Care of children and youth is seen as less of a community responsibility than in past generations, due to changes in our communities and lifestyles. There are fewer extended families and large families, which increases reliance on caregivers and playmates outside the family. More children spend longer hours in childcare settings and in front of screens, as many parents work outside the home. Fear of abduction and injury has resulted in greater constraints on the movements of children and youth throughout their communities. In our urban settings, we are living at higher densities, with increased traffic, and with fewer places for young people to play and hang out together.
These sorts of changes make it more difficult for communities to be “child and youth friendly”. What do we mean by a child and youth friendly community?
A child and youth friendly community welcomes and involves children and youth and promotes their well-being and safety. It fosters social responsibility and the notion that “it takes a village to raise a child”.
To make our communities more child and youth friendly, we need to focus on strengthening relationships between children and youth and their communities. We need to:
- understand what the concept of child and youth friendliness means and how it applies to different aspects of the community;
- look at the community from a child and youth friendly perspective—use a child and youth friendly “lens”—to assess its strengths and weaknesses;
- identify what needs to be done and develop plans for action.