Safe Kids ... Safe Families ... Safe Communities
Across Canada, professional police officers are showing that they can lead the way in helping
Canadian children and young people acquire from their families and communities the important life building blocks all kids need to grow to happy, responsible, caring and fulfilled adulthood. Sounds like a dream, doesn't it? Or worse, maybe a sad delusion? It's real and it's happening, and the goal of reaching every Canadian young person has a better chance of becoming a reality if you'll get involved.
It all began a few years ago when an unlikely trio of police administrators, a youth and family
worker, as well as a coalition of Safe Community organizations, independently began to examine why some kids grow up with ease while others struggle. Why do some kids get involved in dangerous activities while others spend their time contributing to
their community? Why do some young people 'beat the odds' in difficult circumstances while others get trapped?
It centres around the simple notion that if we are to create sustained levels of safety, health, respect, and tolerance among Canadians - young and old - it's time we began to build on community strengths rather than continuing to declare war on our weaknesses and problems.
From Minneapolis-based Search Institute we were to learn that economic circumstances, genetics
, trauma, and many other factors play a role, but these factors, which seem difficult if not impossible to change, aren't all that matter.
It was not these negative factors which caught our attention, but the realization that Search Institute had spend years doing sound research that led to the identification of 40 values, qualities, and experiences that all young people need in their lives to grow, to become caring, competent and responsible adults. They called them Developmental Assets and went on to describe in detail how everyone with a healthy interest in young people has the ability help kids acquire tem. Their research, undertaken initially in the United States and expanded into Canada in 1998,makes it clear that 'when young people have more of these Development Assets in their lives, they are more likely to succeed in school, show leadership, take care of their health and value diversity and they are less likely to be involved in violence, in using alcohol, tobacco and other drugs and in early sexual activity."
Significantly, Asset Building is not another program to be factored into parents and professionals' already overburdened priorities and work schedules. In fact Asset Building isn't a grogram at all, but represents a return to the notion, 'It takes a village to raise a child" -- that police officers, teachers, grandparents, neighbours, and young people themselves all have an important role to play.
Asset Building isn't solely about spending more money or creating new programs or organizations. It's about acknowledging and acting on the realization that each of us can build assets every day in the lives of young people who are or could be within our influence. We can do it by learning their names, displaying an interest in their activities , teaching them new skills and above all by modeling the very behaviours we seek in them.
The asset framework offers a model that describes practical things that each of us can do for nothing to help kids succeed, by teaching and modeling old-fashioned values like honesty, respect, tolerance, enthusiasm, and industry. You are probably already engaged in these very kinds of actions in your family, community, and workplace - if so, you'll know that it's not about money, or even necessarily about spending more time. What it's about is being more aware of the importance of these life building blocks in the lives of kids and of the need for each of us to be more intentional in ensuring they have the chance to acquire them. Everyone has a role to play. As Gandhi said, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
In cities large and small and in rural Canada, police officers are playing a key role in helping to garner the community awareness and active participation that's necessary to assure that every Canadian boy and girl has the opportunity to acquire these life building blocks so important in promoting the positive behaviours we all seek - at the same time protecting them from the destructive forces and behaviours that deplete their potential.
From throughout the ranks of police professionals we're seeing evidence of the willingness and ability of police officers to apply the asset approach in their dealing with children, youth and their families.
And they're doing it everyday, "One Kid At A Time!"
Visit EKIOC andThrive Canada for more asset development information.