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National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention

April 2, 2012
Washington, DC

Good morning.  It’s great to be here with you today to help kick off this important summit.

We’re all here this morning because of the terrible toll youth violence takes on our cities and towns, starting with the 14 young people who lose their lives in homicides every day.  And it’s important to remember that the costs of violence go beyond the deaths or even injuries.

Violence is a chronic health issue that can lead to asthma, obesity, or depression in youth who are involved in it.  It’s an economic issue, costing our economy over $14 billion in medical costs and lost productivity.  And it creates a vicious cycle, since those who witness violence are more likely to be violent themselves.

What all of you here today have recognized is that, just as the costs of youth violence can affect a whole community, the solutions to youth violence must come from the whole community too.

And at the Department of Health and Human Services, we are committed to helping support that work.

That starts with the child care and Head Start programs that we fun around the country.  Today, we are working with states and communities to make sure that our children are getting the high-quality early care and education they need not only to succeed in school, but also to develop the social and emotional skills they will need to navigate their lives without resorting to violence.  These programs play a huge role in starting children off on the right foot, and we’re working to make them as strong as possible.

As children grow, our programs follow them.  Our Safe Schools/Healthy Students program supports schools around the country that are leading the way in preventing violence among their students and in the surrounding communities.  Several of the cities here today are current or former grantees.  And these communities are now serving as models for other towns and cities that want to take action to stop youth violence.

We see stopping youth violence as an essential part of improving America’s health.  So we’re also working to help doctors and community health centers spot the signs of youth violence and report them to the correct authorities.  

And through the Affordable Care Act, we’ve increased access to preventive services that can help curb violence, like depression screenings and behavioral assessments.

But as you all know, ending youth violence is not something government can do on its own.  That’s why we’re working to put more information in the hands of families, schools and communities. 

Last week, along with the Department of Education, we announced the launch of a new anti-bullying website, Stopbullying.gov, that gives children, parents, teachers, schools and communities unprecedented access to tools they can use to stop and prevent bullying.  Along with findyouthinfo.gov, this is a great resource, and I encourage you all to make sure members of your community are aware of it.

In all these efforts, we know that one of the keys is getting youth themselves involved.  Young people often understand these problems better than anyone else and have fresh ideas for solutions.  

That’s why it’s so encouraging to see youth as a part of this forum this year.  And I want to give a special acknowledgment to all the youth here today for your leadership.

Our ultimate goal should be for every single child in America to be safe at home, at school, and in their community, no matter what zip code they live in.  We have a long way to go to achieve that goal.  But the work you are doing in your cities is blazing a trail for the rest of the country.   And I look forward to working with you to make even greater strides in the months to come.

Thank you.