MILTON-FREEWATER -- A small group of residents, social service workers and members of the Umatilla County Commission on Children and Families have identified two strategies to divert at-risk children from becoming part of the juvenile justice system.
The strategies were developed at a town hall work session Tuesday sponsored by the CCF. The work session was a follow-up to a meeting in January where community members first identified issues related to juvenile crime. The January group also identified specific gaps in overall services for children, barriers to providing services, suggested strategies, and identified a target population.
The two strategies identified Tuesday are putting a school resource officer in place and securing funds for prevention programs.
Milton-Freewater Police Chief Doug Boedigheimer said after hearing in January that there is a need for a police presence in the schools, he has developed a plan to provide a school resource officer who would be based at McLoughlin High School.
The officer has not been selected, but Boedigheimer said two officers have applied for the position.
The resource officer would be available to make presentations in all Milton-Freewater public schools on topics that could include drugs, alcohol and gangs, Boedigheimer said.
Retired teacher Jim Goodenough lamented the loss of funding for the popular after-school program, called CCLC, and the Friday night Loud and Clear Interactive, or LCI.
Previously held weekly, the LCI activities, which involve a number of interactive Wii games, are now held intermittently, he said. When held weekly, the LCI regularly attracted 30 kids along with some parents.
The program was curtailed due to funding cuts.
A CCF board member, and acting administrator for youth services Kim Noisey, told the group she believes there is funding available in the juvenile justice program that could be tapped to support some prevention programs.
Currently the prevention funds are used to support specific clients, but it could be used for group-specific activities, she said. Her office could provide technical assistance with the bureaucratic hoops, she said.
On a side note, Noisey observed that conditions seem to have improved for Milton-Freewater children. Several years ago, she worked in probation in Milton-Freewater and her caseload was 10-15 youth, while her partner kept tabs on 10 high-risk youth.
Today, there are five youths on probation in the juvenile system in Milton-Freewater, she said.
The CCF is also holding similar meetings in Pendleton and Hermiston, coordinator Shelly Ena said.
When she heard Boedigheimer's plans for a school resource officer, Ena noted that "you're pretty self-sufficient in Milton-Freewater."
In response to comments during the January meeting that there is a lack of information about services available, Ena compiled a list of parent resources in Umatilla County.
Copies of the list can be requested by calling Ena at 541-278-5486.
Carrie Chicken can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 522-5289.