substance abuse down
pretty alarmingly high numbers, but the trend is improving."
County’s Youth Adult Konnection (YAK!) coordinator
Express Staff Writer
cigarette and marijuana use among Blaine County teens has dropped over
the past five years, according to a survey conducted last March, but
remains higher than in other south-central Idaho counties.
Search Institute, a Minnesota-based non-profit organization active
around the country, surveyed 1,396 local students in grades 6-12. The
recently received results pose an interesting comparison to the results
of a similar study done in 1998.
pretty alarmingly high numbers, but the trend is improving," said
Blaine County’s Youth Adult Konnection (YAK!) Coordinator Angenie
survey measured the extent of 15 categories of risky behavior among
teens, as well as 40 positive assets in their lives considered by those
who work with youths to reduce such behavior. The incidence of most
assets was shown to be slightly higher than in 1998.
Drug and alcohol
percentage of youth reporting they had used alcohol at least once in
the past 30 days dropped from 44 percent in 1998 to 31 percent now.
However, 42 percent of juniors and 39 percent of seniors reported
having been drunk at least once in the past two weeks. Average level
of alcohol use in the past 30 days among teens throughout eight
counties in south-central Idaho was 20 percent.
percent of seniors reported having attended a party during the past
year at which alcohol was used. Twenty-eight percent of them
reported that at least three times during the past year, they rode
in a car with a driver who had been drinking.
percentage of those reporting having smoked cigarettes in the past
30 days dropped from 24 percent in 1998 to 13 percent now.
use, at least once in the past year, decreased from 32 percent in
1998 to 24 percent now. That compares to a figure of 18 percent in
all eight counties surveyed.
interviews with the Mountain Express, adults who work with youths
credited the drops in substance use to the creation of several local
youth programs and facilities, including after-school activities, the
Romancing the Bean coffee house, the Friday night teen bus and skate
parks in Ketchum and Hailey.
I think we’re a really fortunate community to have the resources and
the caring that we do," said Tod Gunter, social worker at the
Blaine County Middle School and Silver Creek Alternative School.
study and recreational activities take place at the Middle School on
Tuesdays and Thursdays for kids having academic problems or whose
parents aren’t home at that time. Gunter said about 25 kids attend
those. On Wednesday afternoons, about a dozen students meet in a program
called the Youth Circle Council to discuss things happening in their
research behind after-school programs shows they are a huge prevention
mechanism for youths," Gunter said.
he’s applying for grant money from the federal Department of Education
to expand the activities to include game clubs, such as chess clubs, and
a Friday afternoon movie as a reward for those who attended earlier in
Romancing the Bean coffee house, held Friday nights at he Silver Creek
Alternative School, shut down at the end of last school year after three
years of operation. McCleary said it was never viewed as more than a
temporary arrangement, and she expects something similar but better to
get started at the current Wood River High School building when the new
school opens next fall. Her intent, she said, is to get lots of kids
involved in the planning.
the creation of such programs, only 33 percent of teens surveyed said
they thought their school provided a caring, encouraging environment.
That number was up from 31 percent in 1998.
percent of youths surveyed reported having shoplifted at least once
during the past year.
percent of boys reported having committed an act of vandalism during
the past year.
61 percent of youths reported feeling safe at home, in school and in
County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Justin Whatcott, who handles juvenile
prosecutions, said he isn’t surprised by the amount of shoplifting and
vandalism reported, though he rarely sees cases of either crime.
of the time, I think kids are pretty good at doing that without getting
caught," he said.
said most of the cases he does see are minor.
Cornelissen, manager of The Drug Store at Alturas Plaza in Hailey, said
she frequently sees evidence of shoplifting there, but, so far at least,
has devoted little time to catching the perpetrators. Those she does
catch, about one person per month, are most often teens, she said.
worker Gunter said he is concerned about youths’ perceptions that
their daily environments are not safe. However, he said, reports of
threats and violence almost always involve shoving and other relatively
25 percent said they feel the community values youth. However, that’s
up from 21 percent in 1998.
28 percent said they think adults in their lives provide models of
positive, responsible behavior.
addition to the recently created recreational programs, McLeary
attributed the small improvement in youths’ perception of how the
community views them to their increased inclusion in local decision
making. About 30 kids participate in the Blaine County Teen Advisory
Council, which organizes and promotes projects to benefit youths. A teen
advisor has also been added to the Hailey City Council.
that is being done, many adults probably wonder why more youths don’t
feel valued by their community. Hailey social worker Robert Payne offers
have a belief in a universal audience," he said. They think
everybody’s looking at them, and interpret many of those looks as
be an impossible hurdle to overcome, but Payne urges adults to try to
put aside their natural difficulty in approaching teens and talk more to
kids other than their own.
said support from all levels in kids’ lives—family, school and
community—helps them build resiliency—one of the most important
factors in getting through life successfully.
percent of those polled said family life provides high levels of
love and support. However, only 39 percent said they have positive
communication with their parents and can seek advice from them.
percent reported some degree of physical abuse at home.
percent reported having tried to commit suicide.
sees no contradiction between most kids’ feeling they have a
supportive home life, yet feeling unable to communicate with their
parents. Part of that is teens’ desire to figure things out on their
own, but part can be a parenting deficiency as well. Even though most
parents express love, Payne said, they still have a tendency to lecture.
He advises parents to address problems by asking open-ended questions—that
is, those that require more than yes or no answer. For example, asking,
"Why do you think many kids…?" And, he said, try to avoid
going into lecture mode when you get an answer you don’t like.
advises that instead of lecturing, parents explain to kids how their
offenses cause problems or hurt their parents’ feelings.
the fact that 26 percent of kids reported physical abuse, Payne said he
doubts that figure represents ongoing abuse. Even good parents, he said,
at some point lose their temper and hit their kids.
Idaho Department of Health and Welfare superintendent for child
protection in Blaine and Camas counties, said he agrees with that.
However, he said, his department becomes involved with about five new
cases of child abuse or neglect every month.
state’s Child Protection Act, the state can step in only when a judge
finds physical evidence of abuse. Jones said he sees about two cases per
month of what he considers actual abuse that don’t reach the required
level of injury, and can do nothing in those cases without parental
filing of a petition by the county prosecutor, a judge can order kids
removed from their parents. When that occurs, Jones said, his job is to
devise a program that requires parents to address whatever issues are
they meet them and the risk goes down, then we petition the court to put
the child back in the home," he said.
can keep kids in a foster home for 15 months before it must resubmit in
court justification for further involvement.
the time, Jones said, parents cooperate.
know they’ve got a problem and want some help."
worker Payne said he thinks that in most of the cases of the 15 percent
of kids who reported having tried to commit suicide, the motive was
anger, not a desire to kill themselves. They’re "suicidal
gestures," he said, not "suicide attempts." He interprets
those gestures not so much as a cry for attention, but as "the
ultimate screw you," delivered out of a sense of frustration.
40 categories of positive assets, 30 were reported of higher
frequency among girls than among boys.
percent of girls reported being frequently depressed, compared with
17 percent of boys.
assets included family and community support, safety, youth programs,
self-esteem and skills in resisting negative influences.
School social worker Gunter said girls tend to do better in most of life’s
organized situations than do boys—they feel more supported by their
teachers and do better academically. They also mature faster and have
fewer behavior problems.
said that about 90 percent of the participants on the Blaine County Teen
Advisory Council are girls.
think we have a good start in our community," Payne said. "We
have things better understood and in good focus."
Grider, an Americorps volunteer with YAK!, said youths with whom she has
discussed the survey said they were surprised to see that reality is
better than the image.
of our goals is to change adults’ perceptions of kids," she said.
"You don’t see the ones who are at the city council meetings or
spending their time volunteering."
are so many bright kids in our community," he said, "good
kids. They have much more wisdom than we had at their age, and they’re
so much more psychologically aware."
hopes to see continual progress, Payne said the community will probably
never reach the goal of getting all our kids to the point at which we
would like to see them. It’s a process, he said, not a destination.