WASHINGTON – With drugs, gangs and other negative influences, young people face many more dangers than earlier generations did and often have fewer people to help them, Laura Bush said Tuesday.
The first lady said that families, schools and communities are three pillars of influence that can help disadvantaged youth become healthy and successful.
Mrs. Bush, along with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, addressed about 2,000 attendees of the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention conference. The weeklong conference, organized by the Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, was designed to share best practices for helping at-risk youth.
The Bush administration is supporting programs that help families, schools and the greater community provide the positive influences young people need in their lives, Mrs. Bush said.
"We want every child to be surrounded by caring adults who provide love, advice and encouragement, and who can serve as good role models," she said.
In his State of the Union address last January, President Bush introduced the Helping America's Youth initiative and said his wife would lead the effort.
On Tuesday, the first lady spoke of her national travels for the initiative. She said she observed after-school activities, parenting training and anti-gang programs that have helped children and young people.
She stressed the importance of families, especially the need for two parents, in a child's upbringing.
"Boys and girls spend more time by themselves or with a group of their peers than with many family members," the first lady said. "Families are the foundation of every child's life. And we must do all we can to help families stay together."
"Children want us in their lives, and they need us in their lives," she said. "And as I've witnessed all across America, each of us has the power to help America's youth."