This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

January 5, 2012 - youth initiative a success

Back around 2002-2003, I believe, the Douglas County School District conducted a survey of its student body. The results were disturbing. Many kinds of "risky" behavior (drug use and sexual activity, among others) were on the rise. Many students reported that they felt that they were not respected or valued by adults in the community.

In 2003 the Partnership of Douglas County Governments (founded in 2002 with its original members of the Towns of Castle Rock, Parker, and Larkspur, the City of Lone Tree, and the county) brought the school district into its membership.

In an effort to address what appeared to be growing unrest among our youth, the Partnership launched something called the Douglas County Youth Initiative. The idea was to establish an approach to youth issues that focused on "assets" -- what worked right -- rather than on the more punitive interventions of criminal justice.

I was fortunate enough to participate in the hiring process of their first executive director, Carla Turner. She started in 2005.

It happens that Carla resigned from that position at the end of 2011. It's a good time to look back and see what this innovative program has done.

First, the DCYI sought to increase youth, and youth service provider access to useful resources. The Douglas County Youth & Family Resource Guide, which can be found on the Douglas County Libraries website (follow the Community>Youth/Family Resources tab) now contains almost 300 pages of contacts.

Second, the Youth Initiative tried to provide a path for young people to participate in the adult world -- to give voice to their concerns and see how things work. The first Douglas County Youth Congress was held in 2008; four more have followed. At this event, young people meet with elected representatives, consider issues of the day, and then talk with legislators and others to test potential solutions.

The Youth Congress planning team for 2011 decided to coordinate a Youth Day of Service on April 20th, 2012. This will give youth an opportunity to give back to their communities -- and with any luck, establish a history of civic awareness and engagement.

Third, Carla introduced a program called "Wraparound." The idea is this: suppose you have a family that's in difficulty. Things are getting worse. Your son is getting wilder, your daughter feels threatened.

In the normal course of things, the usual systems can't really do much for you until there's a crisis. The son gets arrested. The girl gets attacked.

At that point, all the usual apparatus of criminal justice steps in with its confrontations, penalties, multiple levels of costs, and ongoing stress.

But suppose, instead, you were able to assemble a team of friendly supporters (friends, family, and professional consultants) BEFORE things blew up. Suppose you were able to build on the things that weren't broken in the family and head off the crisis.

Wouldn't that be better? It would certainly be less expensive.

Wraparound now has six facilitators (largely funded through grants) and a family support partner serving families across Douglas County. An amazing 81% of the families who start the process (which typically takes about a year) report success. They go from "in immediate danger" to stable.

That isn't all the Youth Initiative has done. But it's impressive. And the last youth survey showed significant improvement in virtually all measures.

You don't often read about a program that works. It's worth celebrating.

My warm best wishes to Carla Turner, and for the continued success of this remarkable program.

LaRue's Views are his own.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting article! Just might add that it is very hard to get going in the fictional genre with self-publishing or print-on-demand (POD).

    I have three romance novels that are POD that didn't do very well, but my travel nursing series, a non-fictional POD has went to Number 1 on Amazon in the nursing issues, trends, and roles categories.

    Btw, although "Epstein LaRue" is a pen name, I am a 4th great granddauther or Mary LaRue McDonald and a 5th great-granddaughter of Samuel LaRue. Which would means that when it comes to Jacob and Mary Frost LaRue my family tree does not fork, just makes a big circle! :)