Youth At-Risk Program
"Providing us with hope for the future, children and youth are our most valuable resource - they are also our most vulnerable. It is this vulnerability, as manifested in both their physical and mental maturity levels, however, that gives rise to the need for the protection of children and youth as an ethical and moral responsibility."
Unfortunately, a number of factors frequently come into play that put the healthy development and safety of this vulnerable group at-risk. While all youth face some form of risk in their daily lives, certain individuals and groups are considered more "at-risk" than others because of their socioeconomic status, environment, friends, family situation, community supports, behavioral problems, and physical or mental health. For those greatest at-risk, these factors are interconnected, reinforcing each other with disturbing results:
- Youth suicide increased by 300% in the last 30 years
- Estimates for homeless youth are in the 150,000 range
- Youth are dropping out of school more frequently and at an earlier age
- There were 41,588 teenage pregnancies in 1998
Clearly, this is an urgent situation requiring a response capable of addressing the full spectrum of youth needs and issues, providing them with alternatives to violence and poverty, and giving them hope of overcoming their current conditions. For immigrant and minority youth, however, there are few places to turn. This is a group that has traditionally been ignored, resulting in a significant lack of the services necessary to help them cope with the difficulties they face on a daily basis - and the difficulties they face are considerable.
Immigrant and visible minority populations experience a much higher degree of disenfranchisement, suffer additional problems such as racism and bigotry, are more likely to live in lower-income households, and, in the case of immigrant youth, face unique challenges such as adapting to a new educational system, learning a new language, and balancing the cultural values and norms expected of youth.
Through the Youth At Risk Program, COSTI will provide over 600 at-risk immigrant and minority youth, ages 16-25, with ongoing support and increased access to recreational, educational, and employment opportunities. Through a dedicated facility acting as a central "gateway", youth will be offered easy access to a series of focused, integrated services based on their specific needs and individual situation.
This program responds to the unique and unmet needs of immigrant and minority youth from a broad and holistic perspective, and provides opportunities to develop young people's talents and interests; formal and informal supports to help participants work through their problems; mechanisms for ongoing youth input and leadership; opportunities for participants to become mentors to other youth; and, above all, equal access and participation.
Through the Youth At Risk Program, all youth, regardless of personal barriers, will be provided with equal access to the services they need to grow into caring, competent, and healthy adults.