Follow The Republic:
More than two decades ago, local law enforcement and judicial officials were grappling with the seemingly unsolvable problem of juvenile delinquency.
It was not a new problem but one that had seemed to grow in seriousness. It was compounded in many cases by the lack of parental involvement in the lives of some young people.
At the time, local governments were in a quandary as to how to handle instances of juvenile delinquency or troubled children.
There were no adequate facilities in which they could be held or evaluated. Teenagers arrested for misdemeanors or minor felonies were routinely released to the care of their parents or guardians, oftentimes returning to situations that had been instrumental in their getting into trouble in the first place.
Plans to house them temporarily in the new Bartholomew County Jail were abandoned when state corrections officials ruled that juveniles could not be placed in proximity to adult offenders. Even were such an arrangement to be allowed, the jail could not provide any rehabilitative services.
Into that void stepped a group of community leaders who petitioned the County Council to establish a facility that would provide both temporary confinement and rehabilitative programs. Some county officials suggested converting the old Law Enforcement Building, which housed the dungeon-like county jail, into a youth facility, but that idea was rejected, thankfully.
The council heeded the request of Bartholomew County Circuit Judge Steve Heimann, who urged members to avoid any underfunding of the facility or its programs.
Over the past 20 years the Youth Services Center has been housed in the former Children’s Home on Illinois Street in East Columbus. That anniversary will be celebrated Tuesday through an open house at the center from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
There is much more to celebrate than a milestone measured in years. Statistics faithfully compiled over the past two decades speak to the positive effects the center and its staff have had in dealing with the issue of troubled young people.
The number of local juveniles referred to the center has dropped 27 percent over the past five years — from 903 in 2006 to 661 last year. Even more to the point of success is that recidivism rates (the return to the center of previous offenders) have dropped by two-thirds in that time span.
Central to the success has been an array of programs that focus on rehabilitation rather than simple confinement. In house, youngsters are provided counseling, individual case management, education and the opportunity to work on community service projects.
There is no stereotyping of those who go through the center. For instance, the largest number of referrals last year (149) were for juveniles who had run away from home. That’s not to say the staff is not faced with children who commit serious offenses. There were 79 who were apprehended last year on charges of theft and another 78 for battery.
The Youth Services Center is much more than a building. Central to its success has been a comprehensive effort to address one of the most troubling issues faced by the community. Through those who make referrals to the facility and the dedicated staff who work to change the direction of their young charges, the effect has been transformational.
Think your friends should see this? Share it with them!
Note: All comments left on our sites are first reviewed by an automated comment moderation system. Your comment may take up to 5 minutes to appear. If for any reason your comment can not be approved you will receive an email from this system with a detailed explanation.
All content copyright ©2013 The Republic, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.