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April is Children and Youth Month
As we celebrate children and youth month we think of the four pillars of the American Legion. One of the four pillars is mentoring our youth. The American Legion believes it is the right of every child to attend a school that is safe, secure and conducive to learning. We encourage children to achieve their highest potential by living a drug free lifestyle. We try to help pass appropriate legislation aimed at the prevention and prosecution of child exploitation and victimization. We set up programs for youth that provide education, encourage an understanding of fair play, and provide instruction in civic responsibilities.
The American Legions children and youth program has been around almost as long as the American Legion. Prior to 1939 the American Legion observed may as child welfare. However, because May was traditionally Poppy month, the American Legion Auxiliary always observed April as Child welfare month. In 1938, a major program change designated April as child welfare month, and started a cooperative venture between the legion and the auxiliary to celebrate the children and youth of this nation.
Temporary financial assistance is the landmark program of the American Legion's national commission on children and youth. Established in 1925, as a form of direct aid to children, the TFA is unique in the social work field Through the TFA, a post can call upon the national organization for cash assistance to help maintain the basic needs of veteran's children. Funds are granted over a temporary period to eligible children in need when all other local resources have been exhausted. TFA is used to assist families in meeting the costs of food, shelter, utilities and health expense items when the parents are unable to do so, thereby keeping the child or children in a more stable home environment. The funds for the operation of this program are provided from a share of the earnings of the American Legion endowment fund. The veteran does not have to be a legionnaire for the child to be eligible.
The American Legion has many child safety programs such as child abuse and neglect, suicide, child safety, school safety, missing and abducted children, accident prevention and substance abuse. These are just a few of the programs for children and youth.
Most of you are more familiar with the Americanism programs. Post 17 is very fortunate to have dedicated Americanism chairman and have highly respected programs. Every program is not only a worthwhile activity but a strong catalyst for increased knowledge, healthy competition, the development of character and a bona fide appreciation of the American Legions contribution to the betterment of life in each home community.
Young Americans benefit through the value of your diligent efforts in promoting American Legion baseball, the national high school oratorical contest, school medal awards, American Legion Boys State, Junior Shooting Sports program, Boy Scouts, flag etiquette, education, JROTC and scholarship activities related to the finest in citizenship training. Through the Americanism programs we work to achieve our goals for god and country as outlined in the preamble to the constitution of the American Legion.
We must develop plans to bring in children that don't have an easy access to our programs. We must try to get the children involved at an early age. As they get older it will be harder to change their attitudes and habits.
Our children do not have any control over where they were born or who their parents are. Many times, children are born into loving families that teach strong home values, but their friends have a greater influence on them then their families do. The peer pressure is so great that it overrides the positive influence at home. So what can we do?
It would not be realistic to think we can go into their environment and have as great an impact as we would if they are away from the negative influences on them. If we can gain their confidence and trust. If we can give them a vision and hope then we can not only have a positive influence on them, but hopefully they will have a positive influence on others.
We have learned from history that our children that are born into desperate conditions and receive no support, or an effort to make them stronger turn to violence, drugs and gangs. We must get to these children at an early age and get them into our youth programs and try to educate them and put something positive in their life. If we can do this, we can make a difference.
As Americans we need to remember amid the problems we face daily with the environment, crime, unemployment and financial uncertainty, the one constant that makes or breaks this nation is our young people. They are our future, and our dreams and hopes for a better tomorrow rest in their hands. They are our greatest natural resource.
Every Squadron has done some Children and Youth activity this year: Coaching a ball team, helping a child with a trip for education, donations of money and or time to charity groups such as Children’s Miracle Network or Special Olympics or Make-a-Wish or even Big Brothers and Big Sisters. Remember, when you are filling out your consolidated report, that anything dealing with children that a card caring Sal member does, can be reported. One of my favorite items that are usually left off is about Special Olympics. If you are coaching you child while they are participating, both your time and your child’s time count, along as both are current paid members. This is good about all activities.
Most of your activities should be listed other the “Other” category. For the record: If you gave money to The American Legion Child Welfare Foundation, and or put out collection cans or did s project for the CWF, then and only then can you record anything for that category. We have had Squadrons record time and money for Child Welfare thinking that it is a project or activity for a child’s welfare, but it is not. That would fall under other.
On the Children and Youth section of the Consolidated Report, the first 5 are specific national programs; everything else will fall under “other”. We have had a lot given to the Children’s Miracle Network, and a lot of Josh Dogs purchased this year. I am not aware of any Squadron buying Spinoza bears since they are about to go away.
Hopefully, clearing up some of the confusion about what and where to report activities, will get more reports filled out.
I am looking forward to seeing every Squadron turning in something on their report.
Remember that pennies make dollars and dollars can change the world.
Chairman, Children and Youth
SAL Resolution NEC 1-F12, subject: Background Screening Procedures and Policies for Sons of The American Legion Youth Program Volunteers was approved by the Internal Affairs Commission and The American Legion National Executive Committee, on October 17, 2012.
Enclosed is a copy of this resolution for your review and dissemination to all leadership. Additional information on these checks for Sons National Commission/Committee members i.e. Americanism, Children & Youth, and the Child Welfare Committee will be forthcoming in January 2013 as per the above resolution.
Also enclosed is a copy of the National Background Check Guide issued by the National Americanism Commission of The American Legion for your review. This publication will also be posted to the SAL web page as well as The American Legion web page.
Detachments are encouraged to work with your respective Departments concerning background screenings for activities within your Detachment/Department subject to the approval of the Department.
If you have any questions regarding these procedures, please feel free to contact me at National Headquarters.
John W. Kerestan
SAL Liaison, Internal Affairs