Addressing the Suffering of Children
By Cathy M. Weiss, July 17 2013
I was recently sent a link to The Mistakes Kids Make website. While taking the quiz, I was reminded of the difference between the negligible costs of my mistakes, from the potentially life-changing payment my black, 22 year old son might face for making the same mistakes. Though it is a difference that Stoneleigh strives to erase, it is a reality that was repeatedly mentioned at the Stoneleigh Symposium, From Risk to Resilience: What Youth Need to Thrive.
On May 8, representatives from all segments of the Philadelphia community came to discuss what it means to be resilient and how as individuals and a community, we can help youth thrive by making them so. Attendees came to hear from an adolescent pediatrician who has spent his career building on the strengths of teenagers by fostering their resilience, a young man from Boston who benefited from an ecosystem of youth development programs, one of his mentors who has spent 40 years serving youth and their families in Boston’s poorest and most violent community, the Deputy Commissioner of Philadelphia’s DHS who oversees the Division of Juvenile Justice Services and is a passionate advocate for fairness and equity in that system, and a Stoneleigh Fellow who developed and directs an alternative approach to dealing with violent crime.
Each of our speakers provided unique perspectives on what it means and what it takes to develop resilience in youth. Each of them addressed the reality that young black and brown boys and men are treated differently for the common mistakes they make in childhood and adolescence. However, all of the speakers agreed that it is never too late to transition youth from risk to resilience and that first and foremost all youth need to feel loved.
When we developed the symposium, this was not the core message I expected to hear from a scientist, a bureaucrat, or our friends from Boston. Though resilience is a basic human capacity, nascent in all children, and something that can be developed even in the most hurt children, it doesn’t just happen. In fact, for children who have faced a lifetime of social, racial and economic injustice, it demands intentional practice change that starts with caring adults.