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Archive for Sunday, September 20, 1998

FORUMS PRESENT ROAD MAP TO DEAL WITH YOUTH ISSUES

September 20, 1998

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Youth committee members were pleased with the turnout at forums held in Baldwin, Lawrence and Eudora.

Three forums last week led organizers to the conclusion that Douglas County is better prepared in some ways than other counties to reduce its juvenile crime.

``We are one of the few districts ... where everyone is on the same page with regard to how we feel about our youth and how we want the future to be for them,'' said Shelley Diehl, assistant Douglas County district attorney and member of the 7th Judicial District Community Planning Team.

Such forums are being held across the state, and organizers in each district will compile a report for the state Juvenile Justice Authority. The report will be used in allocating state resources to deal with juvenile issues.

Committee members were pleased with the turnout at forums held in Baldwin, Lawrence and Eudora.

But they said Douglas County also has its weaknesses.

There are few treatment programs for young people with drug and alcohol abuse problems.

There are few vocational training opportunities for young people who aren't headed to a university or college, said Chrisy Khatib, the committee's community planning coordinator and a probation officer.

``We are a very college-bound community,'' Khatib said. ``We have Baker and Haskell and KU. Not all kids are college bound. Where would we be without the plumber on Saturday afternoon?''

Influencing young people early was one of the recurring themes.

``It really is too late to try to start services ... by the time I get them in court,'' Diehl said.

Parenting emerged as a big issue.

``It all comes back to parenting responsibility,'' Diehl said. ``Parenting is everything, and we have to somehow bring that back.''

The creation of parenting classes was suggested.

``A lot of these people are not equipped to parent,'' Diehl said. She envisioned classes that would help parents prepare their children ``to ward off the risk factors, to ward off the dangers that we are all exposed to.''

Khatib said problems cannot always be pinned on the parents.

``There are a lot of (troubled) juveniles that come from dysfunctional homes,'' Khatib said. ``I would also say there are a lot of juvenile offenders who come from very normal homes, very good parents.''

Though Lawrence is a much bigger town than Eudora or Baldwin, many of the subjects discussed at the three meetings were similar.

``They (the towns) are different from each other,'' Diehl said. ``On the other hand, kids still need a safe place to be.''

``All the communities have issues of what to do with kids who are suspended from school,'' she said. ``You can't just turn them out on the streets during the day. There needs to be some kind of out-of-school suspension center.''

Unlike Lawrence, Eudora and Baldwin have a need for teen recreation centers, Khatib said.

The members of the committee hope their report will generate state help. But it might also be a document that could be used to pursue private grant money as well.

``I'm hopeful the plan will be used as a blueprint for the community,'' said Pam Weigand, planning team co-director.

-- Kendrick Blackwood's phone message number is 832-7221. His e-mail address is kblackwood@ljworld.com.

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