Gangs are like substitute families for uprooted young people. Many gangs today, are made up exclusively of girls, although they are not as many as boy gangs.
Street gangs are full of children who did not have a safe transition from adolescence into adulthood. Most gang members were raised up in homes, that do not deserve the name «home», with parents who were either abusive or totally absent. Many gang members lacked healthy relationships in their homes and the encouragement to become competent adults.
In addition to coming from dysfunctional families, members of street gangs become disillusioned with society. Not only have their homes destroyed much of their self-esteem but structures in society are also not to their advantage.
In many nations, lower class youth and racial and ethnic minorities risk being marginalised in almost every sphere of society and have to struggle to improve their opportunities for education, training and employment. These youth become frustrated over restricted opportunities and assert themselves in gangs to cope with their profound socio-economic hardship. Violent youth crime is a classic expression of a sense of worthlessness and a futile future.
In today’s world, the public is reacting to violent youth crime by demanding action. There is a life principle based on the Scriptures that says that “prevention is better than cure” All efforts at combating crime and youth violence must begin with the family because it is easier to build boys and girls than to repair men and women.
Empowering Families and Caregivers
Three key components of a healthy parent-child relationship are companionship, acceptance and identification. Companionship means spending quality time with children, acceptance entails accepting children the way they are and loving them unconditionally and identification involves identifying with children’s problems and being understanding. When these needs are not met, children fill that void with something else.
The overarching concern is to allow vulnerable families to build and sustain healthy families and relationships.
The structure of the “traditional” family has undergone significant changes over the years. Today’s families take on many different structures: married nuclear, single-parents, joint custody, single-parents, step-families, grandparent-led families, cohabitation and foster and group-home families. Effective empowerment strategies must address the different types of families existing in society today.
Family empowerment could be achieved by providing parents with family life and parenting skills to meet the demands of parenthood; encouraging parents to seek help, advice, or support from family, friends, and community resources; enhancing dialogue between teenagers and parents and modelling responsible fatherhood character and skills to both teenagers and young adult fathers.
The idea of giving a hungry man a fish or a fishing pole could apply to work with families. If support is given to families in identifying and accessing resources, they will acquire the skills and confidence needed to secure resources over time.
Empowered families provide security, love, shelter, stability, self-esteem and fulfilment and are the basis for a safe, vibrant and healthy community.