Positive Youth Development

Prevention, treatment, reducing the overrepresentation of youth of color

Positive Child and Youth Development

Creating and sustaining safe, stable, nurturing relationships for all children helps children reach their full potential. Steering students away from the juvenile system means offering better alternatives and diverting those who have committed minor offenses into more constructive enterprises. We must do better to equip young people with the skills they need to mature into productive adults. And we need to actively work to reduce the overrepresentation of children and youth of color in these systems.

We can do this by:

  • Working with community partners, parents and youth to co-design solutions by creating spaces to listen and elevate the voices of those with lived experiences, encouraging youth to share their stories, authentically and without apology. We believe those closest to the problems are often the ones with the solutions.
  • Raising awareness about evidence-based initiatives and services that have a positive impact on youth such as community schools, street teams, alternative education strategies, etc. and highlight the organizations leading these initiatives and services.
  • Connecting leaders from public, private, and philanthropic sectors around shared causes. This involves helping bridge the public with elected officials to identify and address local issues in their districts.

Youth Mental Health Wellness

Mental health issues are pervasive among New Jersey's youth.  A concerning amount of youth face situations that negatively impact their experiences in schools and in their communities.

360, 049 or 23% of New Jersey’s children (ages 3-17) were reported to have a mental health-related condition that includes autism, developmental delays, depression or anxiety, ADD/ADHD, or behavioral/conduct problems.

In xx Black (86%) and Brown (85%) students graduated at lower rates than the state average of XX%.

Both Black and Brown 3rd-grade students scored below 30% in the 2023 NJSLA test, well behind their White (51% & 58%) and Asian-American (69% & 78%) counterparts.

Scores for students with disabilities are even lower with 17.8% ELA, and 24.5% math.

Education is the Key to Prevention

Educating youth is a critical component to help them become successful adults. Children who are anxious, stressed, hungry, in pain, or who have unaddressed learning or behavioral issues have a difficult time focusing in school and thus are unlikely to learn. These students can become distracted or disinterested, leading to absenteeism or discipline issues.

Youth Safety

The safety of youth is crucial to their mental wellness. Youth that experience violence, bias, and other harm, are likely to disengage from constructive actions, and may even perpetuate harm themselves. Misconceptions about the causes of transgressive youth behavior can lead to punitive or inaccurate responses.

as of April 2024, there are 120 youth committed to secure facilities, with 339 youth justice-involved in total. This is a dramatic decrease from April 2011, where 516 youth were in secure facilities, with over 1,047 youth justice-involved (JJC, 2024).

However, more work needs to be done, as Black and Brown youth represent 53 % of the currently detained population, and 88.79 % of the total 339 justice-involved youth in New Jersey. (JJC, 2024).

Despite the reduction in overall youth arrests and detention since 2011, youth of color continue to be disproportionately represented in NJ’s juvenile systems

Youth Involved in the System

Appropriate treatment of youth currently involved in the system is essential to their return and reengagement in the community. Examining education, mental wellness and safety relative to the juvenile justice system is critical.