At-Risk Kids Are Best Served by the Nonprofit Sector

Nonprofits and charities in our local communities play a critical role in helping our children succeed. They help children learn, improve access to health care and aid in the development of skills needed to live happy, healthy lives. I’m pleased the Senate unanimously designated September as National Child Awareness Month to remind us that children are our future and we all play a role in helping them thrive.” – Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif)

Americans take for granted the benefit our children and youth derive from our nonprofit sector. Every day, millions of our kids, and their parents, depend on a broad array of services and supports delivered by child-serving nonprofits. Child care, youth sports organizations, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys & Girls Clubs, health care providers, hospitals and specialty medical services, social services organizations, housing organizations, transportation, private foster care and treatment services and after-school programs are just a few of the services provided by nonprofits.

Without the services rendered by these organizations, most families would be far worse off and struggling. Children are our future and we all play a role in helping them thrive. The nonprofit sector is the best social institution, aside from family, to meet the needs of children and youth, and here’s why: Child-serving nonprofits are driven by mission, not money!

Personally, I prefer the term not-for-profit. For-profit companies are driven by maximizing revenue which equates to reducing cost in order to make more money. By contrast, not-for-profit organizations are compelled by maximizing the social benefit and positive impact they produce. The not-for-profit world is characterized by “whatever it takes;” the for-profit thinking is characterized by “the least we can get away with.” Our children and youth are too valuable to be lost in the morass of greed and profiteering.

Not-for-profit’s caring for our children and youth are generally nimble, adaptive, responsive and incredibly innovative; exactly what government-provided services are not! Don’t get me wrong, there are many very amazing, caring and innovative individuals serving children and youth within a government entity, but to a large degree their hands are tied. I know this firsthand having worked for 15-plus years as an administrator in the public sector.

Changing a public agency is tantamount to redirecting a battleship: It can be done, but very slowly. It’s really unfortunate that governmental agencies designed for “public service” have become so bureaucratic, entrenched in self-protection at considerably more taxpayer cost. Not-for-profit organizations can respond to and serve community needs far more quickly, efficiently and creatively.

Another characteristic of not-for-profit organizations which totally sets us apart from for-profit or governmental organizations is the ability to mobilize the community to action. A hallmark of an effective not-for-profit is the degree of community integration within the fabric of the organization. The best ones provide that conduit for engagement and opportunities for helping. It may be volunteering, mentoring or tutoring; or it may be providing goods and services or fiscal support. All are important elements of the picture which portrays how the nonprofit organization is positively impacting the lives of children and youth – fulfilling its mission!

For nearly 30 years, I have had the privilege to pilot the Family Care Network in serving the children and youth of the Central Coast of California. But we are just one of many incredible nonprofit organizations, locally and nationally, working very hard, often unnoticed, to enrich so many young lives, each representing our future. Take the time to thank your local child-serving nonprofits.

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About Jim Roberts 19 Articles
Jim Roberts is the CEO and founder of the Family Care Network and a 43-year veteran of human services.