Caring for Our Youth: The Big Impact of Many Small Actions

How are you caring for the youth in your community?

It can feel overwhelming to imagine all the high-level transitions that need to happen for our young and vulnerable populations to experience safety and care, but what happens if we focus on smaller changes instead of just the big picture, multi-generational changes? 

A passive approach to the youth we’ve failed

So much of who we become is shaped by our influences in the early years of our lives. The constructive or destructive way we were disciplined by our parents, the encouragement or disinterest of a teacher—there’s a reason we remember key experiences from our adolescent and teenage years: they impact us deeply, long into our adult lives.

There is no shortage of discussion around the underserved youth in our communities, but so often, we adopt dissociative and passive language when we describe what went wrong. We say “These children were left behind” because it’s simpler than delving into the multilayered truth of who left them behind. The cause often isn’t obvious. Was it their parents? The education system? Society? All of the above? And, what role do we play in the causes? 

Remember the individuals behind the data

So many big changes are needed. Access to food, safe places to sleep, inclusive education, preventative and affirmative measures instead of punitive judgment, policy improvement, deconstruction of systemic racism—all of these steps are vital to long-term positive outcomes.

But in zooming out, it can be easy to forget that the tiny specks highlighting our statistics and demographics are real, individual people. They’re children, who, while they might benefit from all these top-tier changes, are probably more concerned at the moment with whether they’ll get lunch and the fact that no one called to see if they were okay.

Small actions by many people become big changes

Human interdependence develops through the accumulation of small acts of care. We can’t all pursue those giant societal adjustments, but we can all do some small act of goodwill and generosity for someone, once in a while or every day. Care workers, in particular, personify this micromovement.

Outside of professional care work, whether you make bag lunches for a couple of kids you know won’t get them otherwise or take time to support or mentor kids in your local community, these “tiny” actions can have massive resonance. 

This week on the Care Work podcast, Alida asks listeners to consider new ways of helping the youth in their communities. Press play to hear her exploration of how early care leads to better outcomes later and discover how adopting a smaller-scale approach is both achievable and life-changing.

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