Editorial: Our kids have spoken
February 22, 2018
We were both intrigued and encouraged by the results of a recent report prepared by the Moffat County Communities that Care Data Workgroup.
Released Feb. 9, the report sought to identify the risk factors, protective factors and problem behaviors facing children and youth in our community.
First, the not-so-good news.
According to the report, Moffat County students reported feeling depressed or anxious 11 percent more often than their peers from across the nation. Likewise, Moffat County students were significantly more likely to respond "never" or "seldom" when asked whether they enjoyed being in school or found the assignments given them there to be meaningful and important. And finally, Moffat County students were, on average, found to be more vulnerable to the risk of drug or alcohol use as compared to the national average.
Now, the better news.
According to the report, local students felt there were more opportunities in Moffat County for pro-social involvement, as compared to the national average, and the dropout rate at Moffat County High School was found to be 1.7 percent, more than one-half percentage point lower than the 2.3 percent dropout rate for students statewide.
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A couple of things should be noted about the report.
First, its data was drawn from three separate surveys involving Moffat County sixth-, eighth-, 10th- and 11th-graders, as well the National Dataset, which was used to establish a baseline.
Consequently, the results offer a snapshot of the way our kids actually see the world around them, as well as their place in that world. So the results, one might say, are straight from the horse's mouth.
Second, the assessment suggests a mismatch between public perception of the challenges facing local youth and the perceptions of the youth, themselves. It also serves to challenge the often-cited notion that our local youth experience greater levels of depression and experiment with alcohol and drugs more frequently because they have nothing to do.
According to the kids, that's simply not the case, as local students were significantly more likely to respond positively about local opportunities for pro-social involvement than were their peers, nationwide.
Yet, at the same time, Moffat County youth perceived they were at greater risk for drug and alcohol abuse than students elsewhere in the country.
So, our youth are telling us they do have things to do, but they're still depressed and still at greater perceived risk for drug and alcohol abuse.
This suggests that the answer is not to be found in building recreational centers or dreaming up new activities with which to occupy our youth.
We need to be thinking outside the box.
And that brings us to the best news of all. The Communities that Care assessment report is the beginning, not the end, of the process. The report concludes with a list of community priorities based on analysis of the data.
• depressive symptoms
• low commitment to school
• perceived risk of drug use
• low levels of the protection factor "rewards for pro-social involvement"
The next step in the Communities that Care process is to identify what resources are already in place in Moffat County that address the above priorities, then find possible gaps.
The ultimate goal is to identify program and strategies to promote child and youth well-being in Moffat County and to prevent health and behavior problems among its youth.
This, we feel, will be of great value, however, it is only part of the equation. We, as parents and community members, also have a role to play. We must take an active role in assisting our youth in making good decisions, recognizing the symptoms of depression and responding in a compassionate, thoughtful and productive way.
This will not be a quick or easy process, but worthwhile things seldom are.
Our kids have spoken. It's now our turn to listen to what they're telling us and find effective ways to help them meet the challenges that lie ahead.