Keeping kids safe, physically and emotionally is part of our everyday work in afterschool programs. While events like Sandy Hook and Columbine serve to remind us that we cannot protect youth from people determined to harm them, when we look at the world more holistically, we realize that fortunately these catastrophic events are not everyday occurrences and we do have some control over those everyday situations.
I was talking with a young man who pointed this out to me in clear terms. I was expressing my concern for his well-being because I realized he spent the weekends with a brother who was heavily involved in gang activity. He looked me squarely in the eye and said, “You don’t get it. I am dying every day in inches. With my brother, it would be over quickly.” Needless to say, this took me aback. So I talked more with him and he shared how he was made fun of, mocked and sometimes bullied. We talked about how older youth took out their frustrations on younger kids because they couldn’t fight back effectively. We talked about how he yearned for a place that felt safe, and sadly, although school was somewhat better than the neighborhood and apartment complex he lived in, school was not that safe place for him either.
We need to take a stand. While we may not be able to control every aspect of a youth’s life, we can be sure that during the time the youth is in our afterschool program he or she feels safe—both physically and emotionally. To find out some practical ways to do this, check out the Nifty 9 e-Book on Safety.
What are some of the challenges that you are facing keeping youth safe? Are you struggling balancing heightened safety regulations (lock outs and gate opening) with running a successful program? Weigh in on this topic.