The prevention of delinquency and juvenile crime helps children stray from questionable life choices, prevent them from following a life of crime, and keeps them out of jail while in youth and when they become legal adults. The community, in turn, can benefit from lower crime rates and the reduced portion of tax money that goes to putting and keeping criminals in jail. It’s a win-win situation, so how can local governments and communities create programs for at-risk youth that will benefit everyone involved?
There are four components that make at-risk youth programs effective, namely education, recreation, skill-building, and family therapy. This guide discusses each component and cites an example for each.
Education is empowerment. Unfortunately, the current education system does not treat every student with equity. At-risk youth are those that struggle to keep up with the regular school system, and are, therefore, likely to fail in school, which can affect every other aspect of their life. Here are the different types of programs and services that aim to support children who are at risk of not being successful in school.
Alternative education. Not every child learns best in the same way. Alternative education programs take different approaches to help a child keep up or even surpass their peers in school; something that their teachers may not be able to do.
Special education. These programs provide special education to children who need it, free of charge.
Awareness programs. Most youth issues today, including sex, violence, drugs, and alcohol, stem from the lack of awareness. Awareness programs aim to teach children about the effects of these things so that they know what can happen if they engage in risky behavior (and ultimately discourage them from doing it).
According to the Department of Justice, crimes committed by juveniles are most likely to occur in the immediate hours after school on weekdays (around 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.). The most immediate benefit of recreational programs is filling these hours with recreational activities so that children don’t go and commit crimes between the hours of getting out from school and going home.
Aside from that, recreational activities help children connect with their peers and adults in their community. It provides opportunities for creating positive relationships with others, as well as interact with peers in a healthy way. Being supervised by adults who provide them with positive experiences also helps at-risk youth be more trusting and respectful of authority instead of constantly trying to go against it.
Here are several examples of recreational programs for at-risk youth.
Music. Learning how to play instruments promotes discipline, builds self-esteem, and relieves stress and anxiety. Some after-school programs have volunteer piano teachers to teach kids after school for free, while some hold late-night programs for teens to do music-related activities.
Sports. Sports is an excellent way to increase physical activity in children, helping them fight obesity and maintain a healthy weight. More importantly, sports gives at-risk youth something to be passionate about, which can help keep them off the streets.
Arts. Art is another excellent outlet for emotions, both positive and negative. Painting, drawing, sculpting, and other forms of art can help at-risk youth manage the negative emotions that lead them to risky behavior.
Building practical skills provides a productive distraction for youth who have negative influences in their life. More than that, it helps them build self-esteem and self-confidence, while also preparing them for adult life in the future.
Here are several examples of skills that skill-building programs aim to teach at-risk youth:
- Cooking and cleaning
- Basic home maintenance
- Sewing and knitting
- Handling mechanical equipment
- Basic car maintenance
Family-based programs aim to reduce juvenile crime by decreasing the risk factors at home. For example:
Family therapy programs. These programs are designed to improve communication and interactions between parents and their children to better resolve conflicts that may arise and reduce the risk of children acting out.
Parent training programs. In a parental training program, parents receive instruction and support about healthy discipline and supervision techniques that will help them raise their children better.
Integrated approach programs. These programs involve other partners (police, mental health professionals, social services, etc.) to solve deep-seated family issues that are influenced by mental health problems, substance addiction, abuse, and other risk factors.
The key to preventing juvenile delinquency and crime is early intervention. By providing these programs for at-risk youth, communities can help their children stray from poor and oftentimes dangerous choices before they even consider making them. This will not only help improve the lives of the youth and their families, but it will also help enrich the community as a whole.