A community issue that is common throughout many countries is the problem of disconnected youth. What “disconnected” means in this sense, is a sense of alienation from the family or community, or both. This creates challenges for the youth, the family, schools, neighborhoods, law enforcement, and more.

It’s an important issue, which is why government grant money is allocated to help kids and teens who feel like outsiders. The reasons why this situation arises is the subject of many government grant-funded studies. Some factors may be ethnicity, disability (physical, mental, or emotional), family issues, sexual orientation, belief systems, and various other ways that a sense of “differentness” is cultivated.

The reasons that government grant money is a valid use of funding are many. First, a properly-functioning society strives for inclusiveness and compassion, and does not tolerate ostracism of groups or individuals. That’s why there are government grants to foster education and awareness, as a first step to reduce the number of disconnected youth. Some countries seek to redress past wrongs by providing government grant funding to youth who are members of communities such as African-Americans, Native Americans, Australian Aboriginals, Canadian First Nations, and visible minorities in the UK.

Second, disconnected youth can be more likely to “enter the system” in one way or another, whether it’s becoming youthful offenders, dropping out of school, engaging in substance abuse, and other negative actions. The point is to create a social safety net so that destructive behaviors don’t get started. Some examples of programs that are funded by government grants that are intended to nip this in the bud are afterschool programs, community youth centers, anti-bullying campaigns, treatment centers, and help for broken families.

Third, although some people may feel that reintegrating disconnected youth is not a proper use of government grant funding, even they can see that it’s purely pragmatic and practical. It’s a lot cheaper to correct an errant course early in life than it is to later pay the costs of housing prison inmates, paying the social costs of substance abuse, hiring additional law enforcement, providing lifelong mental health services, paying unemployment benefits, and other services to fix problems that have become severe and chronic.

There’s a saying, “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.” Just think how many social issues can be fixed through well-spent government grants. Although “social engineering” is typically a negative term, it may not be such a bad thing to put government grants to use to foster inclusiveness and change minds so that there are fewer disconnected youth. There are many ideas about the proper function of government, but it’s hard to argue with spending a little now to avoid spending a lot later. Besides the quantifiable issue of cash spent, there’s also the less easily measured but still important factor of all members of a society experiencing better lives when there aren’t a sizable numbers of disconnected youth and people who feel alienated. We need to make sure that all kids and teens feel a part of their community, and government grant funding can help accomplish this.