Keene juvenile programs are aiming to help empower youth to make more accountable and responsible decisions.
There are three main juvenile programs offered in the city of Keene: The Adolescent Brief Intervention Program, the Juvenile Court Diversion Program and the Earn-It Program. In the past year, these programs have assisted over 160 children.
The Adolescent Brief Intervention Program offers parents and children opportunities to solve problems with reliable resources. According to the Youth Services Manager for the City of Keene, Elisabeth Brown, whether there is a child suffering from drug and alcohol use, family problems, school problems or even running away, this is a place for the parent or child to come and get help.
“This program helps families with youth that are having trouble that may not be involved with the law yet,” Brown said.
Brown said the program is open and voluntary for youth under the age of 18. Brown explained this intervention program is the only program where anyone, whether it’s a parent, school or agency, can refer somebody they know.
“A youth can even refer themselves if they feel they are having trouble at home or whatever,” Brown said.
Brown said, once she gets referrals, she must make sure the child is willing to participate in the program. According to Brown, she then works on mentoring the child by keeping them on the right track. For example, Brown said she will go to the youth’s school throughout the week and ask them “What’s going on? Where are there problems?” She said while working together with the child, she also works on finding a more long-term solution. She noted this solution could involve a sport or activity the child can be involved in.
The Juvenile Court Diversion Program is a three-month program offered to individuals under the age of 18, who have not had any prior juvenile offenses. In order to participate in the program, the individual must be referred by the police or prosecutors.
Once a child or individual is referred, Brown requires a 90-minute screening process to make sure the child qualifies for the program.
After acceptance, Brown gives the child a hearing date where they will stand in front of an eight-to-ten person committee and tell their offense.
The committee then creates a contract with the proceeding steps for the child depending on their offense. “We address in their contract conditions we feel that would be particularly helpful for this specific individual. We appropriately make the contract for them in accordance to their learning ability” Brown said.
She said the contracts range from involving apology letters, to three page papers, to community service.
Unlike court programs, these contracts are tailored to each child’s needs. “What sets the program apart is how beneficial it is, because each case is unique and the child is learning so much more from going through this process and actually critically thinking about what they did and how to repair all the harm they caused to everyone around them,” Jeff Bradley, a Keene State College student and intern at Youth Services, said.
According to Brown, once the program is completed, 90 percent of the children do not return to court with a second offense.
“This is a very clear program, this is your responsibility and you will know every single step of the way what is expected from you, what you’re supposed to do and what the consequences are,” Brown said.
The Earn-It Program works closely with the Juvenile Court Diversion Program as a way for children to complete the community service in their contract. The program also requires an interview process with the first offense child, upon referral by police or prosecutors. Earn-It works with both children from the diversion program and children coming from court who are assigned community service.
Brown said the difference in coming from the diversion program and not the court, is the child’s petition against them will disappear from their record after their completion of community service.
According to Brown, she matches children with an appropriate community service site and is able to keep an eye on their progress. In many cases, the child goes on to get a job with the community service site where they were placed, Brown said. Brown said she would like to work more closely with KSC and give the youth opportunities to do community service hours on campus. “I think that Keene State is a great college and it has great programs that we can utilize as a mentorship,” Brown said.
She said she would also like to give individuals in her programs tours of the college to show that college is an opportunity for them. “I want to take some of the kids and have them tour KSC because a lot of these kids have no concept [of college]. It’s a high school mentality,” Brown said, “Some kids don’t even think that it’s on their list…this can be a goal for you. This is not out of your league. If you want to do this, it’s possible.” Students at KSC similarly stated this strategy would be beneficial to the individuals in the youth programs. “The older kids can get a feel of what it’s like to be on a college campus and it would be cool for them to see, because it’s right here in Keene,” KSC sophomore Josephine Berardi said. Although she has never heard of the programs offered in Keene before, Berardi said it would be a great idea for the children to be on a college campus, perhaps working with landscaping outside during the spring and fall.
Alison Rancourt can be contacted at email@example.com