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WE MUST INVEST IN OUR TROUBLED YOUTH

SHARE WE MUST INVEST IN OUR TROUBLED YOUTH

The greatest disaster facing our state and nation is the destruction of our children and youth - our troubled youth.

We read about the Alaskan oil spill, and we can see the terrible destruction it has caused. It is tragic and touches many lives. It must be cleaned up and will cost billions, yet the money will be there.The far greater disaster is the destruction of our children and youth. We cannot always see the damage to their lives. Their scars are mostly inside, and only through their behavior do we see their hurt and suffering and their desperate cries for help. It touches millions of lives, the families and even generations to come. The need is so great, and yet the billions of dollars needed are not there to help them. We need to invest more in our troubled children and youth.

Utah is spending millions to build and maintain prisons. Prisons are taking too much of our money. They are taking money that should be used for human services and programs of prevention. It is time to invest much more in prevention programs to help our youth so that we can keep them from going to prison.

The problems facing our children and youth and their desperate need for help are urgent. In the past 15 years, seven programs providing group residential care for boys have closed their doors. They were all located along the Wasatch Front.

These kinds of resources are difficult to create and even more difficult to maintain. Utah Girls Village has helped rebuild the lives of hundreds of girls over the past 14 years. Now we are opening a home for boys. We have a strong commitment to reach out and help as many troubled youth as possible.

Utah Girls Village currently operates three teaching family homes for girls, two in Kearns and one in Pleasant Grove. We now have a home for boys in Sandy. We also provide the treatment supervision for a boys' home in Price and provide the training for all of the structured foster homes in Utah.

The cornerstone of our treatment philosophy is the traditional view of the value of the family. The family is seen as the basic ingredient both of our society and of the emotional well-being of the youth we serve. The primary goal of treatment is to restore healthy parent-child relationships whenever feasible.

We believe each boy or girl admitted to the village benefits from learning in a family environment and have established that as the village theme: "Help one child - help generations to come."

Each teaching family home functions as a remarkably successful treatment center for seven youths. It is staffed by a well-trained married couple who are known as family teachers. Girls Village uses a highly acclaimed and thoroughly researched treatment system known as the "teaching family model."

Girls Village is the only recognized teaching family model site west of Boys' Town, Neb., the largest site in the nation. This unique treatment system predictably and consistently helps troubled youth change their lives for the better.

A recent survey of the group homes in Utah isolated Utah Girls Village as the most successful provider for a troubled population. For example, in 1987 Girls Village averaged an 87.5 percent success rate, while the other providers who handled similar populations averaged a 38 percent success rate.

This success comes from the village's progressive and sophisticated treatment system. As a result of this success, the state is eager to have us provide treatment to as many youth as possible. We have a long waiting list for the type of treatment we give.

For the most part, our troubled children are forgotten, at the bottom of the list. Ungovernable children are an embarrassment to their parents, families and even communities, so we really do not have the needed advocacy. There is no public outcry for help to provide the necessary funding.

We need more support from our leaders, both state and national. We need more help from the media. We are not in the business of helping children and youth in order to make money but to help them change their lives.

We are willing to help our youth heal their scars. We are there to help build self-esteem. We embrace these lovely youth because they are precious souls whose lives we can and do change. They deserve to be given a chance in life, and the village may be the best chance many will ever have. We need more volunteers and financial help than ever before.

Our first two homes were built through contributions and are paid for. Our girls' home in Pleasant Grove and the boys' home in Sandy have large mortgages that we must pay. We currently have a long waiting list of girls and boys needing help.

We desperately need a center - a place that not only houses our staff but provides training and a place to share our skills with parents, families and youth.

Please help us help Utah's troubled children. When you help one child, you help generations to come.