In the United States, there were close to 74 million youths (those under 18 years of age) in 2012 according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. Sadly though, large numbers of America’s children are victims of violence and/or end up committing offences themselves. But there are steps we can take to help victimized children and juvenile offenders change their lives.
Statistics show that in 2008, for example, an estimated 60 percent of the country’s children were exposed to violence, crime, or abuse in their homes, schools, and communities within a 12-month period. The devastating mental, emotional, and physical effects of these instances can go on to negatively affect a child not just throughout their younger years, but all through their life.
While these statistics are very alarming and the issue exceedingly complex there are individuals as well as government, private, and not-for-profit organizations around the U.S. working hard to try to curb the problems faced by America’s youth.
From the positive impact of forensic psychologists and other types of counselors, to new programs aimed at developing the skills and self-confidence levels of youngsters, there are a number of ways in which juvenile offenders and victimized children are being supported across the country.
Read on to learn about just some of the steps being taken around the United States to help at-risk children change their lives for the better.
The Work of Forensic Psychologists
Forensic psychologists work in a field that combines law with psychology. They scientifically investigate who may have committed crimes and why people commit crimes, and also look for ways that they might prevent individuals from committing more offences in the future. These types of psychologists work not only to investigate crimes, but also often help to rehabilitate criminals.
Forensic psychologists can be found working in a variety of venues, including prisons, schools, juvenile detention centers, courts, rehabilitation centers, government agencies, and police departments, to name a few.
In America, young people who have had encounters with the law and have made some poor decisions that could potentially lead them into a long-term criminal lifestyle are regularly supported by forensic psychologists. The workers provide services to help children learn from their mistakes, plan for the future, cope with anger and other strong emotions, and build relationships.
Forensic psychologists often work directly with young patients in their homes (sometimes in conjunction with their families), as well as in schools, detention centers, and the like. The practitioners provide education and treatment for juvenile offenders, act as counselors, and help children to avoid a life of crime.
These psychologists also often work with victims of crimes who are under 18 years old. Their role regularly involves assessing children who may have been abused; providing training and support to those who have been bullied; and other work such as conflict resolution, counseling, substance abuse treatment, and all-around life skills training. Considering that children who are victimized in their youth can often go on to become perpetrators or criminal offenders when they’re older, it’s easy to see how this work has an important and positive impact on America’s youth.
A new program that has just begun in Winchester, Virginia, will also help juvenile offenders to get their lives back on track. The Running Strong program aims to provide an alternative to community service for children who commit minor crimes. It will help youngsters who have been in trouble with the law to train to complete a 5K or 10K run event at the end of eight to ten weeks.
The creator of the program, Howard Manheimer, is a runner himself, as well as a juvenile defence attorney with many years of experience in representing and learning about child offenders. He has noticed that many kids who get in trouble with the law are actually lacking in self-confidence, and don’t have any belief in their ability to be successful in life. His new program is designed to change the perspective of juvenile offenders, boosting their self-esteem as they learn to achieve something they never thought they could at the outset.
Considering that research released by the National Institute of Justice shows that nearly one-third of all violent crime committed by juvenile offenders happens between the end of the school day and dinner time, having a training regime to keep kids busy each afternoon is sure to make a difference.
The U.S. Department of Labor has also signed on to help juvenile offenders. Last year the department announced that it would be providing grants totaling $44 million to help youngsters receive job training and support services, as part of its Face Forward program.
The grant money will be used to help youths (aged between 14 and 24) who have made poor decisions in the past turn their lives around. As part of the program, juvenile offenders will be provided with mentoring, on-the-job training, case management, and more.