Strategies for a Sweet Summer: Creating Community for Young People

Strategies for a Sweet Summer: Creating Community for Young People

For many, summer is a time for sweet treats and making sweet memories. Most of us think of ice cream, sunshine, swimming, flowers, bike rides, and having more free time for fun with family. It’s no wonder most school-aged youth look forward to summer break – no homework and more freedom!  

However, while many youth dream of that idyllic summer vacation, others do not look forward to this break. For some youth, summer is a time in which risks and vulnerabilities are elevated. Having no school or school-related activities means:

  • More time left unmonitored

  • Less structure or routine

  • Limited connection with various supports like friends, teachers, school social workers, etc.

Additionally, youth can experience increased risk in the summer because of:

  • Lack of access to multiple resources including food, basic needs, and safe adults. 
  • Many youth look forward to school as it is an escape from unsupportive, unsafe, or abusive homes.

  • Many children rely on the meals they receive at school. For some, these may be their only meals. Free summer meal programs can help bridge this gap.

    • For low income neighborhoods of color, growing poverty has led to food “deserts” across America. Or what may be more accurately labeled as “grocery gaps” as neighborhoods have access to fast foods and higher priced foods at convenience stores rather than healthy, affordable foods. 

Potential for an increase in abuse. Child abuse often increases in the summer as reported by several news articles

  • While this may seem anecdotal, there are seasonal patterns to various types of crime as reported by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Crimes like burglary, larceny, intimate partner violence, and sexual assault occur at higher rates in the summer. 

  • The cause of this is up for debate, however many cite that disruptions in routine (school ending), higher temperatures, and higher prevalence of alcohol and/or drug consumption are factors that may contribute to abuse: 

    • Children and youth are more likely to be unmonitored or left with more time in care of others potentially increasing their risk of being the victim of a crime.

    • Increased stress can leave parents exasperated, and without any monitoring and support from school staff. They don’t receive consistent breaks, have increased costs (paying for food normally received at school), and must figure out childcare or activities to keep youth entertained. 

Tips for youth programs

Mentoring programs have a unique opportunity to bridge the gap not only by spending quality time with young people, but by supporting parents and caregivers. Both are shown to help increase youth resilience in the face of adverse experiences (Di Lemma, et al., 2019). 

Take inventory of resources available in the summer from places to meet, ongoing school services, community events, and summer meal programs. Assess your agency’s ability to host events throughout the summer. Even though school is out, your program, along with mentors, can provide some stability and structure for young people.

Prevention Activities

  • Take advantage of free museums, college tours, and sporting events – put them on the calendar as group mentor activities. 
  • Schedule games throughout the summer (basketball, softball, soccer) for mentors and mentees.

  • Find a pen pal matching site, mentors can write along with mentees. 

  • Connect mentees and mentors to volunteer activities in the community. 

  • Offer respite nights for caregivers. This could be offered formally or through overnight “camp” opportunities. 

  • Create ways to stay engaged with youth through social media (Instagram,  YouTube).

  • Connect youth to faith groups that continue their youth programming in the summer.

  • Summer can be a busy time for mentors too, particularly if they have kids of their own - offer opportunities for mentors to take a break but still connect through email, writing letters, etc. 

  • In addition to events, create predictable, consistent times for youth to drop in and hang out at your program site or other community space.

  • Mentors can help mentees find a summer job, which can give them the structure they need, help them learn about managing finances, and build work skills.

    • When working with youth who have an increased risk for commercial sexual exploitation, or have already experienced this form of abuse, it is important to consider if there are certain jobs or job locations that may be unsafe. Assist mentees in thinking through potential risks before applying for or accepting a summer position. 

  • Help parents by providing information about creating a daily schedule and a list of easy, free summer activities.  

Mentor organizations don’t need to build an entire summer program, rather facilitate activities, connect to other community resources, and ensure youth, mentors, and families alike know support is available. Find out what works for your community!

We invite you to join us this summer in a movement to make sustainable advancements in how society responds to those at risk for abuse and exploitation. Together, we can ensure that young people always have a safe caring adult to turn to, are encouraged, know their value and worth, and are free to be kids.

How can everyday citizens like you get involved?

  1. Seek education. The Center for Combating Human Trafficking and Youth Collaboratory developed Shining Light on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children: A toolkit to Building Understanding for mentors and youth serving agencies. The Center for Combating Human Trafficking offers a number of free resources available
  2. Take action. Become a mentor or volunteer with a youth program. Invest in the youth in your neighborhood, faith group, workplace, and family. 
  3. Contribute to your community. 
    1. Invest through time, talent, and treasure in your own local communities. 
    2. Slow down, pay attention, think critically, and seek solutions that move beyond technical, short-term responses and address the more complex root causes. 

WE all play a role in creating community and providing protection for OUR young people. Consider how you might use these tips to invest in families and programs in your own community--there is opportunity to sweeten this summer for families who may otherwise struggle. 

References

  1. Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2014). Special report: Seasonal patterns in criminal victimization Trends (NCJ 245959). St. Louis, MO: Lauritsen, J.L., & White, N. 
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2017, September 15). Food desert. [Tip Sheet]. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/healthcommunication/toolstemplates/entertainmented/tips/FoodDesert.html 
  3. Cherokee Family Violence Center. (2015, May 26). Domestic violence increases in the summer months. Retrieved from https://cfvc.org/domestic-violence-increases-in-the-summer-months 
  4. Corporation for National Community Service. (n.d.). Providing summertime contact in school-based mentoring programs. Retrieved from https://www.nationalservice.gov/resources/mentoring/providing-summertime-contact-school-based-mentoring-programs 
  5. Coyle, C. (2013, June 12). Child abuse increases during summer months. Fox8 News. Retrieved from https://myfox8.com/2013/06/12/child-abuse-increases-during-summer-months/ 
  6. Di Lemma, L.C.G., et al. (2019). Responding to adverse childhood experiences: An evidence review of interventions to prevent and address adversity across the life course. Public Health Wales, Cardiff and Bangor University, Wrexham. 
  7. Paige, V. (2018, June 4). Child abuse often increases in the summer. KXVA News. Retrieved from https://www.fox15abilene.com/article/news/local/summer-abuse-often-increases-in-summer/505-561419601 
  8. Richards, B. (2010, June 13). Child abuse increases during summer. KPLC News. Retrieved from https://www.kplctv.com/story/12641500/child-abuse-increases-during-summer/ 
  9. Weston, L. (2018, June 5). Should your teenager work this summer? Three reasons yes. CBS News. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/should-your-teenager-work-this-summer-three-reasons-yes/ 
  10. Young, K. (2019, May 24). Five things you should know about food access. KCET. Retrieved from https://www.kcet.org/shows/broken-bread/five-things-you-should-know-about-food-access