July, 20 2018

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Illinois Juvenile Court Needs Help

Fresh from a two-month stint in a residential treatment center, the teenager had a good outlook.

"I've learned I was an addict and I was not only hurting myself but others in my life," he said. "Drug court has been better than I thought it would be."

He told 16th Circuit Judge Wiley W. Edmondson that he feels ready to move on with his life in a positive way. The teen said he was looking for a job and planned to enroll at a local community college in January.

Two weeks later, he missed a drug test and had yet to find a job.

Edmondson told the teen he could not miss any tests and would be sanctioned in the future. But, he also told him that he would find a job soon and anyone who didn't hire him was losing out on a good employee.

"I don't want him to feel bad for himself," the judge said later. "I don't want him to get discouraged. You have a kid who just got out of rehab, you don't want that."

Troubled Teens in Kane County

The daily struggles of teens in the Kane County Juvenile Drug Court play out every week in Edmondson's courtroom. Edmondson handles each case with a bit of tough love, when necessary, lots of encouragement and sensitivity.

Edmondson said a high percentage of children involved in juvenile court, according to various studies, found they have poor self-images, he said. The result is children who do not think they can succeed in school so they don't even try or get into trouble, he said.

"Anytime I can say something positive to a kid or find something he's accomplished and comment on it, I try to do that to make them feel better about themselves," Edmondson said.

"The juvenile court's basic concept is protection of the community, rehabilitation of the juvenile, including the development of specific competencies. What Juvenile Drug Court does is really emphasize the rehabilitation and development of competencies," Edmondson said.

The Court's Program for Troubled Teens

Juvenile Drug Court coordinator Katie Studt said the program, which has 26 teens enrolled, tries to find the right mix of encouragement, incentives and sanctions.

"It is a lot better for the kids and it works better," Studt said. "Anything we can turn into a positive, we try to do. These kids have so much to deal with outside of court. If we give them any positive encouragement, you can see a smile come on their face."

The Court has its Own Problems

The Juvenile Drug Court needs encouragement of its own.

This month, its main funding source -- a three-year startup grant -- expired, Studt said.

Sixteenth Circuit Court Chief Judge Donald Hudson has worked on finding a new revenue source by instituting a $5 fee on every guilty plea filed in the court system. The fee is then split between the Juvenile Drug Court, the county's adult drug court and other programs, Studt said.

Additionally, an advisory board has been formed to help with fundraising for the Juvenile Drug Court, she said. The advisory board is awaiting its federal nonprofit status so it can begin taking in donations and holding events, said Studt, who also is looking into additional grants.

Related Articles:
'Price of Privilege' Too High for Teens 10/26/07
Illinois Teen Sentenced to Boot Camp 10/26/07
Florida Boot Camp Verdict Protested 10/23/07
New York Showcases New Program to Help Troubled Youth 10/23/07
Vermont Facility Changes Policy for Restraining Troubled Teens 10/22/07
Week Long Evaluation of Academy of Eastern Arizona 10/21/07
Power in You Program Motivates Troubled Teens 10/16/07
What to do about Teen Boot Camps 10/17/07
History of Troubled Teen Boot Camps in the US 10/14/07
Troubled Teens and Canine Assisted Therapy 10/13/07

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