Saving at-risk kids

Governments, by and large, are fairly proficient at finding out what the problem is. They have vast resources and can bring in the top minds to tackle an issue.

Too often, however, the problem is not determining what the the problem is, but how to fix it. And too often, government’s solution is to throw as much money as possible at the problem and hope something sticks — or works. That solution, however, results in bloated bureaucracies and wasteful spending.

At-risk kids and teens are one of the biggest problems facing our country today. There are a few success stories of innovative programs out there. But there are also plenty of programs that spend thousands and thousands of dollars per kid, resulting in a questionable success rate.

That’s why we’re optimistic about a $150,000 grant from the state of Georgia to Coweta County’s Juvenile Court. The goal is to find new and innovative ways to deal with juvenile offenders.

What’s different about this program? First, it’s going to our juvenile court, headed by Judge Joe Wyant. We can think of no one better to spearhead this endeavor. Second, the program doesn’t just focus on the kid, but the family as well.

And that’s where too many similar programs fail. They concentrate so much on the at-risk kid that they forget to include a strong support base — family and adult mentors. We all regale in the stories of kids with nothing — no parents, broken homes — who through sheer determination succeed in life. Unfortunately, those stories are few and far apart.

As Wyant said in a recent interview in this paper, “we’ve found that most, if not all, kids who find themselves in our court for more serious offenses also have problems at home. Either the parent is absent physically or emotionally, or acts as an enabler of the child’s behavior.”

Wyant correctly points out kids need a proper foundation. The program, Functional Family Therapy, will focus not only on at-risk kids, but their families or guardians as well. In fact, counselors even go into the home to work with the entire family.

We congratulate the judge and his staff for going after funding for this program. And we look forward to seeing positive results coming from it.

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