Safe Passage: Making It through Adolescence in a Risky Society

Safe Passage: Making It through Adolescence in a Risky Society

Safe Passage: Making It through Adolescence in a Risky Society

Safe Passage: Making It through Adolescence in a Risky Society

Synopsis

Children today face daunting obstacles on the path to adulthood--failing schools, dangerous streets, drug abuse, teen pregnancy. But the good news, according to child advocate Joy Dryfoos, is that there are many programs out there that work--models that we can apply to our own communities and our own children. In Safe Passage, Dryfoos helps us find them. Indeed, this book examines hundreds of successful programs, ideas that have worked in the real world--in a very tough real world at that--such as the Turner Middle School in Philadelphia, a model of a "university assisted" community school. Dryfoos examines the new trend toward full-service schools, programs that make the school the hub of the community, serving as enrichment centers and neighborhood safe havens. She evaluates programs that try to cope with sex, drugs, and violence--revealing which ones work and what aspects of these programs are most effective--and she also dissects programs that have failed, such as the highly touted drug program, DARE. Dryfoos concludes with a passionate call for action, outlining what must be done if our young people are to be assured safe passage to the future. Whether they live in a room down the hall, a house across town, or a tenement a thousand miles away, these are our children. This book shows us what we can do to give them a better chance to succeed in life, to grow up to be healthy and productive adults.

Excerpt

Joy Dryfoos has been a major contributor to our understanding of adolescent development, its serious problems, and ways to overcome them. This book builds on her cumulative experience, knowledge, and judgment to make a powerful case for all our youth.

Adolescence is a time of profound biological transformation and social transition characterized by exploratory behavior. Much of this behavior is adaptive, but when carried to extremes, and especially if it becomes habitual, it can have lifelong adverse consequences. Many dangerous patterns, in fact, commonly emerge during these years such as substance abuse, premature and unprotected sex, the use of weapons, alienation from school.

To have a promising future, adolescents must find a valued place in a constructive group; learn how to form close, durable human relationships; earn a sense of worth as a person; achieve a reliable basis for making informed choices; express constructive curiosity and exploratory behavior; find ways of being useful to others; believe in a promising future with real opportunities; cultivate the inquiring and problem-solving habits of mind necessary for lifelong learning and adaptability; learn to respect democratic values and the elements of responsible citizenship; and altogether build a healthy lifestyle.

These requirements can be met by a conjunction of institutions that powerfully shape adolescent development, for better or worse--families, schools, community-based organizations, and health care organizations. Working models of effective programs for young adolescents can be observed in some communities, a few of which have been scrutinized by evaluative research. Dryfoos highlights programs and strategies that show promise of setting young people on the path toward healthy adulthood.

A variety of organizations and institutions can provide supplements or surrogates for parents, older siblings, and an extended family. Across the country there are many examples of such interventions. Churches, schools, universities and community organizations can build constructive social support networks that attract youngsters, including seriously disadvantaged ones, in ways that foster their health, their education and their personal capacities. All this bears strongly on healthy alternatives to school failure, substance abuse, and violent gang membership.

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