The former chief explains why youth aid is important as an org. Turns 65
The former chief explains why youth aid is important as an org. Turns 65
(Crystal A. Proxmire, December 2, 2018)
Oakland County, MI – Recently retired Auburn Hills Police Chief Doreen Olko has seen firsthand what happens when children are exposed to abuse, poverty or neglect. Often times when young people are in conflict with the law it means something else is going on in their lives. The mission of Aide à la jeunesse is “to strengthen young people and families, and to prevent and reduce the incidence of delinquency, neglect and abuse through community involvement”. And they’ve been doing it for 65 years.
Olko was the keynote speaker at Friday’s annual Oakland County Youth Support and Sponsors Appreciation Breakfast meeting.
She spoke of a lesson she learned early in her career, working as a Patrol Officer in Ingham County in the late 1970s.
“As a police officer working on the streets, you are assigned a wide variety of calls – it’s not uncommon to see domestic violence calls,” she said. “There are almost always children present.
“I was an officer before the domestic violence laws, when the police couldn’t make an arrest for an assault they had not witnessed. Often our only option was to advise. Otherwise, we have packed crying women and children in the middle of the night to move them to friends and relatives.
“In some homes, we did it over and over again. When I look back I realize how little we understood and how few resources we had to deal with these critical incidents…
“In one case, we had the case of a girl who we met over and over again because she started running away from a young age. Her name was Sarah. She was involved in a series of low-intensity criminal incidents and developed associates who were not in her best interest. Her demeanor was defiant and at times she was aggressive. We took her home over and over again.
“Her mother was deceased and she was living with her father and younger siblings. At the time, I considered my job to be responsible for getting her home and going on the next call… What we didn’t know was that she was regularly sexually assaulted by her father. She never told us, probably because we never asked her in a way or at a time that encouraged a truthful response. And we had no resources to refer her to.
“Sarah was an adult before the truth came out. I was horrified at the part I played in bringing her back to this abusive relationship.
Chief Olko said that programs like Youth Aid make situations like Sarah’s very different. The agents are further removed from the needs of the family and they have the tools to help, and the children and their caregivers have a potential way of making things better.
Youth Assistance is a program that started in Hazel Park in 1953 to help solve delinquency problems. This includes having a social worker to help children and families with advice and resources, as well as providing workshops for parents and children to teach skills to help them cope. stress and overcome the problems of life. There is also a mentoring program, youth activities, rewards programs for youth who may not be as often recognized as successful, and support services such as having someone to help with homework.
Hazel Park Youth Assistance was so successful that Farmington, Madison Heights, Rochester, Royal Oak, Southfield and Troy launched theirs a few years later. Between 1953 and 1983, 26 chapters of youth assistance were opened across the county, and a county-wide coordinating council has been formed to help serve all sections.
Youth Assistance is a program unique to Oakland County, but it has inspired similar groups to form across the country. When Olko arrived at the Auburn Hills Police Department, she gradually learned more and more about the organization.
“I learned that Youth Aid brings together caring adults with a core mission – to provide social support to children before they reach the criminal justice system,” she said.
“I know the police cannot stop our exit from crime and community unrest. While we need to hold offenders accountable, we also need to invest in prevention wherever possible. “
Olko shared information from a study conducted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Yale School of Medicine Child Study Center, and US Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Crime Prevention. The study found that unidentified and unsupported children in their recovery from exposure to violence are at higher risk for school failure, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, personality, involvement with the criminal and juvenile justice systems, repeated victimization and perpetration of violence. , higher rates of chronic physical illness and premature death.
“I have seen these results up close throughout my career in law enforcement. What I didn’t clearly understand was the close relationship between these violent events and the long-term impact on children, ”said Olko.
In 2017, Youth Assistance was able to send 1,690 children to camps or skills-building programs. School districts and municipalities have contributed a total of $ 1.3 million to help support youth assistance programs. 7,204 young people took part in activities sponsored by Aide à la jeunesse. 1,986 parents participated in family education programs. And volunteers from across the county dedicated 39,617 hours of their precious time to help support children in their community.
Dr Michael Simony of the Simony Dental Group was among those who volunteered their time and resources to help in 2018. A young man from Avondale Schools had serious dental problems. Many of his teeth had barely protruded from his gums, and the ones that had were extremely crooked. “When you know someone who has dental problems, it’s not just your teeth. It affects your ability to eat and speak. And that impacts your ability to show emotions, ”said Mary Schusterbauer, Oakland County Youth Welfare Officer. “When I met William he didn’t show any emotion. Now he smiles and talks more.
This is because Dr Simony and his team stepped in to help. They worked with William for several months, using a progression of braces to bring his smile to life, a process that helps William be more confident in all aspects of life. Dr Simony received a Youth Champion award at Friday’s event.
The other Champion of Youth award went to Bloomfield Township Police Officer David VanKerckhove and all the students who helped with a special project. For years, youth aid groups have used a seriously outdated shoplifting video. Volunteers joked about bad sound effects and 1980s fashion. “Kids don’t steal 8-track tapes anymore,” one of the volunteers teased. This year, Agent VanKerckhove launched the idea of having the children of Bloomfield High School redo the video. The young people filmed scenes inside the school, courthouse, prison and even inside a local store to give a more modern version. This video is now being used across the county to help families understand this issue.
Officer Kerckhove accepted the award on behalf of the teens, and the young actors will also be surprised with the Amazon gift cards.
The event was also a celebration of the people who help improve the lives of children. With dozens of volunteers in the room, as well as elected officials, those in the justice system, and those in police departments and school districts, it’s clear how communities are working together to help. Youth Aid accepts donations, whether financial or temporary. Learn more about the Mentors Plus program and other ways to get involved on the Oakland County Youth Support website.