How To Reach Out To Youth And Obtain A 90% Success Rate

What do I mean by a success rate of 90%?

This means that 9 out of 10 youth will reach a level of functionality in their school and the community without engaging in crime.  They may keep a job, have children, stop using drugs for some time, or learn a trade.  This solutions are remarkably simple and applies to males, based on real results.

  1. Positive male examples that illustrate the love of Christ.  Many children who never had experienced a caring male adult look after their interests have difficulty accepting the concept of God.  For someone to perceive the heavenly father as caring and accessible, they need real-life examples to illustrate the point.  If every male they encounter is distant, uncaring, un-involved and violent, they encounter difficulties accepting that a God, described as male, to look after them and to guide them. They seek examples and the truth in what they see and hear.  They seek clarity in a world bent on chaos.  Providing that support and an example opens the door for a receptive conversation about Christ.

  2. Unconditional Positive Regard.  Many children do not enjoy the unconditional positive regard from a caring adult.  They seek acceptance from someone, whether it’s a gang or a leader of one.  They just need one person to care enough to listen every once in a while and will accept them no matter what.

  3.   Access.  The absence of a caring adult (typically a male) means that they must fill that void through contact with several adult males in supporting roles.  For example, a coach at the Boys & Girls Club, a guidance counselor at school, a basketball coach, and others who provide affirmation.  Plugging them into these resources keeps them busy and provides a network of accountability that’s missing in most children who are lost.

  4.  Consistency.  Children in trouble are lacking a consistent and positive role model in their lives.  Most of the time, that missing role model is male.  As the “men” are about spreading their DNA among the girls, they fail to take responsibility for their actions.  As a result, there are many boys growing up learning how to be “men” from the music they hear, the negative examples on the street, television and video games.  They seek the definition of what it means to be male and will get it any means they can.  Even if it means that contact will last a few hours for just once a week, that’s enough for many children.

  5.   Recognition of systemic limitations.  It’s not the youth program.  A youth program is nothing but a piece of paper to justify an expense and to bankroll salaries.  It’s all about the people running the youth program.  Children will connect to a person, not a program.  What’s sad is that many people in social services simply hide in helping professions because they don’t know what else to do with their lives.  Many handle their paperwork because, “if it’s not written, it wasn’t done.”  Well, guess what?  If you spend your time writing, nothing gets accomplished except a few notes, a report and a paycheck.  Degrees and titles mean squat.  Numbers, reports and proposals are prepared to the money that’s available in order to keep people working.

    Another systemic limitation is that many people, who seek to victimize youth, gravitate to positions of authority and control.  This gives them access to abuse youth as part of their daily routine.  And the system itself is prone to this abuse when those who stay on the job are the abusers.  Non-abusing adults find it difficult to stay and usually leave.  Usually, the administrative staff creates more stress for the youth worker than the youth who need help.  This creates an increased need for strong willed individuals who place youth first, who protect them, and look after their interests.  The best way for the counselor to stay strong is through Christ.

    On the other hand, there are many dedicated and committed people who go the extra mile to serve the best interest of youth.  Your job is to quickly separate the incompetent workers who are there for a paycheck from those who really put themselves out there to help.  Since there are so many children and so few of these “angels”, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.  Ask the child if he connected to anyone at the program.  Make calls.  Contribute a few dollars to earmark a particular activity.  Ask questions of which counselor or coach is most committed.  Every youth program has that “cool” counselor that will do anything he/she needs to get the job done.  It’s all about what the job requires and there’s no time clock.  That’s the person you’re looking for at every contact the child has whether it’s at school or the community.

  6.   Recreation.  They learn as they go.  The context of that recreation and the situation that arise is what determine what they learn as they have their fun.  Recreation goes a long way in teaching them courtesy, consideration, understanding, tolerance, restraint and fairness.

  7.   Expansion of their world view.   Many counselors and youth workers seek to talk about the street corner.  Their objective is to discuss alternatives to the street corner.  This is a well-intentioned exercise that results, many times, in a contest of wits.  Try expanding their perception of the world so their view of the street corner changes.  How is this done?  It’s simple.  Let’s say Carlos perceives that street corner as the capital of his neighborhood.  Don’t argue with him because he’s right.  It is the capital.  Now, show him the real capital.  Visit Washington, D.C. and tour the museums, visit the White House, and the Capitol Building.  Take a trip.  He may complain the entire way to avoid looking interested.  Believe me, he’s interested.  If he likes money, visit the history of natural history.  They have diamonds and rubies that are bigger than any of the ugly jewelry on the street.  Upon return to the neighborhood, his world view has changed.  His perception of that street corner will also change–and it will no longer be the capital of the neighborhood.  In the meantime, you accomplished a few of the other goals above.

  8.   Youth don’t care about what you know.  They look for examples that you care.  At that point, they may seek, or accept, what you have to say.

  9.   Youth are action oriented.  You must operate on their level to reach them.  And although this makes sense, most people simply don’t do it.  For example, we’ve heard it a thousand times that we must look at it from their point of view to understand what they have to say.  And yet, many people don’t.  Here’s an example.  Let’s say you’re a youth worker and you are employed by a county, or city, agency in a tall building separated from the child’s neighborhood.  Look at the symbolism behind that situation.  There’s a sea of small houses and there’s a monolithic building in the center of it all.  And if that building also houses law enforcement related offices, the children and youth office, and other “authoritarian” services, they may resent you immediately.  Why?  Many children, and their families, resent and distrust systems.  Review Rule #5.  There’s always someone, a youth worker, who broke a promise, lied, didn’t follow-through or broke a rule without a consequence.  If you work “in that building” then expect to receive the flak that accompanies it.

  10.   Encourage youth to identify the self-defeating attitudes around them.  What does this mean?  Watch bucket full of crabs.  (  When one crab is about to escape, the others pull him back in.  Ever see this in the workplace?  Ever see this at school?  Government?  Neighborhoods?  Simply, where there are people, there are crabs.  Some of those crabs want to move up and are dragged down by the crabs who don’t want you to escape.

    This is an example of what it is like to grow up certain neighborhoods within the City of Reading.  Escaping the violence, the drugs, and the problems is tough when that’s what you see daily.  It’s easy to fall back into the same people, places and things that lead to trouble, jails, institutions and death.  The key is to take personal responsibility for your own actions.

  • Eventually, someone will criticize your efforts to do good. Expect them to target you. Did you buy a used car to go to work? Someone flattened the tires. When that happens, smile and forgive them. And if necessary, use the law to your advantage to make things right. Don’t take the law into your own hands.
  • Yes, we know they squandered funds from the budget at the Reading School District. The libraries remain open. There are positive people at the library.
  • Yes, we know that someone vandalized the playground. The Olivet Boys & Girls Club is open. The PAL is open. There are positive people at the PAL.
  • Yes, we know that it’s tough to get a job in the City of Reading. Take the bus. There are positive and negative people at work. And anyone works will tell you, there are crabs there also.
  • Simply because the neighborhood is dirty, dangerous and difficult, doesn’t mean we must all be that way. You control the space between your ears. No one can tell you what to think or what to feel, unless you give them permission in the first place.

There’s always a way to make things better. And if you’re a crab looking to get out, do it while the others aren’t looking.

11.  Encourage youth to possess power over the words they use.  The word SPIC may illicit a strong emotional response.  Many Hispanic teenagers may react emotionally when called a SPIC.  Now, let’s define the meaning of the word SPIC.


P for “PERSON”

I for “IN”


Did someone call you a SPIC?  You’re answer: “Fine, I am a Spanish Person In Control.  That’s what I am, a SPIC.”  As you see, the word has the power you assign it.  To look at who has the power in a conversation, look at who is defining the value to the words.  If you accept SPIC as an insult, you accepted the negative energy of the other party.  You permitted the other party to define you, and your emotions sealed the deal.  On the other hand, redefining the power of those words redefined who you are.  You are in control.  You are a Spanish Person In Control.  You’re a SPIC! See how easy that is?  The power to define your emotional response to words define how you respond within a conversation.  Redefining the moment is to redirect the conversation.  The power of the word is you’re on mind.

If you read this and insulted by my discussion of the word SPIC, please consider reading suggestion #10 above.  Thank you.