Juvenile Justice Advocacy: Working to Help Local Youth – Part 2

[:en]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.

Juliano believes there’s an increasing recognition both here in Douglas County and nationally, with the research and best practices, that what a young person ends up in court for is an issue, but that it doesn’t tell the whole story.

“You’ve got, sometimes, kids that are at home taking care of younger brothers and sisters when they should be attending school and doing other things. You have kids that are unsupervised and obviously are on the streets getting in trouble,” he said.

Substance abuse and mental health issues are becoming an increasingly common part of these kids’ experiences.

Juliano said one of the models here in Douglas County is called Youth Impact. He described it as a national crossover model which recognizes that young kids who have adverse experiences or are the victims of abuse or neglect when they are young, tend to be more likely to become delinquents and get in trouble when they are older.

One of the programs that Boys Town offers that has the largest impact is out of its South Omaha Office. Staffers work directly with South High School and Marrs Middle School.

“And our primary approach there is to work with a school counselor, a gang interventionist, and families directly, when an adult in a young person’s life is seeing they are starting to have school problems,” Juliano said.

Staff can work with families in their homes. They can also provide care coordination, which means meeting with the families, helping them connect with the school and making sure that they are getting the supports that they need from the school as well as linking them with other kinds of services in the community.

Boys Town has a strong presence in South Omaha including an outpatient behavioral health clinic. If a parent or someone from the school thinks there may be an emerging mental health or substance abuse issue, they can come in and get an assessment and a referral as well, if needed.

They also provide parent training, giving parents the skills to work with their kids, and address their behaviors.

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