Across Canada, professional police officers are showing that they can play a key role in helping to garner the community awareness and active participation that’s necessary to assure that Canadian children and youth have the opportunities to acquire life’s building blocks that are essential in promoting the positive behaviours we all seek – at the same time protecting them from the destructive forces and behaviours that deplete their potential.

Local efforts began years ago when an unlikely trio of police administrators, a youth and family worker, as well as a coalition of Safe Community organizations, independently began to examine why some kids grow up with ease while others struggle. Why do some kids get involved in dangerous activities while others spend their time contributing to their community? Why do some young people ‘beat the odds’ in difficult circumstances while others get trapped?

The answer is Developmental Assets! Developmental Assets, created by the Search Institute are 40 values, qualities, and experiences that all young people need to succeed. The research makes it clear that “when young people have more of these Development Assets in their lives, they are more likely to succeed in school, show leadership, take care of their health and value diversity and they are less likely to be involved in violence, in using alcohol, tobacco and other drugs and in early sexual activity.”

Asset Building isn’t another program to be factored into our already overburdened priorities and work schedules. In fact asset building isn’t a program at all, but represents a return to the notion, “It takes a village to raise a child” — that police officers, teachers, grandparents, neighbours, and young people themselves all have an important role to play. It’s about acknowledging and acting on the realization that each of us can build assets every day in the lives of young people who are, or could be within our influence. We can do it by learning their names, displaying an interest in their activities, teaching them new skills, and above all by modeling the very behaviours we seek in them.

The asset framework offers a model that describes practical things that each of us can do to help kids succeed, by teaching and modeling old-fashioned values like honesty, respect, tolerance, enthusiasm, and industry. You are probably already engaged in these very kinds of actions in your family, community, and workplace.

It’s about being more aware of the importance of these life building blocks and the need for each of us to be more intentional in ensuring children and youth have the chance to acquire them. As Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

From throughout the ranks of police professionals we’re seeing evidence of the willingness and ability of police officers to apply the asset approach in their dealing with children, youth and their families.

And they’re doing it every day, “One Kid at a Time!”