The Monroe County Youth Services Bureau, a social service organization, is developing new programs to address truancy, substance abuse and other issues affecting the wellbeing of local adolescents and their families.
“Truancy is a symptom of an issue,” Louis Malone, the deputy director of YSB said. “Obviously we want everybody to be in school every day that they can be, but truancy in and out of itself often means there’s an underlying issue.”
Malone said the bureau plans to implement intensive case management to cater to each student and their unique familial situation. Malone said this will be effective because it allows for different forms of intervention and improves long-term relationships between schools and families.
School is more than traditional subjects like reading and arithmetic — it’s a chance to engage in the community, Malone said. Missing out on that chance to engage, as well as missing out on the educational aspect, can create issues in kids’ lives later on.
Victoria Thevenow, the executive director of the Youth Services Bureau, said YSB continues to work with the Juvenile Probation Department to address truancy. The organization has tried many times to resolve the issue, but hasn’t found an ideal solution.
“We could get a youth to go back to school, but only during their period of probation or supervision,” Thevenow said.
She said YSB wants to find a long-term solution and implement more regular communication between all parties: social workers, the youth at risk, their family, probationary officers and others.
Using existing funds from an established special-purpose income tax, Thevenow said YSB will be able to provide multifaceted casework services to the community.
“It also fits in really well with advocacy because that gives us an opportunity to talk about some underlying issues once we get into business,” Thevenow said. “It gives us the opportunity to really dive into some underlying issues that might be affecting multiple parts of the community.”
She said several factors play into truancy: homelessness, unstable scheduling because parents have to work different hours, youth or parental substance abuse and a lack of priority emphasis on education.
The issue affects adolescents of all ages. There are even cases where multiple siblings don’t attend school for periods of time, she said.
Thevenow said the case managers stay at the Services Bureau but often meet with the families in their homes as well as social workers at the school to tailor to the student and family needs.
“It is our hope that if a family in Monroe County or anywhere needs some support, they’re welcome to call us and if we can’t provide the service directly, we would make referrals to places that could,” Thevenow said. “We want to be the place that you think of when there are issues with children or families.”
Linda Brady, the chief probation officer of Monroe County, said she is grateful to Thevenow and Malone for their planning efforts and programming at the Youth Services Bureau.
She said she worked with Monroe County for 37 years and has always collaborated with Youth Services.
She said Thevenow, the court administrator and herself comprise the court management team and created an inherent relationship. Brady said with juvenile-related issues, their team involves Monroe Circuit Court Judge Stephen Galvin too.
Brady said the pandemic delayed planning and kickstarting the substance abuse program — a program with staff training the YSB planned to be in person.
She said hiring also became a bigger issue across programs but she hopes those who apply will stay for a long time and make an impact on the community.
“The plan is to meet with youth and families where they are, a strength-based approach that hopefully will help the youth avoid becoming formally involved with the Juvenile Justice System,” Brady said in an email to the Indiana Daily Student.