Youth Services Commission Conducts 2013 Youth Survey
The Sussex County Youth Services Commission has conducted its 2013 survey of youth who are involved with some aspect of either the Children's System of Care, the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (formerly DYFS), or the Family Court system to identify the issues and needs affecting these youth and their families.
"The data reported in the assessment is important to support the community planning process moving forward, the development of evidenced based programs and appropriate allocation of funding. Information is reported by youth in the community who are in some way involved in the system of care that provides first hand data," said Stephen Gruchacz, Administrator for the Sussex County Department of Human Services.
Ninety-five youth were surveyed to determine some demographics like age, gender, race and ethnicity, and current living arrangement. Then they were asked to identify areas of concern such as family circumstance, school issues, life skills/education, relationships with peers, substance use, health concerns and personality/behavioral issues. Finally, the survey asked about current services being received and services that are still needed.
The youth identified a number of issues that affect themselves and their families. Thirty-six percent indicated that they have difficulty controlling their behavior, and 36% indicated that there were financial stresses/economic problems in the family. In 2013, transportation issues were identified as a high level need by 22% of the respondents, which was an 8% increase over 2012. Divorces/separation conflicts dropped from 28% in 2012 to 17% in 2013. Health concerns for parents and concerns over dental insurance rose between 2012 and 2013.
Approximately 20% of the youth who took the survey are functioning below grade level , have poor school performance or are disruptive in school. Those who reported being bullied or harassed at school dropped from 20% in 2012 to 12% in 2013.
In 2013, the need for independent living skills surpassed the need for finding a job, which was the top priority in 2012. Twenty-one percent need independent living skills, 19% need job skills, and 13% are having a hard time finding a job.
Some youth reported having few or no positive friends and/or difficulty getting along with people (23% and 21%, respectively). In the area of personality/behavior, 46% stated that they are easily frustrated and 41% have difficulty controlling anger. In addition, 26% have low self-esteem and 25% have both frequent arguments and poor problem solving skills, results that are not significantly different from 2012.
Alcohol and other drug use were both reported at 23%, with 20% using tobacco. Marijuana use was reported by about 5% of the youth, but they do not consider marijuana a drug.
When it came to services and programs that are needed, recreational programs, role model/mentoring and after-school activities topped the list, followed by social skills groups and independent living programs.
Overall, the survey results show that youth are struggling with poor life skills, poor coping skills and poor social skills, and are in need of activities to both expend their energies and develop the social and behavioral skills needed to succeed in life.
A focus group of service providers has recommended reviewing the survey process for 2014, as well as trying to make some questions more focused, instead of just seeking general information. Their recommendations will be taken up by the Youth Services Commission Planning Committee when it convenes in 2014.
The youth who took the survey had a number of comments to make about their lives and the things they need to make their lives better:
"I believe that the most important services that would be good for my family and I would be family therapy, individual sessions for me. Hopefully if there are services for people who were victims of abuse/sexual abuse where they can all sit down as a group sessions."
"A lot more jobs for teenagers. Also more after school activities. More skate parks, more community pools."
"I have no money to go to college and if FAFSA* doesn't work out, I can't get an education." *Free Application for Federal Student Aid
It is clear from their responses and comments that many of these youth are looking for ways to face their problems and improve their lives.