by Donna McBride, Pinal County Juvenile Court Program Administrator II
Kids at Hope started in 1993 when a group of professionals in the youth development field expressed concern with people over-using the term “youth at risk.” They felt it stereotyped an entire generation and degraded their ability to succeed.
The term “Kids at Hope” created great attention in the community-based youth development field, education, recreation and law enforcement. Communities were ready to shed the old label to a mission that inspires, empowers and creates an environment where all children and youth can experience success, no exceptions.
Across the country, over 500,000 children and youth have been served in Kids at Hope schools, organizations and communities daily. In fact, 18 states are now engaged with the practice, including Arizona, where the Arizona Supreme Court has adopted the concept as part of its evidence-based practices model.
On a local front, Pinal County Juvenile Court Services has implemented the Kids at Hope model, resulting in a change of philosophy among staff and the families they encounter. Whether youth are involved with probation, diversion or are detained at our Youth Justice Center, the message is clear that we want them to be successful.
Director Denise Smith has created an atmosphere throughout the department that reflects the attitude that youth can succeed when they are surrounded by adults who believe they can.
“We know we can have a positive impact on our kids. We did this by starting with our own staff and changing our culture. We hire people that are open-minded to this belief. Our workforce contributes every day to this philosophy by their own interactions with the youth,” Smith explains.
Programming will include “time traveling” to help kids articulate their own futures. This is done in four important areas: home and family; education and career; community and service; and hobbies and recreation.
At our Youth Justice Center, staff use art therapy to help youth express themselves on paper. It is amazing how they transpire their inner fears, hopes and dreams by bringing them to fruition. Art helps validate self-expression, self-awareness and problem-solving.
The poster submissions are not just to hang on the walls at our facility but a way for these young artists to share their visions. Along the way, it also reduces stress levels, increases self-esteem and achieves personal insight. That’s what the Kids at Hope philosophy is all about.
To find out more about Kids at Hope:
Arizona State University
Cowden Family Resource Building
850 S. Cady Mall
Tempe, AZ 85281