Everyone knows that relationships are key ingredients for healthy families and safe communities and that they help people get things done. Yale child psychiatrist James Comer says: "Relationships are to child development what location is to real estate" (Comer, 1998). There is a new term in education called "social capital," which correlates with children's succeeding in school. The original definition of social capital was that at a school, on average, each parent knows four or five other parents of children at that school. As a result, if one youth is caught drinking, stealing, fighting, or carrying a gun at school, some parents will find out about it and tell other parents about the incident; the word will get around. This informal network of parents—based both on caring about youth and on enforcing rules—monitors youth behavior. Parent networks are powerful allies to the enforcement corps of police and juvenile justice officials. However, busy working parents are increasingly socially isolated from one another and suffer from a lack of support from social institutions (Hewlett and West, 1998). In dangerous inner-city neighborhoods, the social isolation of families from one another and youth from adults has dramatically increased over the past 10 years (National Research Council, 1993). In poverty-stricken rural areas, social isolation can be hazardous to the well-being of youth and their families. These societal factors have increased the risk of inadequate monitoring of at-risk youth by parents, neighbors, and other caring adults who have historically had long-term relationships with those youth. FAST actively facilitates, supports, and builds these relationships, contributing to the safety and welfare of youth, their families, and communities.

Families and Schools Together: Building Relationships Juvenile Justice Bulletin   ·  November 1999