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Reading specialist Becky Burtis reads to second-graders during a RISE session at Tongue River Elementary School Tuesday, April 30, 2019.

One of the most important elements in a young person's life is a stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver or other adult.

These relationships provide the personalized responsiveness, scaffolding and protection that buffer children from developmental disruption. They also build key capacities — such as the ability to plan, monitor and regulate behavior — that enable children to respond adaptively to adversity and thrive. This combination of supportive relationships, adaptive skill-building and positive experiences is the foundation of resilience.

The aforementioned information comes from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (developingchild.harvard.edu). They are a wonderful resource for information on child development.

The role of a caring, competent, consistent adult in a young person's life cannot be overstated. Research on resiliency and positive outcomes in the face of significant adversity report that that adult figure, whether a parent, or another trusted adult, is vital to the health and development of our young people.

Sources of Strength, our overarching prevention strategy for the county and district schools, emphasizes the importance of a trusted adult in young people’s lives. A caring, competent, consistent adult can significantly reduce the risk of suicide. So how are we doing as a county? According to the Prevention Needs Assessment, when asked the question, “Is there an adult in your community whom you can talk to about your problems?”, approximately 87% of 10th- and 12th-graders in Sheridan County affirmed that they do have such a person. That compares to approximately 82% of 10th and 12th graders across the state who answered the same question.

Since the 2001-2002 school year, the Wyoming Prevention Needs Assessment Survey has tracked critical indicators of health and well-being of students in Wyoming. Conducted every other year in nearly all the middle and high schools in the state, the PNA gathers information about substance use and abuse, attitudes on risky behaviors and other beliefs of Wyoming's young people. This is a useful tool to gauge how we are doing in supporting our young people in Sheridan County. If you have never explored the survey it is worth a look — pnasurvey.org/Home.

In 2018 80% of 10th- and 12th-graders in Sheridan County affirmed that “there was an adult in their community with whom they could talk about their problems.” That compares to approximately 81% of 10th- and 12th-graders across the state who answered the same question.

The great news is that, both in Sheridan County and across Wyoming, our young people are feeling more connected in 2020 (pre-COVID) than they did in 2018. In Sheridan County, that feeling of connectedness by youth to adults increased by almost 7%. To me that data supports that our prevention efforts, specifically programs like Sources of Strength, are making a difference. So, take a minute and ask yourself, “Am I a trusted adult who is caring, competent and consistent in the life of a young person?”

Ann M. Perkins is Sheridan County community prevention manager and Community Services Block Grant program coordinator. 

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