It’s 4 am, and I can’t sleep.
The house is dark so I sit quietly with my cell phone. Since I do my business online, it’s just second nature to turn to my phone while everyone sleeps.
I hop onto Facebook, just days after another horrible school shooting. Post after post, there is something about the tragedy in Florida. More often than not, there is a huge debate on gun control and some mental health pleas.
There were also no shortage of opinions on why it’s happening or how to prevent – kids are addicted to social media, they no longer play outside, lack of social skills, pro helicopter parenting, no one tells kids NO anymore, schools aren’t equipped, it’s just evil, etc. The justifiable anger over the loss of these beautiful, brave, talented, amazing individuals is understandable. We want this FIXED, yesterday…….or rather years ago!
But is there anything beyond the gun control debate?
…… or debates in general?
THE SMALLEST ACT OF KINDNESS IS WORTH MORE THAN INTENTION.
When someone starts having health problems they generally go to the doctor to find out what’s wrong. The doctor is going to start asking BALANCE questions. Do you exercise? What is your diet like? How much sleep do you get?
For me, this latest tragedy was a call to balance – a life checkup.
In dietary terms there is a balanced plate. We need certain foods, in certain proportion sizes, for our body to function better.
In life, there is a balance as well – work, relationships, goals, recreation, physical, intellectual, spiritual, AND service (financially and serving).
I needed to take a good look and see, was I in balance? The answer was NO. Sure I can justify and say I regularly contribute to my church, that we choose to adopt from the foster care system and are still trying to help our son navigate his trauma, that I service when called upon, etc. BUT, truthfully, I am not in balance.
If I were to chart out my time, it’s not the proper balance for what I believe to be right. My service to the community is not in balance with say work and recreation (serving my own needs). The honest answer is that sometimes I get complacent into thinking everyone lives the same. Sure my family has it’s financial struggles, but there is always clean water, a warm bed, and food on the table every day.
And in a world of TV marathons, I may not be alone here.
I get it. It’s overwhelming. So many needs. How do we help? Can a person make a difference? Isn’t the government in a better position to make a larger change?
We may not be able to change everything, but with a better life balance of donations and service, I think we could be a darn good start. And honestly, I believe we were created to look outward rather than inward.
There is a hurting world out there -hurting kids, hurting teens, hurting humans. Can we change everything, maybe not, but can do something that will make a difference for someone today?
Big achievements come one small advantage at a time, one step at a time, one day at a time. -Jim Rohn
Juvenile Detention Statistics –
One estimate suggests that between 50 and 75 percent of adolescents who have spent time in juvenile detention centers are incarcerated later in life Moreover, most facilities in the United States do not deal effectively with the issues that lead youth to offend.
Mental health needs are often urgent for adolescents in the justice system. Many have mental illness (estimates range as high as 70 percent, with prevalence among girls as high as 80 percent, compared with 20 percent among the total adolescent population. In juvenile detention facilities, many of these problems go untreated or are dealt with inadequately.Suicide rates in juvenile detention facilities are more than four times higher than for adolescents overall. – Child Trends
Males are much more likely than females to be in residential placement. In 2013, 86 percent of all juveniles in residential placement were male – Child Trends
The United States has the highest rate of youth confinement of any developed country. In 2010, there were 173 youth for every 100,000 in confinement. –Youth Justice
It is estimated that it costs an average of $407 a day or about $150,000 to keep a youth in juvenile detention facilities for 9 months to a year. In contrast, youth could receive community-based programming with wraparound services and resources for an estimated $75 a day, a fifth of the cost of incarceration. States report spending an average of $7.1 million per day in order to lock up youth in adult facilities. Both Maryland and Florida spend twice as much on facilities as they do on probation and treatment services. This occurs even though the majority of youth in the juvenile justice system are not placed in youth facilities. – Youth Justice (Time to get our vote on!)
According to a national survey conducted in 2012, an estimated 10 percent of young people in juvenile facilities reported sexual victimization by staff members or a peer.
* When trying to research this, it was interesting to see government census records from 2014. It is 2018! Where is the current info?
Teen Suicide Statistics:
- Fact: 9 in 10 teens who take their own lives were previously diagnosed with a psychiatric or mental health condition or disorder—more than half of them with a mood disorder such as depression or anxiety.
Some who struggle choose to take their own life, instead of hurting others, but is it the same pain manifested in a completely different and tragic way?
You can reach the Suicide Prevention Lifeline for suicide prevention and other problems such as alcohol and substance abuse. The phone number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Drugs and Alcohol Statistics:
The average age of heroin addicts is 23.
Consequences of addiction include brain abnormalities, slowed thinking and impaired learning and memory. It can also deplete the brain of certain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin, sending high schoolers into a prolonged depression and leaving them susceptible for more destructive behaviors.
Alcohol abuse in high school impacts the brain just as hard as other drugs. Memory problems and other life-long brain issues are common in high schoolers who drink excessively. And kids who start before age 15 are 6 times more likely to develop alcoholism later in life than individuals who wait until 21.
You can also call the SAMHSA Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence at 1-800-NCA-CALL.
As early as 24 months, children in low-income families have been found to show lags in cognitive and behavioral development compared to their peers in higher-income families. – –NCCP
There are almost 24 million children under age 6 in the United States. Large numbers of young children are growing up in families experiencing economic hardship. – NCCP
- Youth from low-income families engage in more risk behaviors during adolescence (3.5 mean cumulative risks) than youth from middle-income (3.2 mean cumulative risks) and high-income (2.9 mean cumulative risks) families.
- Youth from low-income families are more likely than youth from middle- and high-income families to have sex before age 16, become a member of a gang, attack someone or get into a fight, steal something worth more than 50 dollars, and ever run away.
- Seven percent of young women from low-income families have a child by age 18, while only 2 percent of females from middle-income families and 1 percent of females from high-income families have a birth by this age.
- Nearly a third of youth from low-income families (29 percent) fail to earn high school diplomas, approximately three times greater than the percentage of youth from middle-income families (10 percent) and roughly six times greater than the percentage of youth from high-income families (5 percent).
- One in five youth from low-income families (20 percent) are charged with an adult crime by the age of 24
- Less than half of youth from low-income families (44 percent) remain consistently-connected to school and/or the labor market between ages 18 and 24
Foster Care Statistics and Info:.
In 2015, more than 20,000 young people — whom states failed to reunite with their families or place in permanent homes — aged out of foster care, simply because they were too old to remain.
Youth who age out of foster care are less likely than youth in the general population to graduate from high school and are less likely to attend or graduate college. By age 26, approximately 80 percent of young people who aged out of foster care earned at least a high school degree or GED compared to 94 percent in the general population. – Children’s Rights
There are a million other statistics I could give on eating disorders, gangs, homelessness, violence, learning disabilities, human trafficking, mental health, sexual activity, etc, but it’s obvious there is a community of kids, teens, and adults who can use our help.
*Children affected by multiple risks – three or more risk factors – are the most likely to experience school failure and other negative outcomes, including maladaptive behavior –NCCP
So what can we do?
WAYS TO BE THAT HELPER:
- TOGETHER WE RISE – Over 400,000 kids are in the foster care system and many of them carry their belonging in trash bags? You can pack a bag of items just for them.
- COACH SPORTS – Exercise provides benefits to the brain and dealing with depression. PLUS, kids have a place they can belong. There is a huge need for young guys, in particular, to run off energy and be a part of a team/family however high school sports, in particular, is so competitive, and money driven, that it’s often the kids that need it the most that will not make the team. Can you start or volunteer to coach a teen sport club in your area?
- VOLUNTEER AT SCHOOLS – Parents are often involved at the elementary school level but it drops off as kids get older. Your kid may need space but other areas in the school/or a different school could use your help. What about tutoring, high school or college? Research shows that parental involvement through the years leads to higher academic performance, improved school attendance, better homework skills, and an increased likelihood of graduation. And what happens to kids who’s parents are involved at all? Could you read to some younger students? Start a club? Volunteer at an at risk school?
- VOTE – Gun control, mental health/health care, AS WELL AS other issues that concern children and teens. Whatever you want, vote for it! Yes, those small/local elections matter i.e. judges and programs in your local community. A range of state policies that address child health and development, early care and education, and basic supports for parenting and family economic security can reduce risks to children’s development and the negative impacts of poverty on children. –NCCP
- CASA VOLUNTEER – CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in court and other settings. LEARN MORE HERE.
- FOSTER PARENT – In 2015, over 670,000 children spent time in U.S. foster care. Learn more HERE.
- MENTOR – There is a real need for mentors – 1 our of 3 young people will grow up without a mentor. Kids need someone to talk to; someone that tells them they matter and have a future. Read more about the Mentoring Effect HERE. Here are a few organizations: Tuesday’s Children, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and Youth for Christ are just a few. One of the shortcomings of our educational structure is that relationships with teachers, especially in secondary school, may be caring, but they are not easy to sustain. Yet at-risk youth need relationships that are both caring and stable. They need to build a sense of trust and have the time to communicate the complexity, frustrations, and positive aspects of their lives in and out of school. Only after creating a strong relational base will an adult have the platform to be a source of enduring and cherished advice to a student. Students won’t confer trust to an adult based on his or her role as a counselor, psychologist, or social worker. We have to earn it by building a relationship. – Edutopia HERE IS THE POWER OF A MENTOR:
- CREATE A SCHOOL/COMMUNITY PROGRAM – Start Your Own, Josh Shipp Program
- COMMUNITY ADVOCATE – We can protest online or in person, but there is a real need for advocates for system reform. Example – Ohio implemented the RECLAIM Ohio program which establishes a set budget for corrections which each county receives. For every youth committed to a facility the county must reimburse the state. This helps to encourage judges to sentence youth to community based programs rather than residential facilities. Between 2004 and 2007 the number of youth committed to facilities dropped from 212 to 96.91 For every youth who participated in RECLAIM the state saved as much as $45 for every $1 invested in alternatives, and the outcomes were better than those placed in facilities.
- LOOK FOR THE ISOLATED/OUTCASTS – Our natural response it to pull away from those who might act differently. Often it’s because someone took the time to talk, befriend, and/or observe another that enable someone to get help early on. Here are warning signs to look for in a potentially violent individual
- NEWS – Advocate for news media to properly cover tragedies without sensationalizing them. Keep them accountable by telling them when a story or video went too far.
- VOLUNTEER AT A HOMELESS SHELTER – 34% of the total homeless population is under 24 and about 80% of homeless youth (aged 12-21) use drugs or alcohol as a means to self-medicate to deal with the traumatic experiences and abuse they face. LEARN MORE HERE.
- GIVE AN ANIMAL – Some police agencies accept stuffed animal donations for calls involving kids, esp ones where the kids are being removed from the home. A teddy bear is to help give the child some comfort during this traumatic situation.
- GET INFORMED – Find out what resources are available at your local schools for struggling kids. What happens when they are expelled? How many counselors are on staff and what is their training? How are kids accessed? If a child is struggling, who are they referred to? Are they connected with mentoring programs in the area?
- HELP LOCALLY – Look for agencies, in your community, that are helping with kids aging out of foster care system, those working with reducing drug and alcohol use, teen pregnancy centers, or any group working with at risk kids. (Contact -Foster Care Agencies, church, or Juvenile Justice Dept)
- VISIT JUVENILE COURT – Are parents/family there? How does the judge deal with the offenders? Are both sides working in the best interest of the child/community? Are other options, besides detention, explored? Are there mental health issues? Drug or alcohol exposure? ADHD? Are the individuals repeat offenders? Can you contact a church, or your church, to see if they have staff that visits kids, particularly ones who don’t get visitors?
- DONATE– Those same mentoring programs listed above, can also except donations. There is a FINANCIAL NEED
- KNOW YOUR KIDS FRIENDS – Not to see if they are good or bad, but to be that one adult they can talk to. Don’t have kids? What about the kids in the neighborhood?
- LOVE THE UNLOVABLE – Yes, we all say love one another but does that apply to those who I don’t want to love? Seek to understand what others who commit crimes we don’t understand to see a life we didn’t have to live. We don’t have to agree with the acts of a child in detention, but can we reach out anyways?
- PRAY – Not everyone will believe in the power of prayer, but I do. If you post thoughts and prayers, do it! Pray for the hurting, pray to find ways to serve, pray for eyes to see the needs.
*These are just a few ideas and suggestions. Feel free to comment on others you are aware of.
In the latest tragedy, I don’t have a magic ball to know if anything would have made a difference in this young man’s life. I don’t have any knowledge other than what has been reported, thus far. My understanding is that he was adopted but not the circumstances behind the adoption.
I do know many people who struggle with the feelings of rejection adoption can bring.
His adoptive parents also passed away.
My mother passed when I was an older teen and it was devastating.
Apparently he was expelled at school multiple times, small in size and possibly bullied.
My understanding is that he has some mental health issues.
As stated, we have struggled for years trying to get our son the counseling services he needs.
Combine all that with a teen brain–
- Research shows that the brain does not fully develop to look like an adult brain until the individuals
reaches their early 20s.40 While their brains are still developing youth are prone to participate in risky
behavior which they grow out of with maturity.
- It has been shown that adolescents struggle to make the correct decisions in emotionally charged situations.
- Youth between 13 and 17 are more sensitive to rewards and thus more likely to make the wrong decisions believing they will benefit from their action; after 17, however, this declines.
- Recent studies believe that the main different between adults and youth is the imbalance in the development of the brain.44 Another study has shown that the connection strength between and prefrontal cortex and subcortical brain regions affects and individuals ability to use self-control. – Youth Justice
What about the kids who choose to deal with this same pain with eating detergent, taking their life, addicted to drugs, acting out in society, etc…etc…etc? It makes me wonder if some of these kids have a version of PTSD. I also think, if given the same life circumstances and personality, what would I do?
There by the grace of God, go I.
I didn’t have a perfect childhood, but I did have food, education, a home, and two parents who loved me. And before we adopted, I had no understanding of early childhood trauma.
My husband and I made a choice to adopt a child from the foster care system. His road has been beyond tough. I could literally build a a table with all his files. I see his struggles from not having proper bonding. I see the damage done from early trauma and drug exposure. His efforts to fit in but sometimes being a bit emotionally behind. The pleas to find ways for him to be part of a community – sports are concerned with money/winning and parents want their kids around “well-behaved” kids. I’m the mom constantly in the F.I.G.H.T trying to get proper care after a revolving door of mental health providers.
My husband and I have seen, first hand, there are many of hurting kids who are in the same world we all live in!!!
THIS IS OUR COMMUNITY #allkidsareourkids
One small action of love can do far, far more for a soul than all the most beautiful words in the world. – Eileen Caddy
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