Pilot program to help juvenile offenders, their families in Elkhart County
ELKHART, Ind. – Community leaders hope a pilot program in Elkhart County helps juvenile offenders and their families.
In September, the Elkhart Juvenile Community Corrections, the Elkhart Police Department, the Boys and Girls Club of Elkhart County, and Magistrate Deborah Domine will launch the Community Connections program.
Under the initiative, kids in the JCC’S electronic monitoring and home detention program and their families would receive guidance from local nonprofit organizations.
“We [were] just throwing out ideas,” said Kutrina Butler. “[We thought], ‘Hey. What can we do to give back to the kids so we can empower them more… not coming back into the court system.’”
Butler co-created Community Connections. She is also the Elkhart County Juvenile Community Corrections supervisor.
“It’s giving back to my community,” said Butler. “It’s being able to help a youth. My goal is every kid that I can sit across a table, that I’m able to give back to them and helping them become successful in our community”
According to Butler, kids enrolled in Community Connections would spend two hours a day, once a week for a minimum of 10 weeks at the Boys and Girls Club of Elkhart County.
Children will assist with the club’s dinner program for the first hour then spend the second hour in a character development and academic enrichment program.
After completion of the program, kids can become full time members of the club.
Meanwhile, the children’s parents would participate in Triple P, which is a positive parenting program, offered by Children and Parent Services.
The goal of Community Connections is to empower families with the tools to make choices that help their child stay out of the system.
“I think it’s going to be a learning tool,” said Butler. “Once you’re able to learn and understand it, then, that might be a part where it was a weakness and now it’s a strength. They’re getting the tools, so maybe if now they’re getting bullied, they can know what to do.”
Twenty-one children will be enrolled in the initial Community Connections program.
Rubin Nieto with the Boys & Girls Club of Elkhart County, says Community Connections exemplifies his organization’s mission of helping kids who need it most.
“When kids come to the Boys and Girls Club and they stay in the program… we see that they tend to stay in school longer, they’re not absent as much, they’re not suspended as much, and their grades rise,” said Nieto. “We’re hoping that this program will be a catalyst for these young people to take that next step in their life and really excel in academics, at home, and in their personal life as well.”