"Being at risk is not unique to a few easily identifiable teenagers: those failing in school, those from broken homes, those from low-income neighborhoods, those with certain psychosocial development deficiencies, those for whom we hold low expectations. All teenagers are at risk. At risk is a trait common to all adolescents. They are born that way. Each one of them is dependent upon the society in which they grow up to provide for their needs, and when that society, that culture, those parents, those schools, those communities upon which they depend fail them, they face the consequence of becoming at risk. No single characteristics of which they are responsible can account for their risk of failure. It is the institutions, the culture, the society at large that fails them. The institutions we have established to serve the needs of adolescents are at risk; at risk of failing to provide for their needs."
--Peter Christian Olsen
Youth at Risk is a resource designed for those who do ministry with at-risk youth. In his capacity as a youth minister and counselor to at-risk students, Olsen has become astutely aware of four very basic needs that affect the development of all young people:
- acceptance - belonging
- new beginnings and second chances - forgiveness
- significance - generosity
- freedom - independence
Olsen examines the derivation of these developmental needs and how they or their absence contribute to shaping the personality, maturation, responsibility, and emotional stability of young people. From there, he emphasizes the imperative of the Christian community to respond to these needs, and provides helpful narrative illustrations for accomplishing this difficult yet rewarding mission.