The Measure of America project, sponsored by the Social Science Research Council defines disconnected youth as “…teenagers and young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither working nor in school. There are 5,527,000 disconnected youth in America today, or one in seven teens and young adults – 13.8% (1).

I’m going to put that number out there again…5,527,000 disconnected youth in our country; 5,527,000 youth between the ages of 16 and 24.

One of our most basic needs as humans is the need to be loved and feel valued. What that love and value looks and feels like is very different for children who are disconnected versus their connected peers. When you look at those 5,527,000 kids between the ages of 16 and 24 and you realize that number does not take into account the number of disconnected children under the age of 16 the challenge at hand is sobering.

For the record, I’m not a child psychologist. I have zero credentials outside of 20 years of experience working with kids, schools and communities. Although I have read the research, I’ve never conducted a study of my own. So take this blog for what it is worth…one guy with an opinion based on experience rather than subject matter expertise. However, I am confident that my perception and experience reflect this reality – there is a stark difference in life outcomes between connected youth who are accepted by society and disconnected youth seeking acceptance.

In response to the issues facing communities across the country, the battle cry sounds like this… “We must take back our streets!” The fact is we simply need to take back our kids. That, ladies and gentlemen, is an entirely different conversation.

Think on this for a moment. As we grapple with gang violence, ISIL recruitment, criminal activity, drug and alcohol abuse, runaways, teen homelessness, drop out rates, and other youth issues plaguing our country, I would like to point out this one simple truth…Our youth are not running AWAY from us, they are running TO something that will fill a void we failed to fill.

What are you doing to connect youth in your community?? Learn more about how you can become involved and take back our kids at