Oct 25, 2013

Juvenile difficulties usually result of family issues

BY BOB ROBINSON
ASSOC. EDITOR
GREENVILLE – Paul Garrett, Chief Probation Officer for the Darke County Juvenile Court, checked his records…

“Four out of 34 are living with their biological parents,” he said, referring to the juveniles he has in his caseload. He noted it could be a single mom, or the other adult in the family could be a step-parent, a live-in or grandparents. He didn’t think the caseloads of the two other juvenile probation officers, Mike Morris and Lori Miller, would be significantly different.

Garrett was a probation officer for eight years in Huron County before returning to Darke County.

“I had a caseload of 60 kids there,” Garrett said. “Forty-eight of them were living with a single parent or grandparents. Many didn’t even know who their dad was.”

Garrett started his career in Darke County in 1995. He went to Huron County from 1998 to 2006, then returned to Darke County. He is working now with the kids of adults he worked with those first years in Darke County.

“The kids I have now have very similar behavior their parents had. Unfortunately it seems to be a generational issue,” he said.

Garrett added there is usually some sort of underlying family issue leading to a child’s behavior. Adults can deal with so much; little kids have no ability to do that.

“Parents have to be able to address it,” he said. “Unfortunately so many parents are not really engaged in their families. They aren’t giving them the support, advice and proper boundaries.”

Garrett and his two officers currently have 90 to 95 juveniles on probation, plus another 35 or so on diversion.

“Diversion kids are low-risk offenders,” he said. “They have a contract with the court. If they can follow through with the behavioral guides set up for them for 90 days, the issue will be dismissed and they can avoid having a record.”

Diversion juveniles are not supervised. They and their parents are trusted to follow through.

While there are similarities, such as generational behavior, among the kids on probation, each case has its own barriers, obstacles and strengths.

“We try to look at and shore up the strong points,” he said.

Drugs, alcohol, property crimes such as stealing bicycles are most often how kids get into the system. It’s mainly underage consumption or theft of alcohol. Garrett added 10-12 kids a year are involved in sexual crimes.

“The kid gets clipped for something else, we get him in here and start seeing other things,” he said. The juvenile might end up failing a drug screen. “This would be the beginning stages of drug use… experimenting.”

Do they see their kids eventually on the adult jail roster?

“Too many,” Garrett said. “It isn’t typical that someone wakes up at 25 and commits a crime. The inclination has to be there as they are growing up.”

Overall, the juvenile probation department sees a success rate of about 70 to 75 percent.

“It’s a team effort,” he said. “We get a lot of help from Mental Health, Darke County Recovery, Child Protective Services and Gateway… there’s lots of wrap-around. All working together with the same goal for that family.”

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