I spent my morning at City Hall today. I was particularly interested in the report regarding Early Intervention Programs with the Youth Advocate Program. This program targets kids under 12 who come in contact with the Police. When a child under 12 is involved in a crime punishable under the criminal code, they cannot be charged because of their young age. Instead, this program would allow a Police Liason to get in touch with the family of the young person, and offer the entire family participation in a program that will offer recreation options to the family unit. The "Turnabout Program" has been in place since October 2002. I found an article regarding its early success http://www.gov.mb.ca/chc/press/top/2004/04/2004-04-27-04.html.
It was mentioned that some families outright refuse the offer. But some families have taken the Police, and the Province up on the offer of a better life. These are entire families that can change their paths, and do something positive for themselves and others around them.
The program uses an already existing fee waiver program that is offered in the Leisure Guide to families with low incomes, and will not cost tax payers any more money, if I understand that correctly.
There were a few things brought up in the meeting, regarding the limitations of the program. It does not currently address older youth once they reach the age of 12. Some parents are just not interested in signing their families up for the program. And there needs to be more done in assisting at-risk youth than just offering younger youths recreation programs.
What I see is a great start. I want to see the statistics that come out of this "Turnabout" program. Then I want to see more initiatives like this for families with at-risk youth to turn their lives around.
I also want to see communities take an active interest in their children and youth. For myself, I know of some kids on my block that are not in a good situation. I see them get into trouble throughout the summer, and sometimes call the Police regarding mischief issues. As a neighbour I can take action in many ways. I can hold their landlord accountable for ensuring the outside of their residence is well maintained. This can provide a positive environment for the child to play in the summer. I can make sure the back lanes and streets are clean and free of garbage. This will show the child that people care about their environments. As a concerned member of my community I can also work to make sure there are programs for the kids in the area to take advantage of.
Children are not just the responsibility of the parent, they are the responsibility of the community. If we see children at risk, we should act in whatever way we have to make their lives better. We may not be able to knock on their door, but we can make subtle changes that affect their lives on a daily basis.