Children thrive when they are surrounded by stable, consistent and meaningful relationships with caring adults.

Research shows that a quality mentoring relationship can have a resoundingly positive impact on young people’s lives. Youth with quality mentoring experience better educational, vocational and psychosocial outcomes than their unmentored peers. For all its benefits, unfortunately, one in three young people will grow up without ever having a positive mentor.

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Child Reaching for Hamburger and Fries

Childhood obesity presents a critical and widespread issue for Indiana children.

One in three Hoosier children ages 10-17 are overweight or obese (33.9%). While childhood obesity presents a concern nationally, this issue is especially relevant in Indiana. Hoosier children are 14.9% more likely to be obese than their peers nationwide. This ranks Indiana as the 9th highest rate of childhood overweight and obesity. In comparison to all neighboring states, Indiana has the highest rate.

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The well-being of mothers and infants determines the health of the next generation.

In the 2018 State of the State address, Governor Eric Holcomb set the goal for Indiana to become the best state in the Midwest for infant mortality rates by 2024, challenging us to work together to improve conditions for infants. The governor labeled our current infant mortality rate as “unacceptable.” In 2016, 623 Hoosier children died before their first birthday. Indiana ranks 41st nationally for infant mortality, with our babies being 24% more likely to die before their first birthday than infants nationally. Indiana has lagged behind the national average for the past two decades.

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syringe, pills, and spoon

Youth are the hidden victims of the opioid epidemic.

Nationally, the issue has grown so severe that in 2017, the Commission on Combatting Drug Abuse and the Opioid Crisis submitted a letter to the president requesting that the opioid crisis be declared a national emergency. In Indiana, there were 1,271 deaths from drug overdoses in 2016, a 33% increase from 2011. Drug overdoses have risen so sharply in Indiana that they now kill more Hoosiers than car crashes and gun homicides combined.

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Youth Working at a Coffee Shop

Employment can be a valuable opportunity for youth.

In addition to the immediate benefits of earning a paycheck, employment experiences can deepen understanding of a young person’s dreams and career interests, facilitate conversations about financial literacy, teach important workplace skills, and provide opportunities to learn about responsibility, time management, and good work habits.1, 2 Employing youth also provides benefits to the hiring entity, such as the development of a strong talent pipeline.

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Teenagers holding hands

The teenage years are a critical point for social development, especially when teens begin romantic relationships. As children enter adolescence, they develop the cognitive ability to explore their identities and societal roles.

In adolescence, children’s center of social interaction changes from the family to their peers, and as teens gain independence from their parents, they begin exploring types of relationships other than platonic friendships. One common type of teen relationship is dating, where adolescents spend time with a romantic partner. Dating often starts between the ages of 14 and 16 years, lasting usually a few months and taking place in group social contexts. Later teenage relationships tend to become longer as pairs form from the group and begin to spend time away from the group. In these relationships, the couple develops a sense of shared identity while providing mutual support for one another.

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Child Writing on Paper

Achievement gaps among children of different racial and economic groups are a common problem in Indiana and across the nation.

According to the United States Department of Education, an achievement gap “occurs when one group of students outperforms another group, and the difference in average scores for the two groups is statistically significant.”1 The causes of achievement gaps are many and the consequences affect children’s long term outcomes in work and life satisfaction.2,3 This brief examines achievement gaps among Indiana students in test scores, high school graduation rates, and rates of college enrollment, persistence and remediation.

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teenagers studying together

The transition from high school to college, technical training, or career is a critical step in a young adult’s life.

As young adults become independent, their immediate post-high school decisions will have a significant impact on their lifetime earnings, opportunities for career advancement, and life satisfaction. When planning for life after high school, students must consider not only their future economic prospects, but also the extent to which they will be satisfied in their job, their interests, level of motivation to pursue their career, and how well prepared they are for their intended career or postsecondary education.

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sad girl sitting on bridge

Mental health is an essential part of a child’s overall health that can affect physical health, academic achievement and interactions with others in school and programs.

Many Hoosier children struggle with mental health issues that could be mediated or alleviated by receiving the appropriate services. In fact, research shows that half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14. However, 40 percent of children who need mental health services are not receiving these services.

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Communities, schools and programs should be safe places for children and youth. However, sometimes children bully, fight, are aggressive, or even cause physical destruction or assault others. At those times, youth-serving professionals must protect the victims and address the youth perpetrators, taking steps to prevent further violence.

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