Provide Youth Positive Options

Article excerpt

Byline: Douglas Sessions Jr. and Joseph W. Clark

Youth gang membership and violence are growing concerns throughout Florida

Many of the murders are attributed to troubled youth with no prior record.

Vulnerable youth in Florida are searching for structure, for a sense of belonging. Many come from broken homes and are struggling in school, if they haven't dropped out already. Many live in crime ridden communities plagued by homelessness and drugs.

Lacking any positive way to fill their needs, vulnerable youth will turn to gang membership.

The Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida has been collaborating with other stakeholders for nearly 20 years to examine prevention and early intervention programs for those at-risk.

One of our partners, the Eckerd Family Foundation, conducted research with Child Trends to determine who the "youth at risk" are in Florida.

The Eckerd report, Spotlight on Florida's Youth at Risk, examines the number of Florida youth in the following eight risk categories:

- Out-of-school youth who currently are not attending school and have not graduated from high school.

- Disconnected youth who are out of school, have not graduated from high school, are not married and have no recent work experience.

- Young welfare recipients who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families because they live with a parent recipient or they are a parent recipient.

- Youth living in foster care.

- Youth offenders committed for delinquency to residential placement facilities. …