March 14, 2001 11:00 pm

What kind of developmental assets does Union County have for making sure our community is a caring, nurturing place for our children? According to a national expert, were OK but we could be doing better. We need to, as the name of the project that studied Union Countys assets indicates, Take Time for Kids.

Robert Barr, a senior analyst with Boise State Universitys Center for School Improvement, told an audience in La Grande Monday that the county scored off the chart in terms of youths feeling close to their families. The survey of 1,641 seventh- through 12th-graders showed that the county rates higher than the national average in displaying 40 developmental assets the Search Institute claims are essential to youths


The community can be proud that it has many of the assets that are important for healthy child-rearing. But the survey also points up some areas that need attention.

While 60 percent of the youths said they felt a strong bond to their school, only 29 percent said they felt their school was a caring place. And while bonds to families rated off the chart, only 23 percent of youths said that they feel the community values them. Only 27 percent feel they have valuable roles in their community.

Barr told his audience that more adults need to reach out to youths, including those outside their families. They need to talk to and show an interest in young people. He said the disconnection youths feel to their communities and adults in general is a nationwide concern.

To illustrate the point of taking time for kids, Barr said he once destroyed his own mailbox so that he could invite his grandson to help him rebuild it. The time spent together, he said, was well worth the actual cost involved. He reached out to make that connection. More of us need to do the same.

We can, as a community, do more to make our young people feel a part of the community. We can start complimenting them rather than just criticizing them. We can back efforts that support youths, such as scouting, youth sports and church programs. We can continue supporting efforts to enhance recreational opportunities. The swim center and skateboard park are prime examples of the community doing something good for our kids.

But most importantly, we need to make sure that that youths know they matter. Its more about attitude than anything else. And enhancing that doesnt cost a dime.

Any ideas?

Do you have any ideas about things adults or kids can do to enhance how young people feel about their acceptance in the community?

Wed like to hear from readers of all ages. Send us your ideas and well include them as letters to the editor.