We hear about youth problems as separate issues, which include bullying, child abuse, neglect, runaways, drugs, gangs, sex trafficking, gun violence, mental health, and suicide.
These issues are critical, but we need to focus on the two primary solutions that can help heal and solve all of these problems.
Children from abused and neglected homes often experience a spiritual crisis from the adults who are supposed to protect them. They experience loneliness, sadness, anger, frustration, and social isolation and may blame themselves, turn to self-destructive behaviors or become violent. Many children don’t know how to protect themselves from pain and anger!
Children from abused and neglected homes lack support. They may struggle to have friends and become victims of bullies with nasty texts from classmates. They blame themselves and feel nobody cares! They look for love and support in the wrong places, such as “friends” on the internet, and find “groomers” who express kindness but have ulterior motives.
Facts about the plight of children.
Abuse/Neglect – 1 in 7 child victims at the cost of $220 million a DAY (CDC)
Runaways – Between 1.6 million and 2.8 million runaways. (National Runaway Safeline)
Gangs – Over 20,000 gangs with over one million members (National Drug Intelligence Center)
Sex Trafficking – 4.8 million trapped in forced sex slavery (Center Missing/Exploited Children)
Youth Drug Abuse – 2.08 million youth from 12 to 17 years (National Center Drug Abuse)
Gun Violence – 45,000 died in 2020, and this continues to increase (Giffords Law Center)
Self-harm, age 10 to 24 – 157,000, emergency, self-inflicted injuries (Academy of Pediatrics)
Suicide – Leading cause of death – 45,979 in the U.S. (National Institute of Mental Health) The American Rescue Plan Act passed in 2021, including $170 billion for school funding to hire mental health workers, including psychologists.
Vulnerable children are manipulated by evil people who groom, sell, exploit, bully, and even kill them for money. However, we can empower children and, in the process, heal ourselves. In a free society, citizens must work together to create change.
Here are two solutions that can strengthen and protect families, especially children.
We need a spiritual awakening that can give children a foundation with values to help them understand their inner power. There are 350,000 churches, and many other religions in the U.S. Children are born with instincts to protect them, intuition to evaluate good and bad situations, insights to see what isn’t said, and a self-protective conscience to keep them safe. Every child has the power to survive difficult times. Religious leaders must speak up to help families look within to discover self-love and connect with people who care. Children need love and support to know they are not alone and to grow strong from within. Be Aware: Some church leaders manipulate followers. Know the difference between a church that empowers its congregation and a church that controls its congregation.
Americans must focus on neighborhood support. Smaller communities have less crime, juvenile delinquency, and violence because people know and care about each other. During COVID, we saw how social isolation negatively affected school children. Together we can reduce the negative effect on families due to socially isolated neighbors. Every city leader needs to consider hiring and training “Neighborhood Safety Experts” who look like and speak the language of the community to bring neighbors together. Restoring neighborhood support gives people hope as they build trust with caring neighbors. Neighborhood support offers families the community support to survive and thrive as involved adults plan a get-together, clean up the neighborhood, Block Party, plan activities for youth or plant a garden. Activities and involvement create a check and balance on negative teen behavior.
It will be “we the people” who decide what our cities will look like in the future. With the support of the local government and police, we can come together to create the human protection for American youth that every child deserves. It will be up to Americans to engage with each other to help create safe, healthy homes and neighborhoods. We can heal ourselves as we come together to heal and empower youth. Americans will grow stronger, and families will thrive!
Stephanie L. Mann, Crime and Violence Prevention Safety Expert
Author, five books on the home, neighborhood, and city-wide safety