Boys Town has been a beacon of hope to youth in need since Father Flanagan welcomed the first homeless and neglected children back in 1917. He firmly believed that every kid needs a little help, a little hope and someone who believes in them. The rehabilitation and revival of these young lives became Father Flanagan's life mission. For more than 100 years, Boys Town has championed this mission, while embracing the philosophy that once you have hope, anything can be possible.
Father Flanagan recognized this decades ago and was a pioneer and fierce advocate for the kids who were being treated unfairly by the justice system. His juvenile justice advocacy remains at the core of Boys Town's mission today as we work to restore our kids' hopes for a better life and a better world. We do so by continually advocating for them and teaching them to advocate for themselves. We also are committed to helping our youth to develop into productive citizens by building for the future, one day at a time.
We believe that all youth have rights, but often the way the ones who are at-risk, struggling or involved in the juvenile justice system are treated and valued screams otherwise. These girls and boys need fierce advocates to ensure their rights are being protected. We believe all kids deserve to be provided with a safe environment, free from abuse, that respects their rights, while employing the most positive and least restrictive practices in caring for them. Unfair treatment of children, particularly in the criminal justice system, is nothing new. We have been helping these children and advocating for positive change for generations. We believe that children should be treated as children, even when they violate the law and enter the juvenile justice system, as they lack the maturity, logic and decision-making capabilities of adults. Research shows their brains aren't fully developed until their mid to late 20s. Rather than punish and incarcerate these children, we advocate for fair treatment and practices that take a child's age and development level into consideration.
We also help our kids to identify what's important to them and teach them how to advocate for it. Walking them through the process of building a platform, refining their personal message and giving them access to share that message offers them hope that their efforts can help change their circumstances and the next generation of youth.
Teaching the importance of citizenship is another core tenet of Boys Town's values. When at-risk youth come to Boys Town, they not only get a second chance to shine, but they also learn what it means to become a “Boys Town citizen." For kids who've never truly felt a sense of belonging, this allows them to experience being part of something bigger than themselves. Being part of a community.
Boys Town founder Father Edward Flanagan once described his work as “building good Americans." He believed Boys Town's role was to help children to acquire the skills and abilities necessary to become productive citizens after graduation and beyond. We want all our kids to leave Boys Town with hope and a plan for future success.
October is National Youth Justice Action Month, and we invite you to join us as we work to raise awareness and educate the public about the impact of the justice system on children within our local community and across the country. We know that given the right intervention, treatment and support no child is beyond hope. We teach kids to use their hopes and not their hurts to shape their futures.