Running head: YOUTH VIOLENCE IN WASHINGTON DC
YOUTH VIOLENCE IN WASHINGTON DC 8
Youth Violence in Washington DC
Youth Violence in Washington DC
Numerous youths of Washington District of Columbia are victims of violence or causing bodily harm to others, leading to death. Rather than rejecting youths involved in violence, society should reclaim them by getting into their lives in a good way. Roughly, more than 70 million Americans are aged 18 years and below, forming an age group commonly identified as juveniles (DC. gov. n.d.). This age group is expected to continue increasing, and the District of Columbia is no exception. Youth arrests in the district in 2014 recorded the highest over the past ten years (Urban Institute, 2015). While the arrests were less associated with the non-violent or non-weapons offense, there are constant stubborn pockets of violent crime in some neighborhoods, especially in Southeast and Northeast DC. If these are not curtailed, youth violence is expected to continue rising in the district. Therefore, youth violence is a public concern in the District of Columbia that requires an immediate response.
Gaps in Service for Youths Exposed to Violence in Washington
The District of Columbia has a remarkable opportunity to offer rehabilitative services to the youth and teens to decrease recidivism and enhance positive opportunities for youth through initiatives and programs that seek to help the child understand violence, its causes, and ways of preventing it. Overall, higher levels of youth violence in Washington DC have been linked to low education and low parental income. Less violence is associated with school achievement and the success of the youth. The black youth record the highest rates of violence, followed by American Indian and Alaska Native youths compared to white youths (DC. gov. n.d.). These youths live in high-crime areas that pose a higher risk for behavioral problems: maternal distress and socioeconomic status influence how community violence affects the child’s behavior.
The programs in the District of Columbia that offer services for high-risk youths aged 6 to 18 years have made tremendous efforts to reach out to many youths engaged in violence as possible. However, most programs do not offer comprehensive interventions to help youths with complicated behavioral issues meet the local needs, primarily due to inadequate funding (Urban Institute, 2015). Thus, funding agencies and state policymakers of the District of Columbia must take action to utilize the scarce resources to achieve better youth outcomes by increasing appropriations to remedy the cuts that school-and community-based services endure. In addition, they should support advocacy by health, community, and school partnerships to create a comprehensive vision of early intervention and specific interventions to prevent violent and risk-taking behaviors among youths.
Youth at Risk Programs in Washington, DC, Services Offered, and Ages served
The Covenant of Peace is an anti-violence initiative geared at tackling the systematic issues in and around violence in the Washington District of Columbia. This initiative aims to stem the tide of violence within the District of Columbia and beyond by reaching out to the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS)’ committed youth in its facilities and violence-torn communities. After going through intense focus groups investigating and confronting the leading causes of violence, committed youth at DYRS sign a Covenant, an agreement to abstain from and advocate against senseless acts of violence (DC. gov. n.d.). DYRS and a team of credible messengers are tasked to conduct focus groups in a sequence of sleep-ins that commence on Friday afternoon and culminate the following Sunday.
The Youth Services Center (YSC) is the District of Columbia detention center for male and female youth of ages 6-18. YSC offers 24-hour care, supervision, and custody in a safe and secure setting for youths detained as ordered by the DC Family Court Division or DC Superior Court. The staff at YSC comprise of Youth Development Representatives (YDRs) who offer supervision, continuous and direct observation, and on-the-spot counseling to the juveniles in every housing unit. Two YDRs supervise each housing unit to assist with assistance and oversight. In addition, the YSC has numerous medical and behavioral health professionals, counselors, treatment specialists, and administrative staff. It also offers educational services and positive youth justice, including mentoring opportunities, physical fitness, and creative arts programs (DC. gov. n.d.). The program encourages family involvement for each detained at the facility and provides frequent family visitation opportunities. This initiative helps youths with a past record of violence reform their ways and be accepted back into the community.
Ideal Program to Serve Youths Exposed to Violence
Youths need support and growth opportunities that include positive relationships with caring parents or caregivers, skill-building opportunities, and challenging experiences. Therefore, programs that serve youths exposed to violence should be developmentally appropriate devised to prepare teens and youths for productive adulthood by offering supports and opportunities that help them gain the competencies of knowledge required to face the increasing challenges they will meet as they grow (Roth & Brooks-Gunn, 2016). Hence, an ideal program to serve youths exposed to violence should foster positive developmental settings.
The components of positive developmental settings include physical and psychological safety, support for efficacy and mattering, appropriate structure, supportive relationships, opportunities for belonging, opportunities for skill-building, positive social norms, and the incorporation of school, family, and community efforts. In addition, the goals of such a program should seek to promote positive development by striving to prevent problem behaviors. To achieve this, the program’s design should foster an atmosphere that supports positive relationships with peers and adults, empowers youth, offers opportunities for recognition, and communicates expectations for positive behavior (Yohalem & Wilson-Ahlstrom, 2010). In addition, the program activities should allow youths to participate in building skills, broadening their horizons, and engaging in authentic and challenging activities (Yohalem & Wilson-Ahlstrom, 2010). All these features are fundamental for the youth-at-risk program for allowing youths to develop positive behaviors.
The perfect program to serve youth exposed to violence in the District of Columbia should meet this criterion. High-risk youth living in Washington are susceptible to numerous and intersecting problems. As aforementioned, these problems include violent and risk-taking behaviors such as fighting, carrying weapons, substance abuse, emotional and behavioral disorders, and poor connection to performance at school (Frankford, 2007). In addition, these youths are more likely to live in vulnerable families and in insufficiently supportive communities, which leads to high conflict rates exposing them to high-risk activities.
The DRYS, for instance, is legally mandated to place the youth in a less restrictive environment and home-like with constant public safety. It comprises community-based placements that include home placement, group homes, therapeutic foster care, community-based shelter homes, and independent living homes. In the home placement option, when the Court releases a detained youth, he or she is sent to the community to live with an approved guardian or parent and is monitored by the Court Social services. The youth has to comply with the Court release conditions (DC. gov. n.d.). When the youth shows commitment to change, the DYRS case manager supervising and monitoring him or her will refer the youth to support services. After referral to support services, the critical requirement is for the youth to attend a school or be provided with full-time employment. This rehabilitation option ensures the youth completely reform from violent behaviors or acts, continues with education, or gets employed to avoid relapsing to the old behaviors.
The DRYS group homes option contracts with providers to house youth in a homelike, and structured residential setting. This program functions 24-hours are single-sex, and normally houses six to ten youths. The program offers full-time residence to the youth, attends schools, partake in family visits, and gets support services within the community. They offer supervision, counseling services, programs developed to support positive development, and structured recreational activities. Thus, the DRYS offer an ideal program where the youth can reside in a private home, have their actions monitored, and receive counseling to help them understand the vices of violence, and reform to ensure safe communities and neighborhood (DC. gov. n.d.). The young people who drop out of school due to violent crimes are allowed to continue with school, and young adults secure employment opportunities. The slogan of this program is focused on improving DC health matters wherein at-risk youths of 6 to 18 years undergo an experience to help them reduce gang-related behaviors. It decreases their likelihood of getting in contact with the juvenile justice system and increases their chance of attending school and attaining improved academic outcomes.
In conclusion, the number of youths exposed to violence is very high across the Washington District of Columbia. Youths from low-income families are at high risk of violence compared to those of high-income families. The black, Indian American and Alaska natives are at the most significant risk compared to whites. Numerous programs offer support services to help prevent youths from engaging in violence. These programs have made significant efforts in collaboration with governmental and voluntary organizations in the District of Columbia to help high-risk youth. The state policymakers and funding agencies should reconsider increasing funding for these programs and support broader interventions that address comprehensive behaviors and problems among youths. It will ensure the programs function effectively and reach out to many young people as possible already exposed to violence and those at a higher risk of being exposed.
DC.gov. (n.d.). Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services. https://dyrs.dc.gov/
Frankford, E. R. (2007). Changing Service Systems for High-Risk Youth Using State-Level Strategies. American Journal of Public Health, 97 (4), 594-599. https://doi.org/10.2105/ajph.2006.096347
Roth, L. J., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2016). Evaluating Youth Development Programs: Progress and Promise. Applied Developmental Science, 20 (3), 188-202. https://doi.org/10.1080/10888691.2015.1113879
Urban Institute. (2015). Meeting the Needs of D.C. Youth. Washington, DC. http://webarchive.urban.org/url.cfm?id=900323
Yohalem, N. & Wilson-Ahlstrom, A. (2010). Inside the black box: Assessing and improving quality in youth programs. American Journal of Community Psychology, 45, 350-357. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10464-010-9311-3