I am sorry to be wrapping up the PAINTS ( Professional Artists in the Schools) program with the kids, grades 3 to 5, in our local school this coming week. I so wished it was continuing and in a perfect world, art would be offered to youth each and everyday in schools, as the educational foundation that enables youth to connect with themselves, others, with the environment and their world. The PAINTS program I offered was based on the First Nations Circle of Courage which reflects basic human needs and the values of Belonging, Independence, Mastery and Generousity/Empathy. These were expressed through the art work and creative imaginations of these insightful youth who have inspired and left me feeling hopeful.
In my other life and vocation as a Youth Care Worker for 20 plus years, I became acutely and personally aware through my work with youth and families within the system, of the crisis that exists with youth on both a national, and global scale.
It pains me greatly when I hear the proverbial cheap lip service, and rhetoric of how youth are our greatest resource. This is not what is reflected in reality throughout the world, when you see the proven statistics accounting for child abuse, poverty, homelessness, or suicide among young people baring the burden of mental health and addiction issues.
Many troubled youth at risk who have spent years within foster care, group homes and custodial facilities, especially those who have been involved in the courts, are eventually more often than not preened for the adult correctional system especially if they don't get the help they need.
Once a youth has served their sentence in open or closed custody, they are basically on their own without enough to no support and return to dysfunctional homes, they choose to live on the street or couch surf, go missing or in the worse case scenario, are found dead.
With the influx of people moving to the urban and city areas these complex problems are compounded and
intensified resulting in more serious issues.
There are many theories and reasons that have long been discussed in order to resolve this crisis among youth. But for me it has mostly been empty talk with no concrete resolutions particularly when politicians or government is involved and falls upon deaf ears. I don't put my faith in politics or government. However they still need to be lobbied and pressured to do the right thing for families and youth.
There are some folks who I believe are making a difference. The front line workers, those who genuinely care enough to advocate for kids and families, and the youth themselves, such as organizations like Hope Blooms.
Violet-Rose Pharaoh who started the garbage bag challenge is raising awareness and funds to provide suitcases to kids in care. Time and time again I saw kids who were carrying around all of their belongings in garbage bags and this is what they left group homes with.
Violet spent much of her childhood and youth in care.
Another person, a Youth Care Worker who is making a difference through Twitter, is Mark Cherrington.
Dr. Bernie Krause is another individual who understands how humans need to be living harmoniously with connection to the environment instead of trying to conquer it.
There are no simple solutions to the crisis among youth and families. I do believe however that if values are imparted to children that fulfill their needs in order to give them a true sense of belonging, independence, mastery and generousity, these would in turn make a huge difference in the well being of our youth, our families and in our world.