Social and Family Issues contribute to behavior
A 10-year-old boy was sent to Restorative Justice along after teaming up with two peers to commit many acts of vandalism and larceny including: spraying graffiti under a bridge, marking an RV with a Sharpie pen, shoplifting energy drinks and candy from a local pharmacy, stealing chrome tire valve stems off cars, and stealing change from unlocked cars. Given the age of the child, the police and elementary school asked Restorative Justice to accept these children who were younger than any they had worked with before. During the process, several difficulties at home, at school, and in the community were identified. He was out on the street until late hours of the night, because he was afraid to go home to his single parent household with struggling family dynamics. At school, he was having academic difficulties, was not doing his homework, and was fooling around in the classroom, showing off to his friends. He was unsupervised and spending his time on the streets. (Community) As part of his extensive Action Plan he: Arrived at school every day on time; participated in Little League, since he is enthusiastic about baseball and is good at it. He couldn’t miss a game or practice, and program volunteers attended some of his games; attended an after-school homework program; was referred for a full psychological evaluation and counseling at a local provider; connected with a summer camp that provided male mentoring for boys; made restitution, including $1.98 to the pharmacy for stolen gum, and wrote a letter of apology. Afterwards, he had bonded so well with the Restorative Justice Coordinator that he didn’t want to leave the Program.
Pet Therapy Success
A 12-year-old male was referred by the local elementary school for bringing a knife to school. This youth resided with his grandparents, because his father was incarcerated and abandonment by his mother at the age of 8. His Reparative Agreement included participation in a pilot program with “Pet Assisted Therapy” A college professor provided the assistance and support for the program. A staff member provided her golden retriever. This youth, when he entered the program, hung his head, refused to make eye contact, and participated in very limited conversation. As he worked closely with the dog, a smile developed as well as more dialogue. Staff and interns planned a small party for his 13th birthday—he was deeply touched having never had a birthday cake. A high point of his program was attaining the honor roll for the first time after years of struggling academically.
Peer issues cause problems
A 14-year-old female entered the program on a shoplifting charge. This youth dealt with peer issues in her school and suffered some hearing difficulties and developmental delays. Part of her Reparative Agreement was to participate in a teen nutrition program, which would expose her to a new set of peers in a different community in a well supervised and positive environment. Upon completion of the program, she shared, “I can’t believe that from something bad, something good happened.” She hugged the instructor after the last session of the program.
Overcoming Addiction Through Cooking
A 17-year-old male was referred to the program by his high school on a marijuana charge. He suffered with lack of self esteem and was diagnosed severe bi-polar disorder. One of the requirements in his Reparative Agreement was to build and showcase his culinary skills by planning, cooking, and serving a dinner for the Restorative Justice Advisory Council. He completed the menu, planning, purchasing, cooking and serving of the meal with the assistance of two college interns interns. He received accolades for his effort. This was a great boost to his self-esteem. He also formed a bond with the two interns. He asked them upon completion of the meal, “Will I see you again?”
Learning the dangers of substance abuse
A single mom noticed behavior changes in her son (a high school sophomore), and that he was socializing with strange friends. One evening she smelled something that could have potentially been “pot” and called the police. Her son was arrested and referred to Court Diversion. Through his contract of consequences, we were able to educate the mother and son around the dangers of substance use and help them get back on track. The boy’s grades improved, he joined a peer mentoring program at local recreation center, and he also created an impressive brochure for teens to warn them about the dangers of experimenting with alcohol and other drugs. When the son’s case was successfully closed, the mother wrote the following in a note to our program director: “Thank you so much. I don’t know what I would have done without your program. The night when I had to call the police was an unimaginable nightmare, and over the past four months, I feel like I have control over my family again.”
Two sisters, age 14 and 15, were arrested for assault against their mother. During the intake, we learned that the mother was severely addicted to alcohol and other drugs and the girls had intervened during a violent episode trying to keep younger siblings safe from the mother (who called police in retaliation of their interference). With our support, the father now has full custody of the children, and they are once again attending school regularly and connected with services to help them get back on track. The contract of consequences for the girls included connecting with a local mediation program, attending counseling and gathering information on how to stay safe from domestic violence. The mother was referred to residential treatment for her addiction.
Knowing the Dangers of Fire
Two 15-year-old boys were using matches to light leaves on fire in the backyard. The fire got out of control very quickly and ended up damaging a barn that belonged to the neighbor. The boys participated in diversion and were able to learn more about the crime of arson and its many consequences. They were also able to hear from the neighbor and understand the distress that the neighbor faced over the damaged barn. Both of the boys told diversion staff that they were unaware of the dangers of fire before participating in diversion and now are able to make better choices because of what they learned during the process.
Friendships and Consequences
Two girls were caught together stealing from a store, and were telling their story in a group class. The first girl shared that it was the first time she tried to steal with a new friend, and they got caught. She explained that she stole because the prom was coming up and she couldn’t afford to buy clothes for the prom. She knew if she asked her parents they would do all they could to help, but her parents had been arguing over the past few months about finances, to the point of possible divorce. She further explained that the business that her parents owned was failing and would probably close soon. She ended breaking down crying as she finished her story. The second girl who was caught claimed that she was very proud of the fact that she had been stealing for years, she had stolen for friends, and that most of what she was wearing was stolen. She went on to tell the group that she had been stealing mainly from one store over the years, which was a different store than the one that lead to her getting caught. She continued saying that she had brought friends to that same store to steal also. She then went on to talk about how brain dead, stupid, etc. etc. the store owners were and how easy it was to steal from them. The group facilitator asked her if she would ever steal from friends or relatives and she said, “Absolutely not. That wouldn’t be cool.” The facilitator then asked her the name of the store she was speaking of. When she said the name of the store, the first girl yelled, “That’s my parents store and it’s because of YOU that they may be getting divorced and we are losing our house.” The girl who just told her story became red faced and put her head down and apologized over and over. The girls’ friendship ended that day. All the other kids in the class that day were able to put a face to the human consequences of shoplifting.
Troubled to Appreciative Teen
A young lady, age 15, had significant drug (prescription) and alcohol issues was sent to diversion to complete the Challenge course. She completed the Challenge course and as a follow up, the parent and director decided that she needed to continue to meet with Diversion. This young lady, very stubborn and resistant to any help, didn’t agree. She did however continue to come and the Diversion worker. As with many young addicts, living in a world of denial is the norm. At the end of her 5-month program, she wrote the following note as she agreed to begin clinical treatment:
Please don’t ever give up on any person or family no matter how many problems they have or how much they don’t want to be helped or how much someone else doesn’t want to be helped… I know how it feels to be helped and then push that person away that’s helping me and wish I wouldn’t have because I wanted to be helped even though sometimes I didn’t always see it. So even if a person doesn’t act like they act, like they want to be helped deep down inside they do want the help and how ever much they push you away keep trying to help because I don’t want anyone or any one else’s family to feel or go through the things me and my family did. SO PLEASE PROMISE YOU’LL NEVER GIVE UP ON ANYONE OR THEIR FAMILY… Give someone else the help that I pushed away.
Thanks. Love, A caring friend
Domestic Violence and Anger Management
A 15-year-old female was sent to our program for assaulting another classmate. This young lady was very resistant to participating in diversion or to receive any help from anyone. With a lot of persuasion on the part of diversion staff she decided to follow through with the process. She eventually opened up to diversion staff about witnessing domestic violence when she was very young and how that has affected her. She participated in an anger management class where she was able to understand how to manage her emotions and respond more appropriately to stress. By the time she was through with the process both she and her guardian reported that she had made many positive changes in her life and were very thankful for the lessons she learned during the diversion process.
Peer Pressure is Powerful
From a parent of a child who made a bad decision… My first reaction to having my 10-year-old son be involved in the mandatory Juvenile Firesetter’s Intervention & Prevention Program was, “Wow, they really care about my son’s well being .” My son has mild ADHD and sometimes his literal understanding of things gets in his way, but the staff person assigned to our case was so patient with his questions, nurturing in how they reprimanded him, and very professional, organized and thorough in the presentation of the educational meetings. My son was with a neighborhood buddy when his fire incident occurred so they were in the program together. Although I was shocked about the situation, I realized that being part of starting a fire, though not actually being the one to initiate the action, was just as wrong . My son tends to follow, than to lead when it comes to getting into mischief at times. Beware that although you may think your child is the wiser, peer pressure is powerful. Be careful who your child considers a role model. The videos we saw were right on target when it exemplified how peers can influence good and bad decision making.