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Opinion & Essays - Jun, 1991 Issue 

Western Youth Network
(800) 328-1877
Larry Stednitz, Ph.D.

It is with sincere gratitude and a pleasure to have the opportunity of introducing the Western Youth Network to Lon Woodbury's Newsletter. Lon's effort over the past years in many ways has been what the Western Youth Network is all about---working with mildly and severely emotionally and behaviorally disordered youth. The Western Youth Network has spent much time with parents whose hopes and aspirations for their children have been all but dashed and obliterated.

A recent study by Joy Dryfoos supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York spells out the magnitude of this problem. "Seven million youngsters---one in four adolescents---have only limited potential to become productive adults because they are at high risk of encountering serious problems at home, in school, or in their communities." Four major problem areas were studied: delinquency, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and school failure. Her report concluded that at least three million youth are prey to all four high risk patterns. In addition, seven million are at "moderate risk because of light substance abuse and early, unprotected sexual intercourse."

Parents and professionals are often at a loss as to how to solve these problems. A recent talk given to a group of professionals in Montana by an adoptive mother of three disturbed children says it well.

"In my years of parenting seriously disturbed children and talking with other parents, it has become evident to me that many professionals to whom we turn to for help do not have a clear sense of what this experience is for the parents. Because they don't have that understanding, though some of them think they do, they are ineffective. Professionals actually add to the parent's burden. It is not for a lack of good intentions. I know that all the professionals with whom I have had dealings, even those who have incurred my wrath, have wanted to do a good job. My purpose today is to share with you briefly some of my knowledge of what the experience is for parents and to hopefully increase your awareness that there are many adoptive and foster parents with disturbed children whose families are not being well served."

She goes on to say, "We have to become less attached to material things. They often are stolen or broken or made to disappear forever. We have to learn to maintain some semblance of self-esteem while living with children who reject our parenting and who, despite our hard work make slow, often negligible progress."

"We have to learn to withstand fairly significant pressure from society and to trust ourselves even when that means opposing professionals."

"Few people understand that parenting very disturbed children is immensely different than parenting normal children."

"We have to try to live graciously with and find common ground with children whose values absolutely don't mesh with ours."

"We have to find ways to combat isolation and loneliness. We have to increase our knowledge base so that we have theoretical framework to help us make sense out of what is happening."

"We have to find ways of being available to our other children and to our spouses."

These excerpts from this mother's speech is a core reason for the Western Youth Network's existence. Providing assistance to families and professionals is a complex and ever-changing process. The Western Youth Network's vision is to be able to provide the appropriate program for every youth who is in need.

Copyright 1991, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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