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Communities at Risk
American children and families are at substantial risk for negative outcomes such as infant mortality, undernourishment, child abuse and neglect, poor health and much more. Recognizing that the workforce, the economy, the social structure, education, justice, and democratic government are all weakened when basic needs of a large proportion of children, youth, and families are not being met, NIFA sponsors numerous programs to reach communities at risk.

Poverty is a problem in rural and suburban areas and in cities. Many risk factors affect this situation. For instance, the infant mortality rate is more than 50 percent higher for children born into families below--rather than above--the poverty line. Death by disease for poor children and youth is five times higher than for children at higher income levels. Homicide is the second-leading cause of death among 15- to 19-year-olds and is the leading cause of death among black youth.

Thirteen million American children and youth don't have enough to eat. Fourteen percent of children and youth under age 18 do not have health insurance. Eleven percent of youth 16 to 24 years old have dropped out of high school and/or failed to receive a GED. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are diagnosed in 3.75 million adolescents each year.

Expanding troop deployments to dangerous assignments, constant media coverage on casualties, and youth needing to assume greater family responsibilities leave many youth from military families feeling lonely and afraid.

Children in these kinds of situations are at immediate risk for not having their fundamental needs met for safety, shelter, food, and care. They are at risk for not surviving the violence in their neighborhoods and not having adequate care or adequate food, much less developing the basic skills of reading, language, and thinking. The long-term effect is that they are at risk for not becoming responsible family members, workforce participants, or contributing members of society in the larger world.

A recent research study found that a considerable number of young people are not participating in after-school or community-based programs. One national study found that 60 percent of youth were not involved in any form of community-based activity. Estimates are that child care programs meet only 25 percent of urban family child care needs. Escalating public costs of health care, remedial education, foster care, adjudication, incarceration, and welfare illustrate the impact of not addressing the needs of these families.

NIFA and its Children, Youth, and Families at Risk (CYFAR) Program vision is for American families and communities in which children and youth lead positive, secure, and happy young lives while developing the skills, knowledge, and competencies necessary for fulfilling, contributing adult lives. The CYFAR Program integrates resources of the Land-Grant University System to develop and deliver educational programs that equip limited-resource families and youth who are at risk for not meeting basic human needs to lead positive, productive, and contributing lives.

The CYFAR program is committed to the vision that: (1) Babies will be born healthy, and young children will have their basic physical, social, emotional, and intellectual needs met. (2) School-age youth and teens will demonstrate knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors necessary for fulfilling, contributing lives. (3) Parents will take primary responsibility for meeting their children's physical, social, emotional, and intellectual needs and provide moral guidance and direction. (4) Families will promote positive, productive, and contributing lives for all family members. (5) Communities will provide safe, secure environments for families with children.
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