Pilot program bringing families of at-risk youth closer together

A pilot program is working to change the trajectory of at-risk youth and help them become productive citizens. 

The pilot program is the only one of its kind in the state of Oklahoma, and it is tearing down barriers between troubled families, while also helping to reduce the recidivism rate of teen offenders.

“This is Tulsa County and this is happening right here, and we have these troubles,” Robert Mouser, Clinical Supervisor of the Tulsa County Juvenile Bureau said.

A team of researches found that most juvenile detention facilities are missing a critical piece of rehabilitation from the puzzle, and that is family. Currently, two of Tulsa’s Schweitzer fellows, who are also doctoral students at OSU Tulsa, are a part of the program, along with the juvenile facility’s clinical director and his team.

“We got together with the ladies at OSU and partnered up to develop a family parenting group through strengthening families,” Mouser said.

The group identified what at-risk youth need to better express themselves to family members, and used those needs to strengthen family bonds.

“We’re hearing from kids, that after completing our program and throughout the program, that their regular detention visits with their parents are not superficial anymore,” Brooke Tuttle, an Albert Schweitzer Fellow said.

It is believed the tighter bond among families has proven to reduce the chance a youthful offender will end up back in the juvenile system.

“Some of these kids have never been asked ‘What do you want to do in the future? Where do you see your life going,” Ashley Harvey, an Albert Schweitzer Fellow said.

The exercises executed during the program are giving at-risk youth and their families a clear path forward, building a support system that didn’t exist before. The teams said the response from the kids and their families is overwhelming and is giving them special memories they have been missing.

“Bottom line, we all want what’s best for our community and we all want public safety,” Tuttle said.

She adds safe communities mean safe families. The pilot program aims to reset the path of at-risk kids, and hopefully keep them from committing other crimes in the future.

The program has already been proven so successful the county wants to find funding to continue the program, and possible extend it to help kids after they return home.

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