Q: OK, so I work with at risk youth. What implications does this have and how should I deal with it?
A: Working with at risk youth will often have implications that aren’t always immediately obvious, but are important to bear in mind. For example:
- Youth living in foster care or group homes – They will often have a hard time trusting people and forming close relationships, especially if they’ve moved homes numerous times. This can often lead to problems at school as they’ve had to change schools multiple times, meaning they fall behind on learning and don’t get to build lasting relationships with school friends
- Abused youth – If you’re a youth pastor or volunteer youth worker in a church, young people who have been abused by their father may well have a hard time relating to God as a father
- Youth from low-income families – They may have a hard time concentrating for no other reason than that they’re hungry. It might also mean they’re bullied due to not having nice clothing
- Youth with learning difficulties – If your programs involve a lot of sitting around and reading, there’s a far higher likelihood that they will be disruptive. This isn’t because they’re naughty, but because they’re unable to fully participate. Try to be sensitive to this and take into account different learning styles
- Youth with physical disabilities – Try to include games and activities that they can participate in, rather than them having to sit out while everyone else has fun
What are the longer term implications?
- Sexually Transmitted Infections – Young people with high sexual activity are more susceptible to STIs
- Unemployment – Youth who are at risk will often struggle at school for all manner of reasons. This can in turn lead to them finding it hard to get a job due to a lack of qualifications
- Crime – If they’re unable to make a living, they may turn to crime to gain an income
- Relationships – If a young person has had troubled relationships with their family – or no relationships at all if moving from foster home to foster home – it’s likely they’ll have trouble forming longer term relationships
- Sexuality – LGBT youth are more likely to end up homeless than heterosexual young people and subsequently encounter further risks as a result of being homeless
Needless to say, we think it’s important to be aware of at risk youth and be sensitive to their needs. However, it’s also important to remember that just because they’re at risk, it doesn’t mean that there’s no hope for them. Therefore, be wary of labelling young people as this can result in a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Question: What other implications are there for at risk youth? Please share your ideas in the comments below.
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