by Katie Smith
Imagine for a moment babies being born today. Imagine their parents holding them for the first time. Now watch them grow as toddlers…now they’re in elementary school…now as teens…heading off to college… and finally as adults in our community, perhaps starting families of their own. These once babies are now your neighbors and colleagues.
They are the politicians, doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers of your community. They vote in your district. They pay for your social security. They run the businesses and facilities of your city. By realizing we are not raising children- we are building the future, and keeping in mind the kinds of adults we want to nurture in this community- we become a community that cares.
Just over a year ago the Fruita community adopted a prevention framework called Communities That Care. The Communities That Care (CTC) system is a way for members of a community to work together to prevent youth problem behaviors and adverse health outcomes. These outcomes include substance misuse, delinquency, teen pregnancy, school dropout, violence, and mental health. Communities That Care efforts in Colorado are being funded by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) through the marijuana tax cash fund.
Fruita implemented the Communities That Care process to achieve the community’s vision of being a caring community that recognizes the value and potential of youth by creating positive opportunities that promote healthy lifestyles. A key goal of the Communities That Care effort is to identify which risk factors, protective factors, and problem behaviors are of most concern in a community, and then implement evidence-based programs and strategies that address the community’s unique needs.
What has taken place in Fruita as part of this effort over the last year? Well, lots of things!
Community leaders and members from across sectors and backgrounds attended orientations to commit to the CTC process and establish a structure for this effort, including their vision statement. The group recognized the importance of setting aside difference and aligning efforts, keeping the youth and end goal in mind. These members make up the Key Leader Board and Community Board. Workgroups, or sub-committees of the community board, analyzed the data, met with youth to get their perspective, and have scanned the county for available resources.
In November 2017, the data workgroup recommended factors to prioritize. The decisions were based on the analysis of local data and input from community members. The following were identified as priorities for community attention in Fruita:
Risk Factors –
- Availability of substances & laws and norms favorable towards substance use – the attitudes and policies a community holds about substance use are conveyed through multiple platforms and when laws, tax rates and community standard are favorable towards alcohol and drug use youth are at an increased risk. Also, the more available alcohol and other drugs are in a community, the higher the risk for those substances are to be misused and violence to occur. These conditions can stem from youth having an unclear understanding of norms.
- Low commitment to school – a young person who no longer sees the role of being a student as meaningful and rewarding. Youth who have lost this commitment are at a higher risk for five of the six health and behavior problems identified by CTC, including; teen pregnancy, school dropout, and violence
Protective Factor –
- Community opportunities for pro-social involvement – youth report that they have opportunities to participate in positive, healthy activities, and engage and interact with pro-social adults in their neighborhood and the broader community.
Recently, Fruita CTC changed their name to Fruita Youth Initiative (FYI). Members are actively looking to engage youth in positive, healthy opportunities to provide youth with the skills needed to be successful and recognizing young people in Fruita for the skills they possess.
Currently, FYI is identifying and evaluating the resources that are now in place and available in Fruita and that address the priorities outlined above. Their assessment will be used to help determine programs and strategies to promote child and youth well-being and prevent health and behavior problems making Fruita a caring community that recognizes the value and potential of youth by creating positive opportunities that promote healthy lifestyles.
How can you help? Promote positive youth-development to the young people in your life. Build authentic relationships with young people. Offer opportunities for youth to get involved whether that is by mentoring, an internship at your business, or teaching your child to mow the lawn. Providing opportunities help build real-life skills and recognition when those skills are performed correctly helps create bonding and sense of community.
Want to do more? Join Fruita Youth Initiative and contribute your experiences and expertise to grow a generation of healthy youth. Fruita needs YOU!