CARBONDALE (WSIL) — Nearly 100 youth advocates attended a first of its kind event in Southern Illinois. The First Circuit Juvenile Justice Council Symposium was held May 14 at Southern Illinois University.
Judges, attorneys, counselors, probation workers and others attended the conference. Their focus is learning how to better work together to prevent youth from going into the court system, as well as, better rehabilitate them after being in the court system.
One attendee is Union County State’s Attorney Tyler Edmonds, who sees juvenile cases on a daily basis including crime, theft, and drugs.
He says it’s usually youth with problems at home, "…Be it substance abuse, mental health, domestic violence that’s really the common denominator."
Edmonds believes the community must work together to deal with these issues before youth are beyond the point of return.
First Circuit Judge Christy Solverson says her goal is to keep residents safe while rehabilitating youth, "Place juveniles back into the community so that they can become outstanding citizens."
That includes the Carbondale safety panel she spearheaded several years ago. It’s a group from the high school, law enforcement, and probation officers who meet monthly.
"I think people need second chances," Solverson explains. "It’s about giving youth resources and giving them those second chances if we can."
Also helping give youth second chances is Spero Family services. One of its programs is a transitional home in Mt. Vernon for those 18-21.
"So they’re not just taken out of the system and on their own. We can give them that time to transition," says Kari Docherty, Spero Family Service’s Training Coordinator.
It’s for participants who were once removed from their home by Department of Children and Family Service (DCFS) as kids and put into the organization’s care.
"What we want is for them to be able to learn from these things and be able to be a productive member," Docherty adds.
The program helps teens and young adults earn their GED and gain work skills, so they can get a job and support themselves.
Spero Family Services also offers counseling for youth who are referred to them by probation officers in Jefferson and Marion Counties.