Developmental assets: Youth can be resources

There are 40 developmental assets designated for youth, “building blocks of healthy development that help young people grow up healthy, caring, and responsible.” Periodically, 7th, 9th and 10th graders across the nation are surveyed by Search Institute to see where they stand with these 40 assets.

Last week, the latest survey results were released at a meeting at Columbiana County Jobs and Family Services. Debbie Pietrzak of Salem Regional Medical Center presented the results of the most recent developmental assets survey. She related information regarding health outcomes and health factors for Columbiana County, which is ranked at 59 of the 88 Ohio counties. (You can check out the ratings at www.countyhealthrankings.org.)

The county health needs assessments workgroup has prioritized three areas: mental health and addiction, chronic disease and obesity, and access to care. There is one primary care physician for every 2,250 persons; one dentist for every 4,120 persons; and one mental health provider for every 1,060 in Columbiana County, according to the website.

The 40 developmental assets are external assets including support, empowerment, boundaries and expectations, constructive use of time, and internal assets that include commitment to learning, positive values, social competence and positive identity.

External assets are found in family support, positive family communication, a caring neighborhood and school environment – which also refers to school activities outside of the school or on the bus, not just inside the school building. Are parents involved in their children’s schooling? Are there good, positive and responsible adult role models in their lives? Does the community value youth? Do the young people feel like they are contributing to community? Do our youth feel safe? Have any expectations been established with clear rules and consequences? Do Mom and Dad know where their children are and who they are hanging out with? How much time do the kids spend at home?

Internal assets are about how youth feel on the inside. Are they motivated to do well in school? Why? Do they have a good values system, caring about others and helping them when they can, acting on their convictions and standing up for their beliefs? Are they honest even when it’s not easy? Are they empathetic, sensitive to others’ feelings, and friendly?

A young person needs at least one strong relationship with a caring adult. Expectations, according to the results of the survey which compares national statistics and per county, are dropping. Religious activity is down, but this is a source of good support for youth to be able to say no to peer pressure and risky behaviors and to make healthier decisions.

The most common of the 40 developmental assets American youth have are integrity, achievement motivation, family support, positive view of personal future, positive peer influence, honesty and responsibility. The least common are positive family communication, youth as resources, adult role models, parent involvement in schooling, community values youth, reading for pleasure and creative activities.

This moment, when one in three students are hurt by violence in the family or home is a “point of beginning.” This time, when one in three youth are depressed and contemplating suicide, when perceptions of what is risky or not risky are questionable, is a point of beginning to Columbiana County moving in a more positive direction. Strong relationships matter. Pietrzak advised that at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver or other adult, can make a difference.

Recognized for making a difference in her community, Rev. Dr. Mary Jo Bruinooge, minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Lisbon, received the Community Champion Award for her “outstanding efforts in enriching the lives of our youth in the community.” The award, sponsored by the CASH (Coordinated Action in School Health) Coalition and the West Point Lions Club, was presented by West Point Lions President Pat Klein and secretary Violet Mellon.

REMINDER: April 27 is a National Prescription Drugs Take Back Day. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. unused prescriptions, unwanted prescriptions and expired prescriptions may be turned over to a law enforcement officer at East Liverpool City Hospital or at the professional building across the street from Salem Regional Medical Center. Remove identifying labels.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded in part by Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.

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