Officials seek activities for idle juveniles

Published 5:00 am Monday, April 11, 2005

Lincoln County Youth Court officials are seeking help from civicorganizations and businesses in providing activities for youngpeople who come through the system for truancy or other nonviolentoffenses.

“We really don’t have an active community service program now,”said Youth Court Referee Lesa Baker. “We’re trying to come up withsomething to give the children something to do after school, onweekends and of course during the summer.”

In March, Baker, Youth Court Intake Officer Deborah Littletonand Truancy Officer Bobby Bell sent letters to various communityorganizations and businesses asking for their help with the newprogram.

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“We have gotten some really good responses,” said Baker, whobegan her youth court referee duties in February. “I’m anticipatingsummer is when we’ll be able to implement it and see how itworks.”

Baker said 50 participants would be a large number to start theprogram.

During the program, Baker said, volunteer organizations willhave to supervise the youth participant. She said the court cannotprovide a supervisor.

“Most of them have not been deterred by that,” Baker said.

A work schedule will be arranged for the youth with thevolunteer organization and does not need to be long-term, Bakersaid. A youth placement can be terminated at the volunteer’srequest.

While an appearance will not be necessary, supervisors will needto report to court on the youth’s progress. Baker said the reportshould show the youth is showing up and doing the necessarywork.

Baker said some businesses have suggested the possibility ofretaining the youth workers and hiring them after they completetheir required time in the program.

“That would be great,” Baker said.

Baker stressed the program will have only nonviolentoffenders.

“We’re going to have some kids we’re going to have to do otherthings with,” she said.

Following some problems and legal actions involving the state’straining schools, Baker said she expected admissions to be governeda little more closely. Therefore, she said, she had been talkingwith court officials in other counties about other youth-orientedprograms that possibly could be implemented here.

“We need more options,” Baker said.

One enforcement tool Baker has been utilizing is fining parentswhen their children are not in school as required by the compulsoryattendance law. She said the $10 a day fine has helped decrease thenumber of truancies.

“I think that’s gotten some people’s attention,” Baker said.

Any organization or business interested in participating in theyouth work program may contact Baker at (601) 835-5671.