Our younger generation has immense problems to face. They have an uncertain, economic future. They have guns invading their hallways and classrooms. They have struggles in their own homes from single-parenting and dysfunctional families. While enduring these issues, adolescents earned stereotypes, such as “latchkey children” or “at risk”.
Latchkey children are young people who spend their afterschool time without parental guidance. Latchkey children have to find something to do themselves. Latchkey children have to cook for themselves. Latchkey children have to wait for hours and hours for an adult to come home. These children are susceptible to feeling abandoned, having low self-esteem and falling victim to trouble.
At-risk children are in more dire shape. At-risk children are the ones trapped within dysfunctional homes. At-risk children are the ones being recruited by adult criminals or gang members. At-risk children suffer from plummetting grades while in school. At-risk children are the ones who practice dangerous lifestyles, such as underage drinking, unprotected sex and committing crimes. At-risk children have the possibility to get institutionalized, incarcerated or killed in their later years.
Black and Latino children are disporportionately latchkey or at-risk. Both groups comprise a disturbing percentage (close to 60%) of being raised in single-parent households. They also live in households absent of fathers or positive, male role models. Unfortunately, a huge percentage of these struggling families reside in impoverished, crime-ridden neighborhoods. These neighborhoods lack afterschool programs and summer camps for teens.
Something can be said about black parents raising black children. The reason being, is that society will let a black child know where they stand. A white parent can have the biggest heart. But, their heart won’t protect a black child from the “N” word.
However, mentoring minority children and teens can be done by anyone. A person with good morals can teach values and skills to troubled kids no matter what race they are. On ABC’s television show, Extreme Home Makeover, a boxing coach has his house remodeled after using his knowledge to keep adolescents off the street. This proud, white man continues to save young people of all races. His students’ ethnicities are never issues.
Organizations, like R.B.I. which bring baseball into inner-cities, don’t say “If you’re black or brown, we will help you.” Big Brothers and Big Sisters don’t racial discriminate their volunteers. They also don’t intentionally pair an adult with a troubled youth based on their race or ethnicity. Mentoring is a lesson learned by both teacher and student. Regardless of the situation, you have to adapt.
Nevertheless, mentoring isn’t a cure-all for troubled kids. Sometimes, the best mentoring still fails. You can send a battered woman to different shelters and multiple counselors. But, if they insist on waiting for their abuser to change, they will go back “to the well” until it runs dry. That analogy is similar with at-risk children.
As far as latchkey children, they just need somewhere to be after school. They need a safe haven. A YMCA is perfect for a young people to use physical activity to pass the time. YMCA facilities have “open gyms”. Open gyms are available for public use at around $5 a day.
Five dollars to keep a child supervised can save that late night visit from an officer with bad news.