Working With Youth in 2014: New Challenges, Harsher Punishments

 

Kelly Cronin, Waterbury Youth Service System. Inc. executive director.

Issues that face youth in 2014 are very different than when I started at Waterbury Youth Services more than 30 years ago. Years ago, when a child roamed the halls, had an argument with a teacher, or committed another low level offense, they were sent to the principal’s office and a phone call was placed to their parent or guardian.  In 2014, youth committing the same act are being arrested. 

In Arresting Development: Student Arrests in Connecticut, a recent report by Connecticut  Voices for Children,  statistics show a promising decrease in the number of school based arrest state wide.  The report finds that during the 2011 school year,  there was  a 13.5% decline in the number of children arrested from the peak of 3,396 students arrested in the 2008 school year.  While this is encouraging, Arresting Development shows that many arrests were likely avoidable as students were arrested  for  “skipping class, insubordination, and using profanities.” The report classified another one-quarter of school based arrests as “questionably necessary” – incidents in many cases could have been handled by the school including physical altercations without injuries, bullying, obscene behavior, and false fire alarms.

As a Youth Service Bureau, we are legislatively mandated to divert youth from the juvenile justice system. Waterbury Youth Services is dedicated to help reduce the school based arrest through our state and local agency collaborations, our Juvenile Review Board, our case management services and our prevention programs. Our challenge is to think creatively and to respond positively to the needs of the youth in our community. 

Our work here at Waterbury Youth Services has never been limited to those under 21. We work with whole families to address the needs of our community.  We are currently formulating how we can better serve the basic needs of our youth and families.  We cannot ignore the link between basic needs and youth acting out in school.  We cannot expect youth to be working to their highest potential if they lack adequate food and clothing.  In 2014, we hope to address more of this need to better support the families we work with everyday.

Kelly Cronin is the executive director of Waterbury Youth Service System. Inc.

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