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When I was a child, life was simple. The good guys all wore white hats. My next door neighbor gave me Kool-aid and a hug. Coke was a beverage; crack was a broken surface; drive-by was what one did on Sunday afternoons; and we all wanted to grow up and be a congressman or president. If I got in trouble at school I knew that I would be in trouble at home too.  Today, all that has changed. Children are not safe in their own neighborhoods. Violence at school has increased. Drugs are endemic. Families are in turmoil, adolescents have few positive role models, and little children are assaulted by strangers. There are statistics which call attention to the drastic change in the lives of our children:

Shocking Statistics

  1. It is estimated that 1 of 4 American children live in poverty (over 12 million);
  2.  Children living in poverty are 22 times as likely to become victims of maltreatment than others.
  3. 1.5 million run away each year; 60% come home;
  4.  Every 47 seconds a child is abused;
  5. Children of single parents have a 77-percent greater risk of being harmed by physical abuse, an 87-percent greater risk of being harmed by physical neglect, and an 80-percent greater risk of suffering serious injury or harm from abuse or neglect than children living with both parents.
  6. Every 8 seconds of a school day one child drops out; in some inner‑city schools the rate exceeds 70%;
  7. Every 67 seconds a child has a child;
  8. 3 of 10 teenager girls become pregnant before marriage;
  9. Every 7 minutes a child is arrested for a drug offense
  10. Every 30 minutes a child is arrested for drunk driving;
  11. Eating a family meal together is the exception rather than the rule in most families;
  12. Children increasingly feel alienated from their peers.

What can we do about this? Is our nation raising a violent younger generation? Is there any hope? While there is no “magic bullet,” we are not helpless. But, as it has been said, “It takes a village to raise a child.” The solution can be found in three parts: parents, schools, and community. The following is an attempt to stimulate interest and discussion in the problem. The list is not meant to be in any particular order or to be a blueprint for effective community action. It will, however, give people a place from which to start when they are attempting to face the issues of the day in regard to children

Dr. Stephen F. Huss
President/CEO
Comtrea Community Mental Health Center
Jefferson County, Missouri

What Can Parents Do?

  1. Accept responsibility for other children's behavior
  2. Support drug‑free activities in your community
  3. Support efforts to change financial support for education from property tax to more equitable funding
  4. Support scouts, 4‑H, Campfire Girls, YMCA, little league baseball, etc.
  5. Teach children about service to others
  6. Volunteer in the community; take your children with you
  7. Demand cost-effective education
  8. Run for the school board
  9. Support school board candidates who are pro‑family and pro‑education
  10. Donate to the school
  11. Serve as an example to your children
  12. Do not become a parent unless you can provide for your children’s basic emotional, financial, and spiritual needs
  13. Have one parent stay at home until the children are at least of school age
  14. Learn as much as possible about the current problems facing children
  15. Talk to your children about the biological, emotional, and psychological results of sexual activity
  16. Talk to your children about drug use
  17. Know where your children are; where they are going; who they are with
  18. Call parents where parties are to be held; offer to help; determine who the chaperones are and what the rules are (regardless of the age of the children- six to High School grad)
  19. Model responsible behavior–
  20. Do not use illegal drugs
  21. Use prescription drugs only as prescribed
  22. If your value system allows you to use alcohol‑‑use it responsibly
  23. Vote for school tax/bond issues
  24. Participate in family centered recreation; play together
  25. Don't be afraid to seek help from professionals if counseling is needed
  26. Provide structure for your own family
  27. Read to your younger children (include spiritual, cultural, moralistic topics)
  28. Limit the TV watching of your children (time, content, and subject)
  29. Do not allow the purchase of video games, cd’s, or tapes which depict graphic violence
  30. Encourage physical activities
  31. Block the inappropriate Internet sites
  32. Watch TV and listen to music with your children Encourage your children to read
  33. Take your children to the library for recreation
  34. Promote good health for your children
  35. Do something nice for each child in your family anonymously each month
  36. Have a special time allocated for homework each night; parents should spend the time with them while they are doing it
  37. If you own a firearm, keep it safe, teach the family the responsible use of it/them
  38. Have family time when others are not allowed
  39. Take family vacations
  40. Keep in touch with the school teachers
  41. Manage the family as a single unit (family needs– not chores)
  42. Teach the children how to take care of their own needs (cooking, cleaning, health, etc.)
  43. Do not let your kids spend all their spare time in their rooms
  44. Really listen to the child; use effective communication skills
  45. Tell your children that you love them at least once a day; hug them more often
  46. Have high expectations of each child; convey them so the children will know them
  47. Teach your children a skill you possess (carpentry, cooking, sewing, quilting, knitting, model building, etc.)
  48. Eat at least five evening meals together as a family each week
  49. Model for the children (tolerance, spirituality, honesty, acceptance)
  50. Volunteer in the school (grandparent programs; teacher aides; reading)
  51. Tend to and develop your own family traditions (including extended families)
  52. Actively participate in religious activities

What Can Schools Do?

  1. Involve the community in the educational program
  2. Listen to the community
  3. Communicate with the community
  4. Enlist the business community's support and expertise
  5. Use the schools for the community‑‑ workshops, seminars, business PTO's, meetings, etc.
  6. Provide some services at a fee for service (driver's education?); obtain community grants for those who cannot afford the service
  7. Encourage the children to provide service to the community
  8. Collaborate with the police; have a police officer who is part of the school system
  9. Collaborate with the local mental health agency; facilitate the ease of referral between the school and the agency
  10. Demand high achievement from students
  11. Provide academic letters as well as athletic letters
  12. Stress responsibility with the students
  13. Provide alternative education for those who cannot work in the ordinary system
  14. Provide in-school detention programs instead of suspension
  15. Require students to participate in the upkeep of the facilities
  16. Enforce the no weapons policy
  17. Incorporate problem-solving skills in the school curriculum
  18. Respect and embrace cultural differences among the students
  19. Protect the students from bullying
  20. Teach tolerance
  21. Treat children as individuals with individual need
  22. Support and reward the best teachers in the system
  23. Provide training for all teachers
  24. Provide latch‑key programs
  25. Provide recreational programs for children
  26. Provide a variety of opportunities for children to grow
  27. Focus on success; child, teacher, administrators, community
  28. Listen to the children; pay attention to their comments about problems at school
  29. Watch the children; observe ones who are obviously seeking attention through dress, actions, or in other ways
  30. Talk with the children; have focus groups with the administration
  31. Incorporate values education (not religion) in the school curriculum (honesty, morality, trust, responsibility, respect)

What can our communities do?

  1. Understand that all children are our children; regardless of where they live or who their biological parents are
  2. Advocate for the availability of recreational activities for all age groups
  3. Elect officials who are knowledgeable about the needs of children and other age groups
  4. Demand the best schools possible
  5. Support the local police
  6. Support community agencies which help children
  7. Support efforts to provide jobs for teenagers
  8. Develop neighborhood watches
  9. Call the police with suspicions
  10. Support alcohol and other drug abuse prevention programming in the community
  11. Provide alcohol and other drug-free activities for the community
  12. Eliminate negative influences from the community (ex. Adult book stores)
  13. Demand that the schools and social service agencies have only the best staff available
  14. Demand that the social service agencies and schools pay the staff what they are worth
  15. Have community focus groups to evaluate the needs of the community
  16. Demand that legislators and elected officials  be responsive to the needs of children
  17. Be slow to condemn; if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem
  18. Add ten items to this list

 

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