Carson City’s Juvenile Probation Services works to improve family life | NevadaAppeal.com

Carson City’s Juvenile Probation Services works to improve family life

When most think of Juvenile Probation Services, they think of an organization that focuses just on youth, but it's much more than that.

One of the goals of JPO is to work to improve a juvenile's family life to help reduce recidivism rates, and to do that, the agency has implemented a number of family-centered programs to help parents and children.

"Our goal is to work with the families and youth to bring a positive change," said Deputy Chief of Juvenile Probation Linda Lawlor. "We interface with the juveniles but we have expanded that to parents and guardians… we go above and beyond what typical probation officers would do for parents."

One of their biggest programs is their Parent Project initiative, which provides parents with the skills and resources to better handle adolescent destructive behavior.

"Parents will come in and say they don't have good relationships where they don't even talk with their children and they say they are like prisoners in their own homes," said Juvenile Probation Officer and class facilitator Tony Urrutia. "At the end they have implemented tools and can take the role of parents again."

The program started about two years ago after Urrutia spoke with a parent who had gone through the program in California and decided to bring it to Carson City. Urrutia said since starting the project, they've gotten all positive feedback from participants.

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"That support is created and the parents see a light at the end of the tunnel, you see hope that they can do things," Urrutia said. "When you have kids, they don't give you a manual for how to raise them, but this helps them do things without escalating things and it teaches them how to have that conversation with a troubled youth instead of just screaming."

Some of the parents are court ordered to attend the class while others volunteer for it and while at first many are resistant to the program, in the end they enjoy it, Urrutia said.

"We get tons of letters at the end saying how it has helped them," Urrutia said.

"In my experience as a facilitator, we built a relationship with the parents and they don't see us as police officers, they see us as more support for them so it gets them engaged with the juvenile and we get nothing but positive feedback."

The class is 10 weeks, two hours a week and is offered in Spanish and English.

"The benefit of this is that it's not preventive, it's intervention," said Senior Juvenile Probation Officer and class facilitator Jesse Gutierrez. "We want the youth who are struggling and get them tools to implement a foundation in the home."

Gutierrez said many of the parents are receptive to the class after the first few sessions because it's run by the parents instead of having the facilitators just talk at them.

"The parents run it and take over and own it," Gutierrez said.

"They help each other and they can rely on the support of similar parents with real issues and that's the best part."

The class covers lessons from communication, recognizing signs and symptoms of drugs and alcohol, gang intervention and runaways. They also bring in other agencies such as the Sheriff's Office Gang Unit, National Alliance for Mental Illness and more. Urrutia said they emphasize love and affection over everything for the parents have to say it more to their children with meaning.

"I have had parents thank me for starting the program and providing those skills because they said it changed their life and changed how they interact with their child and that in turn has positively changed their family," said Chief of Juvenile Probation Ali Banister.

But, the agency offers nearly a dozen programs based around the family and youth.

"We are so fortunate to have more programs in place than I've ever known because one program works for one youth and not the other, so having a variety makes it easier to offer to more juveniles," Lawlor said.

One of JPO's lesser-known programs is the informal walk-in and crisis intervention program, where parents can make appointments to have their children talk to a probation officer even without being on probation.

"If a parent is having issues and doesn't know what to do, they can come in and talk to an on-call probation officer and get referrals to services and plug into programs we may have in place," Lawlor said. "We can also just sit down and talk to a juvenile and that alone may open their eyes and is all that is needed for a behavior change."

The purpose of this program is to hopefully stop delinquent behavior before the juvenile ends up in the probation system.

With all of their programming, the officers hope to connect the families and youth so the juveniles have a better chance for behavior change and no longer are involved in the juvenile probation system.

"We are a piece of the youth's life, but the parents are the foundation," Gutierrez said.

"If there isn't a good foundation those pieces fall apart, so you need to have the family incorporated to keep that foundation.

"If there isn't a good home setting, then you won't have good kids so it starts at the home with the parents because they are the biggest role models."

Programs and services Offered By juvenile Probation:

School Resource Officers

Parent Project

Entrepreneur Mentorship

Play by the Rules — teaches youth to develop civic responsibility

Co-occurring Groups — for youth with multiple disorders such as mental illness and addiction

Mental Health Diversion

Forward Thinking — assists youth in making positive changes to their thoughts

Leadership/Resilience — summer program to work with high-risk youth in an intensive and structured manner

Ropes Courses — addresses team building, leadership and confidence

Outpatient drug and alcohol services

Walk-in and Crisis Intervention

Community Service

Alcohol and Drug Education

Drug Testing

Electronic Monitoring

Restitution

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