The term "at-risk youth" generally refers to those ages 10 to 17, vulnerable to delinquency, violence, substance abuse, or involvement with the justice system. Though definitions vary, the risk factors remain fairly constant: prior history of violence, poor family functioning, severe substance abuse, poverty, negative peer influences such as gangs, and school failure.
Despite, or maybe due to, the inherent limitations of the juvenile justice system to positively impact families and communities, many services for at-risk youth have emerged in the form of neighborhood collaboratives, before- and after-school programs, family support systems, and diversion programs designed to keep youth out of the juvenile justice system. Unfortunately, in the past eight years, these programs have received little attention, and many cuts in the federal budget have had devastating consequences for our nation's children and future. The Bush Administration radically reduced funding for a wide range of services and programs. NCCD strongly recommends reinstating an infrastructure that we know helps youth stay out of trouble while improving the conditions of juvenile detention facilities so that they are safe and rehabilitative.