One poor choice can be the defining moment for a young person in our community. The split-second decision to shoplift, the influence of the wrong crowd … the consequences can be life-altering.

What may seem like a single rebellious moment can easily lead to an arrest record. And for teens on the Treasure Coast, this can halt scholarship opportunities, thwart future job offers and cost their family – and tax payers – thousands of dollars.

It can be tempting to chalk it up to “typical teen behavior.” But for some kids, unruly behavior isn’t a milestone of boundary-testing or self-discovery — it is self-destruction.

And when these teens struggle also with underlying mental health challenges and express their emotions through defiant, truant, aggressive or violent behaviors, the outcomes can critically threaten their future and — as a community — ours.

We know this: Youth with a history of crisis, relationship struggles or substance abuse are more likely to enter the juvenile justice system.

But that’s not even the most devastating consequence. Those same risk factors are also claiming our young people’s lives at an alarming rate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that suicide rates have increased more than 10 percent in Florida. Nationally, suicides have increased among all age groups — starting as young as 10.

But we have solutions right in our community to change this.

Children’s Home Society of Florida specializes in guiding kids and teens toward positive paths and has outstanding success redirecting youth who — without CHS — could too easily fall into the justice system … or worse.

Treasure Coast youth who could easily be labeled delinquent have a more than 90 percent chance of transforming their futures with CHS.

Through CHS’ Children in Need of Services/ Families in Need of Services program — offered at no cost to families — kids and parents find strength, resources and positive outlets. The numbers speak for themselves:

  • 98 percent of youth in the program remain crime-free while involved with CINS/FINS.
  • More than 90 percent of participants remain crime-free after the 12-week course.
  • More than 240 local families participate in CINS/FINS annually.

While the program’s more than 90 percent success rate illustrates its impact throughout the Treasure Coast community, the results are extremely personal for those who have completed CINS/FINS.

In addition to the general counseling services offered by the program, every youth also receives suicide prevention support for themselves and those around them. The counselors discuss personal safety, mental health and when to reach out for help.

Originally posted by: