Program puts young offenders on right track

Healthy YouthValissa Milanovich
Lakes Area Youth Service Bureau

If a juvenile commits a low-level offense, sometimes the best solution is to stop the problem behavior and set the teen on the right course. The diversion program does that.

The offender is held accountable in a way that teaches responsible action and deters future criminal involvement. A diversion contract may require educational classes, a community panel meeting and community service or other skill-building services.

After a teen successfully completes this voluntary, confidential program, the charges may be dismissed by the referral source. Individuals who do not complete their diversion may be returned to their referral source and face possible court action.

But diversion contracts are an option only for ages 13 and up. An offender who is under age 13 is assigned to LAYSB’s 12 and Under Program. This program combines a community justice diversion program with counseling.

It is typically completed in three to five sessions and involves the youth and his or her family. The youth is encouraged to discuss how the offense affected the offender, the offender’s family and the community.

The counselor explores with the family their areas of strength and any areas that may need attention, such as communication.

The youth is asked to complete a cost analysis worksheet, which provides a visual for any direct or indirect financial costs incurred by the offense, including police time and the parent’s cost for the program.

The youth also must write an apology letter addressed to the victim, if appropriate, stating remorse, an intent not to commit the offense again, and most importantly, the lessons learned from this experience.

Once the program is complete, the family is welcome to continue counseling sessions to continue working on growth areas. LAYSB accepts many insurance plans and offers a sliding scale fee for families who qualify.

The ultimate goal of the 12 and Under Program is to provide an opportunity for young offenders to reflect on their choices in a shame-free environment. Families are given the opportunity to process their relationships and patterns in an open and confidential space. When completed successfully, this diversion/counseling combination program benefits the youth, their family, and the community.

For more information, call 651-464-3685 or e-mail [email protected]

Lakes Area Youth Service Bureau is a non-profit organization serving to ensure the success of youth in the Forest Lake school district and Chisago County.