Serving America’s Youth at Risk
Through ABA initiatives, lawyers are making a difference one child at a time
Posted Feb 21, 2007 5:05 AM CST
By Karen J. Mathis
Last August, the ABA’s Youth at Risk Initiative was announced. The presidential commission behind it was charged with helping the ABA and its members make a difference in the lives of American youths ages 13-19 who are at risk of becoming involved with the juvenile or criminal justice system, status offenders or simply kids who have lost their way in life.
Why lawyers, and why the ABA? Because as lawyers, we can use our talents and resources to connect the dots between educators, the courts, families, social services professionals and youth serving organizations.
Six months have passed since the initiative was announced, and it’s time for a status report.
The program--Take Charge! Conflict Resolution, Violence Prevention and Law--brings together local lawyers and teenage girls for a camp weekend or after school sessions. The interactive programming covers topics such as domestic and teen dating violence, school safety and legal careers. This partnership with the Girl Scouts of Chicago was initiated last summer and is now expanding nationally. At the ABA Midyear Meeting in Miami, the commission will launch its partnership with Girl Scouts of the USA and announce host cities for additional Take Charge pilot projects. The commission will work to establish similar partnerships with Boys & Girls Clubs of America and America’s Promise, for example.
Be a Part of Our Progress
Through its community roundtables, the commission has provided a valuable service to individuals and multidisciplinary organizations that address the needs of at risk youths. These half day meetings are for sharing programming ideas, exploring partnership opportunities, and expanding the network of concerned legal professionals and advocates for at risk youths.
Roundtables have been held in a dozen U.S. cities already. Each one was tailored to the concerns of the local community. For instance, the roundtable held at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio focused on the status and needs of youths in military communities. Fort Sam was chosen because it has a high number of combat zone deployments and redeployments.
Participants included representatives from the local Boys & Girls Club, Armed Services YMCA, and Marine Corps Community Services as well as a juvenile court judge, a 16 year old boy who had been through the juvenile justice system, and two young men who were veterans of the San Antonio foster care system.
Host a YAR roundtable in your community. It’s simple, quick, and it will make a difference! A comprehensive tool kit makes it easy to do. You can send an e mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Web site at abanet.org/initiatives/youthatrisk to get one.
Visit the YAR Web site for current information on:
• Addressing the Needs of Juvenile Status Offenders and Their Families, jointly hosted with the U.S. Department of Justice on Jan. 18. This was the country’s first national videoconference on this critical topic. More information, as well as video from the conference, is available.
• The Chicago/Cook County DVD Project. In partnership with the DLA Piper Foundation, videos addressing violence prevention among young people will play on closed loop TV in juvenile court holding rooms.
• YAR policies being debated by the ABA House of Delegates at the midyear meeting. See the recommendations and reports.
The YAR commission’s progress is impressive and to be congratulated. The scope and complexity of the problems facing our youth require us to do much more for them. Make time to invest in our youth today--you can help a young person mature into an adult who fully participates in our nation’s future.