just from my personal experiences and I see some responses that are absolutely outstanding and some that are extremely frightening in nature.

    In any circumstance, the child’s local social environment has to be taken into consideration. What works in the inner-cities will not work in the Appalachian mountains. What works in most of the US will not work in many developing or third-world countries. All of these families and all of their children are going to have social and environmental (speaking sociologically at least) issues that are unique to their personal situation.

    Education is paramount to breaking the cycle of poverty but I can show you people here who have seemingly excellent degrees on paper, yet who remain incapable of competing on a national level, much less internationally or on a global scale. The focus when it comes to education has to be in viable education and skills training. Some students will do well with scholastic studies while other children will fare better with vocational educational opportunities. We do not have a simple need to educate the child properly. If we are going to step in and claim to have the answers, we need to be prepared to deal with each child individually and provide them with the best education possible under the circumstances to fit their individual needs, skills and abilities. A failure to do so will not only “not help” the child but could easily cause greater harm than good. Despite popular belief, the intentions do not matter nearly as much as results. The guy who got hit by the bus very likely did not “intend” for it to happen but the results remain regardless of intentions. (I know, it sounds harsh … but consider here where there is an unwritten rule that when a bus driver hits someone, they back up over them to insure their death and help the driver to avoid long terms in jail and having to pay for the rest of the life of the victim … and reality once again proves to be a harsh mistress) People who actually say or even worse … honestly believe … that if they can “just help one child” are setting themselves up for failure and making excuses for it before they even begin. Viable educational opportunities are important but only if it provides an education that the child can actually use to improve his or her life.

    Additionally, many children around the world are in great part, responsible and contributing members of the family unit and as such, taking them away from the family often creates financial losses and increased hardships. If these issues are not dealt with accordingly, any chance of an education that the child had will be over-shadowed by the direct and present suffering and harm that the education has caused if these mitigating circumstances are not addressed and met head on from the beginning. Caring for the child means caring for … and helping when needed … the entire family unit. Such assistance may take the form of subsidies for the family or even of educational opportunities, job opportunities or even business opportunities for the family in addition to the education of the child. Still, unless the child’s entire environment is considered, any help will be temporary at best and hazardous to the entire family situation at worst.

    There are solutions and there are people working towards those solutions but I fear there is not enough space to go over them all here.

    Ward Tipton
    Administrator
    Webb Vocational Institute

  14. The above comments have parts of what I think is needed for the children of today to flourish. The adverse issues are the contextual ones, location, poverty levels family support and education, not all necessarily in that order but I think this is the start maybe of the positive ingredients.

    Education is vital, both formal (at school) in the home and from examples across society. Tollerance levels also should be reflected here too as some groups in our society are less tolerant than others.

    The situation is exasperated in extreme circumstance and the cause or context has to be fully understood in order to approach and help towards a solution. A child brought up in extreme poverty with no ready access to school and maybe without the strong family unit will struggle to identify the boundaries to which he may be expected to grow within.

    I have long been aware of all the comments passed from generation to generation about such points as; its the Governments responsibility to make sure our children act correctly and are educated, or its the responsibility of the wider community to ensure children have the right guidance, or the parents are to blame… as stand alone points it would be unwise to blame one group as an individual, but there is a very valid point for the collective, but to be successful all the groups, Schools and Teachers, Community groups and Government should be communicating better with Parents / Guardians / Care givers/ .

    Parents should be the absolute central point in a childs life. If the child has no parents or does not live with their parents then a central figure as close to a parent is vital. Good Education in life values alongside the normal academic subjects is also a key responsibility, linked to community groups and supported robustly by Government.

    Children respond well to structure. If encouraged in the correct manner they quickly identify right from wrong and conduct themselves well. The over-riding part of childhood formation is the right to play, the right to feel free to express and to chanel the expression in a positive manner all adds to the emotional and educational development in us all.

    I am not so sure that making a child aware of their rights is such a good thing, as long as children are educated and cared for within their rights this should not be an issue too much, here though age and understanding plays a significant role. Does a 5 or 8 year old need to understand their rights, are they developed enough to know what it really means? (At this age I would be more interested in and distracted by my toys or playing games with friends etc), so although at first shout it appears the right approach it must be placed within a context.

    For children who are in their teens then the approach needs to be altogether different. They see themselves as young adults and usually demand to be treated as such. Sometimes the perception of outward maturity can mask the inner immaturity that really exists, again location, poverty and access to education and paerntal issues have to be seriously considered.

    Child issues can be extremely complex. (having had 4 of my own I get a good insight), but add into the mix the situations in developing countries or the situation that can be found in emergencies, then the issue becomes instantly more complex and difficult to approach. Children need love attention and care, they need good educational support and the will of the community to continue to offer direction. Continued below…
    Posted 21 hours ago | Delete comment

    Phil Jones
    CEO at Security, Safety and staff Wellness

    See all Phil’s activity »
    I have travelled the globe a considerable amount compared to the average person and in both Development and Emergency scenarios and I have my educational support programme in Ghana in the rural Upper East District, and even though some of the children I have met along the way have suffered from exteme poverty, hunger and personal strife, I can say that the spirit of the child is one of the strongest I have encountered. Resilient, yes, uncomplicated in the way they see the world, most definatly and usually with a smile that can melt you at 100 meters… The flip side can be the fragility of the infrastructure that they cling to to sustain life… but that is for the adults to solve.

    Child protection issues and the care of children is critical to the next generation as the legacy our parents left us… is that a true statement? or do we need to see the problems that affect children in the complex scenarios in a new way, tackle it from a different angle? If that is so, what angle should we take… is there an emerging new best practice that is better and different from what we do now? If there isn’t then I hope it is out there waiting to be discovered as I feel, despite our best efforts as INGO, as UN and as World Governments we are failing so many children while helping a good few…

  15. Make all children aware of their rights as a child. Ensure all duty bearers for children (parents, family, school, community) understand, respect and follow these rights. The district/village administration should take full responsibility for each and every child. Let the children know who can guide them in the society and where they can go for help or justice.

  16. I have worked with victims of trauma for almost 20 years. The most important thing we can do as advocates is stop labeling children as “at risk.” Just the label itself invites a negative outcome. What we really need to do is empower. Back in the 80s, the self-esteem movement was big. Unfortunately, it wasn’t coupled with responsibility so now we have a young generation who have an attitude of entitlement, regardless whether or not they are in a wealthy home or in a homeless shelter. Children and their caregivers need a supportive community (which is something advocates can help create) that does not so much “provide” as it does “prepare.” The supportive community is one that recognizes children affect the community and therefore the community must respond.

  17. Here’s some quick thoughts.

    First of all, efforts should be made to support families to reduce abuse and neglect. In some cases this involves economic supports, in other cases mentoring or skills-building for the parents, in other cases helping a family build a larger community support system for itself.
    When kids must be removed from the family because home is not safe or nurturing, then it is necessary to find good alternative caretakers, then training them and supporting them. Love, structure, and education are all important, as indicated in other posts. But kids who have been abused and neglected can have some serious problems, and caretakers need to understand how those might manifest and what they can do to help the child.

    Next, what’s the long-term plan? Can the family be stabilized so that the child can return home? If so, what work will be done to prepare the child and family before they are reunited, and what support will be provided afterwards to keep things moving on a positive course? If the child can not return home, is there a family that will commit to adopting the child or otherwise raising the child as if he/she is their own?
    Additional programs are often needed to make the transition points work—for example some type of outreach to find children and families in need, shelter or emergency foster care placements to house kids while they are being assessed or a longer-term family is found, treatment programs for kids who have more intense physical or emotional needs.

    All of the above involves models that have been implemented in various places, and all these are strategies that can be implemented by a combination of government or non-profit interventions. This all fits into the provisions of the Children’s Rights Convention, and since virtually all countries have ratified this document, they should have plans on how they are working to address child protection issues in their own country. The Children’s Rights Information Network (www.crin.org) has both general and country-specific information. Also check the Better Care Network (bettercarenetwork.org) which has a lot of information and research about best practices

  18. I am a lawyer and law teacher of local law college. I want to establish a English medium school network. Where child will come early in the morning and stay till afternoon. School will supply lunch. Student read and play there. Working parents child will be prefer.First time I need 10000$ to 15000$ for opening. after that it will run automatically.

  19. In a Linked in discussion the question asked was: “How can those of us who care about at risk children, be more effective in bringing positive change to the politics, attitudes, people, and institutions that rule the lives of these children?”

    Thus, how do we get more people to read what we are writing, then respond as volunteers, donors, leaders, etc. in the different places where they are needed.

    I have led volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in Chicago for over 30 years, where non-family adults connect in one-on-one mentoring and tutoring with inner city kids. From my experiences, I think that getting a volunteer or donor into a program to see what is happening, or to talk to a youth and/or a parent, is a great way to build interest.

    I think a second best way is for organizations working with kids to find ways to tell their stories, via blogs, videos and web sites. At http://cabriniblog.blogspot.com we try to do this regularly.

    However, I also recommend a global strategy to go with this local strategy. If local organizations and their students and volunteers are finding ways to tell their story, add links on your web site and blogs to other programs in your neighborhood, and in your city. Find ways to end a story with a “bigger picture”.

    For instance, I encourage youth program leaders and volunteers to end their stories and media interviews with a message like this: “we serve 80 teens in one neighborhood of Chicago where more than 200,000 kids live in poverty and need help from tutor/mentor programs. Visit http://www.tutormentorconnection.org to learn more about the different programs in Chicago and ways you, or your company, can help us, and other programs at the same time.”

    If enough different organizations are working to build total city, or total country, attention to tutoring/mentoring, then maybe our collective voices can attract the attention of people who are not thinking at this level, and who could be doing much more to help an entire universe of tutor/mentor programs grow.

    We’ve been doing this for the past 17 years and I feel that we get much more attention than we might have otherwise because we talk about the entire city, not just our own program.

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