Juvenile Justice Advocacy: Working to Help Local Youth – Part 1

Most of the kids Boys Town assists are referred from juvenile court, “They’re still at home, but there are some things going on where they’re at risk of having to leave. So we go into the homes and do family preservation work so kids can stay in their schools, homes and communities,” said Nick Juliano, Director of Regional Advocacy and Public Policy at Boys Town.

Juliano explained kids have the best outcomes when they’re able to stay in their routines.

“Ideally, we want kids with their families, with their parents or their extended families. And we want kids staying in their schools and staying in their homes,” Juliano said.

He acknowledged there are some kids who cannot remain in their homes and these kids then go to live at Boys Town. Juliano said it could be because there’s a safety issue or maybe they live in a community where they’re continuing to violate the law or they’re skipping school. Eventually though, these children will return home to their family and their school.

But Boys Town is about much more than just housing.  According to Juliano, “We are involved in quite a bit of advocacy work and public policy work around juvenile justice reform here in Omaha. We work on committees and with youth impact programs. We want to make sure there are good policies for young people that are in the juvenile justice system so when they do get into trouble and are in juvenile court, they can get the services they need.”

He said kids are referred to Boys Town for any issue you can think of but that it all starts with a law violation, where they end up in juvenile court or the Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC) because of that violation.

“Often times, there’s other things going on in that home with the parents or with the young person whether it’s mental health issues or substance abuse issues. Truancy is prevalent in that group of kids that will end up at the JAC or in juvenile court,” said Juliano.

Then there are the typical challenges families face, including poverty.

“Poverty impacts where families are able to live and may expose them to environments where there may be more crime. Or the student may have more unstructured time where they’re not in sports or other extracurricular activities, so they’re hanging around and getting into trouble,” he said.

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