“The New Beginning”
What defines an "At-Risk" youth?

Many social critics argue that today’s youth face more serious and critical risks than any previous generation. Parents are convinced that their children face a major crisis. Most experts will agree that violence in schools, deteriorating family structure, substance abuse, alarming media images, and gang activity put teens at risk.

Teenagers who have trouble coping with the stresses of life are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, engage in criminal activity, are sexually promiscuous, and attempt suicide. Many of these at-risk teens run away and eventually find themselves locked up in detention centers or living on the streets.

   If a teen is experiencing more than four of the following warning signs,  
   they could be at risk.

   1. Has the teen ever been suspended, expelled, been truant, or had
       their grades drop?

   2. Is the teen verbally abusive?

   3. Does the teen struggle with basic family rules and expectations?

   4. Does the parent have difficulty getting the teen to do basic    
       household chores and homework?

   5. Has the teen had problems with the law?

   6. Does the parent have to pick their words carefully when speaking
       to the teen, so as not to elicit a verbal attack or even rage from

   7. Is the teen in danger of dropping out of high school?

   8. Does the teen associate with a suspect peer group?

   9. Has the teen lost interest in former productive activities, sports,
       hobbies, or childhood friends?

   10.Has the teen ever displayed any evidence of suicide?

   11.Does the teen seem depressed / withdrawn?

   12.Does the teen ever display violent behavior?

   13 Is the teen sexually promiscuous?

   14 Has the teen’s appearance or personal hygiene changed?

   15.Is the teen deceitful and manipulative?

   16.Has the teen been caught stealing money or personal items from
       their family?

   17.Is the teen severely lacking in motivation?

   18.Does the teen sometimes lie regarding their activities?

   19.Does the teen display outbursts of temper?

   20.Does the teen lack self-worth and self-esteem?

   21 Does the teen defy established rules regardless of the

   22.When trying to deal with the teen, do the parents feel powerless?

   23.Does the teen have a problem with authority?

   24.Do the parents suspect the teen is experimenting with drugs or

Who Is At Fault?

Pointing fingers usually doesn't accomplish much. However, it is extremely valuable to know who and what is causing today's youth to become at-risk.
Nothing is more destructive to a teen and their family than the abuse of alcohol and drugs; the earlier the intervention, the better. Unfortunately teens often hide their alcohol/drug usage from their family and it can take months or even years before the parents become aware of the problem. Many parents minimalize the problem and don’t pick up on the warning signs until the child has spun out of control. Finally the family is confronted with an addicted teenager and is unable to deal with the situation on their own. Shame and denial become obstacles to the teen’s recovery

Unfortunately, teenagers often don’t see the link between their actions today and the consequences tomorrow. They have the mindset that they are indestructible and immune to the problems that others experience. Some teens will experiment with alcohol or drugs and stop, or continue to use occasionally. Others will develop a dependency and will end up causing significant harm to themselves, their families, and society.

Whats Being Done?

Over the past decade, more and more attention has been given to the issues associated with “at-risk youth” including youth crime, violence, sex, substance abuse, poor academic performance, etc. Research shows that at-risk youth struggle with complex issues and scenarios that are brought on by peers, mentors, family members, and difficult social environments. The increased complexity of today’s at-risk youth has forced parents and federal agencies to work together to find solutions. There has been growing interest in community-based efforts that help to educate and direct at-risk youth and families to a variety of helpful services.  This is evident by the recent support of at-risk youth programs or initiatives by federal agencies such as the OJJDP (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention). The OJJDP has recently joined with other federal agencies to help bring about the SafeFutures initiative and the Children at Risk initiative.