Restorative Justice and Magna/Kearns Youth Court

Authored by Ricky Vigil
YS Afterschool Coordinator, Cyprus High School

We all make mistakes–what we do after those mistakes is what makes us who we are. Magna Kearns Youth Court was born out of a desire not only to keep juvenile offenders out IMG_0331of the court system, but to allow them to learn from their mistakes through restorative justice. Established in October 2016 at the request of the Magna Kearns Gang Reduction Program, Magna Kearns Youth Court held their first hearings in February 2016 and is currently preparing to process cases during the 2016-2017 school year. To that end, teen panelists from Cyprus, Kearns and Hunter high schools have been participating in training sessions throughout the summer.

Teens can be referred to Magna Kearns Youth Court by school resource officers or administrators for minor first time offenses–assault, vandalism, speeding, possession and other such offenses are handled by the court. Rather than being referred to juvenile court and tarnishing the offender’s record, youth court offers a restorative justice approach based on three pillars: accountability, community connection and skill building. The offender must admit to the charge, and is issued a disposition contract designed toIMG_0343 help them take responsibility for their actions while becoming more involved with their community and performing service that is relevant to their interests and future. Our panelists speak with both the youth and their parents, getting to know each of them in an effort that is not designed to prove guilt and issue punishment, but to move forward through accountability and service. By working in their schools, libraries and at local business such as Karma Bike Shop in Magna, youth build crucial skills and learn that their actions impact their entire community. The referred youth are also required to serve on the youth court panel, putting them on the other side of the table so they can serve as an advocate of kids like them. Upon successful completion of the contract, the referred youth graduates from the program, and their record remains clean. If they do not complete the contract or commit another offense during the course of the contract, however, they are referred back to the referral source.

IMG_0347Magna Kearns Youth Court is still very young, processing just a dozen cases in its first official season. Many of the original panelists have since graduated or otherwise moved on, but for the 2016-17 school year, we have recruited nearly 15 new panelists along with 5 returning students to serve the youth in their communities. Magna Kearns Youth Court took 15 students to Weber State University this July to participate in the Utah Youth Court Association teen conference, where they learned about dispositions and mentoring, among other topics, and they got to live the college experience by staying in the dorm for three nights and making use of the university’s many extracurricular resources. The panelists also participated in a training session last week at Youth Services, where they participated in the on-campus challenge course and were treated to presentations by Moises Prospero of the Regional Gang Reduction Partnership, Youth Services counselor Michael Cox, and Salvador Oregon of the Utah Pride Center. The panelists were given a better idea of why we do what we do in youth court as well as a better understanding of the communities they serve.

Panelists also participated in a mock trial, putting their newly learned mentoring and questioning techniques to the test. By connecting with the people and resources in theirIMG_0351 community, the panelists were better able to understand how to help the cases brought in front of them. They know they are not there to pass judgement, but rather to help build a bridge. One of the most striking things about the group we have assembled this year is how many big ideas they all have–of course, this experience will be a great piece on their resume and will help open some doors, but they were most interested in finding out what they could do in their community to help kids just like them who have made a mistake.

Through partnerships with Salt Lake County Township Services and Library Services as well as the Magna Kearns Gang Reduction Program, we are excited to be hosting Magna Kearns Youth Court through Youth Services. If you would like to partner with Magna Kearns Youth Court as a disposition option or have any questions, please email

Posted in After School Program, Bully, Communication Tips, Homeless Youth, Mental Health, SLCO, Success Stories, Truancy, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Power of Positive Movement with Tanner Dance Summer Camp and School Programs

 Authored by Maria Drummond, YS Recreation Therapist

IMG_4740Droop your face, slump your shoulders, lower your chin to your chest and let your arms hang limply at your side. While holding that pose, say “I feel great, I feel wonderful, I am happy!” How’d that work for you?

If you want to go above and beyond in your personal research, take on a joyful and open body position, and try feeling sad or scared. The way we hold our bodies affects the emotions we feel, often just as much as the emotions we feel affect the way we hold our bodies. Its true-there’s a TED Talk all about it.IMG_4747

At Tanner Dance, our children and teens get the opportunity to move their bodies in powerful, joyful, and open ways. Each summer, Tanner Dance puts on a special summer camp, just for the kids and teens in emergency shelter with Salt Lake County Youth Services. During the school year, we visit once a week for an hour long lesson at their beautiful dance studio.

IMG_4750We jump and roll and stomp to the beat. We clap and tip toe and slap the floor. We practice hip hop moves and pretend to be animals. We quietly notice the world around us. We write “I Am” poems and decorate plaster masks formed over our actual faces, so they really fit. And amid all the spilled paint, snack breaks, and ruckus of movement and experimentation, something beautiful can happen: kids and teens whose bodies know all too well the perils of abuse and neglect get to practice feeling safe, seen, and celebrated.

Not every kid, and especially not every teen, is bursting with excitement to participate at first. It can be scary to move in new ways, and it’s a very vulnerable thing to drop the ‘cool’ act and settle into the moment for a while for our teens. Rachel Kimball and the teachers who work with her at Tanner Dance do a beautiful job of creating safe, inviting space for our teens and kids to blossom in.IMG_4767 They support every timid attempt at participation, and by the end of a lesson, our kids and teens are feeling at minimum, a lower level of stress, and at best, a new found sense of courage and self-efficacy.

Here at Salt Lake County Youth Services, we are grateful to be able to partner with Tanner Dance, which is full of professional and compassionate people, ready to help EVERY child and teen access the exciting feelings that come with self-expression through movement, art, and music.

Feeling a little stressed as school schedules are IMG_4774bumping into summer habits? Try turning up the radio to your favorite tune, and give yourself the length of the song to dance like you just don’t care in your kitchen or living room. You may be surprised at how much better you feel afterwards.

Want to learn more about the important correlation between our bodies and our emotions? Check out Bessel van der Kolk’s best seller: The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma.

Working with significant or chronic stress? Give us a call at 385-468-4500. We are here to help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Posted in Communication Tips, Family Activities, Mental Health, SLCO, Success Stories, therapist, Volunteers and Boards, Youth Groups | Leave a comment

Salt Lake County Youth Services – Ayuda para los jóvenes

Authored by Nefy Ledezma, Youth Services Crisis Counselor

División de servicios para los jóvenes (Division of youth services) del condado de Salt Lake, está aquí para ayudarle a usted y a su familia. Nosotros ofrecemos múltiples servicios enfocados a ayudar a los padres y a sus jóvenes  mejorar su situación y su relación mutual.

Que servicios ay disponibles para ayudarle a usted y a su joven?
Ofrecemos  varios servicios al público para mejorar la seguridad, proveer vivienda en casos de emergencia y  facilitar soporte a los jóvenes y a sus familias.

Hoy abarramos de uno de los muchos servicios que están a la disposición de la comunidad por medio de la división de servicios para los jóvenes.

Juvenile Receiving Center: Es un programa para ayudar a los jóvenes o/y a los padres que se encuentran en una crisis. Este programa ofrece consejería, referencias y viviendasafeplace (a corto plazo) los 7 días a la semana y las 24 horas al día. Los jóvenes, sus padres o la policía pueden traer jóvenes que han huido de sus hogares, que están en conflicto, o que han cometido delitos menores. Los jóvenes permanecerán hasta que su guardián legal puede ser contactado y así desarrollar un plan de servicio.

SI usted tiene preguntas o quisiera saber más acerca de este o cualquier otro servicio que proveemos  puede contactarnos en donde le sea más conveniente de los nuestros dos localidades:

• Youth Services Main Facility:
177 W Price Avenue (3610 S)
South Salt Lake, UT 84115
Hours: 24/7
Phone: 385-468-4500

• Riverton Location:
1262 W 12700 S
Riverton, UT 84065
Hours: Monday-Friday 8 AM to 6 PM
Phone: 385-468-4610

No se la olvide regresar a revisar a este lugar de Web por nuestro siguiente artículo que describirá otros programas que usted puede acezar por medio de la división a servicios para los jóvenes.

Posted in After School Program, Child Abuse, Communication Tips, Family Counseling, Homeless Youth, Mental Health, Parenting Tips, Safe Place, SLCO, Substance Abuse, Success Stories, Teen Counseling, therapist, Uncategorized, Volunteers and Boards, Youth Groups | Leave a comment

Coping with School Stress

Authored by Kent Larsen, Therapist/Counseling Services

why_we_do_what_we_doAs we approach the starting of school many of our children and teens have mixed emotions as being in school adds a lot of stress that didn’t exist in the same way during the summer.  Stresses come in many areas to children and teens. Some of the most frequent stresses are of…

1. Being able to get all their school work done on time and turned in when due.
2. Being able to work and go to school at the same time without getting behind.
3. Fear of being bullied.
4. Fear of being rejected by peers.(Are people going to like me?).
5. Fear of not being able to make it on the team  (volleyball, soccer, football, basketball, softball, baseball, wrestling, etc.).
6. Balancing extracurricular activities and social life with the demands of school work.
What can be done about these stresses?  Is it possible to make it through a year of school without being totally stressed out?

In facing the many stresses that going to school adds to a person’s life, there are ways of coping that increase one’s ability to function well and that reduce the amount of stress that a child faces.

Mother-helping-child-with-homework-e1440606707140One of the biggest keys to a student’s success is parent involvement in their lives, particularly their school lives. This involvement need not be overbearing, but it needs to be to a point where parents are accessible to their children and also can tell how their children are doing and if help is needed. Parents can often tell if their children are stressed out, upset about something, or not functioning well. It is appropriate for parents to ask questions of their children if something is suspected and to be willing to help. Parent assistance can be through helping children with given school subjects that the parent has knowledge of or connecting their kids with a family members or friend of the family who is able to offer assistance. It can also be done through tutoring provided through their school or after school programs that Salt Lake County Youth Services offers on some Granite District schools. The Boy’s and Girl’s clubs in Salt Lake County provide some homework assistance as well help can also be provided by the teacher of the specific subject before or after school, depending on the teacher.

For ADHD diagnosed children there are special challenges that can be addressed by parents, teachers, principals, and sometimes through pediatricians (who have the ADHD treatment specialty) or child and teen psychiatrists. See CHADD on-line for more information on helping kids and their parents cope with those unique challenges.  Children not doing well in school is a risk factor for substance abuse and delinquency and violence.

While teens love having their own money, their ability to work with school in session needs to be evaluated on an ongoing bases. Many parents require that their teens have reasonable grades if they are allowed to have a part-time job while school is in session.  Often more work hours can be done on the weekends so that more time is available on school nights to complete homework. Parents need to intervene if bosses require late hours or too many hours.

The same goes for extra-curricular activities and social activities as work hours:  such as clubs, sports, being on the yearbook staff, participation school plays, etc. While it is wonderful for children and teens to be involved in all of the activities they can, school success needs to be among the highest of priorities.  It is likely not possible for a child or teen to be involved in all they wish to be involved in. Parents can be involved in assisting teens to make some of these tough decisions.

Children’s very real fear of bullying is in the news quite often and is a very real possibility for most children and teens. They can be trained in defusing rude comments without counter-attaching and save face in most situations. Children should learn to stand up for themselves without fighting with of insulting the bully. Situations that come outside of the child’s or teen’s ability to control must be reported to appropriate school teachers, counselors, principals, and other school staff or playground duties.    Children have the right to feel safe and secure at school.  (Stay tuned for a future blog by me on the subject).

Fear of acceptance is also a fear that most teens and children face. It is much easier to be accepted (at a superficial level) by children who break the law, drink, smoke cigarettes and use marijuana or other drugs, disrupt class, and generally get in trouble. This can have a serious impact and a negative influence on children. They must be taught to be patient and careful to pick the right kids of friends and that they don’t have to please everyone. Not everyone has to like them because not everyone will like them. (Parent involvement and guidance on this issue is key to child and kid success).

While it is important for children to be involved in things they enjoy, not everyone can make it on the football team or as a cheer leader. coachandboy Kids benefit from having back-plans which can include hobbies, involvement in clubs, student government, plays, drill team, yearbook club, etc. Everyone needs something they can do that gives them self-value and a sense of belonging.  Video games, while fun to play, don’t necessarily count as a hobby or involvement for this category. If a teen or child has a couple of things going that makes them feel good about themselves they fare better through times of rejection.  These must also be balanced with school assignment demands, as many of these activities can demand a lot of time.

kids-learningSalt Lake County Youth Services provides short-term (two months) individual and family counseling to assist children 8-17 and their families in Salt Lake County and some adjoining counties to address these issues. Youth Services also provides longer term counseling for children 8-17 who have Medicaid or no medical insurance for mental health issues or who have longer term therapy needs. Youth Services also has substance abuse treatment programs for those who have Medicaid or no insurance.

Those who have significant depression, anxiety, and other mental health needs are usually benefitted by ongoing counseling and some are greatly helped by medication.  Mental health issues can be a serious risk factor if not treated by professionals. One by one, each of these stresses can be dealt with in a way that is beneficial for each child or teen. Success in school is one of the main protective factors against violence, summer_kids_delinquency, and substance abuse. Reducing stresses or anxiety to reasonable levels is a crucial protective factor against violence, delinquency and substance abuse, and usually not impossible to do if parents, children and teens work together. Help make the school year the best experience for your children and family.

Join us at our open house scheduled for August 25th from 5:30-7:30p to learn about counseling or and other programs for children, youth and family that Salt Lake County Youth Services  provides. Or call call 385-468-4500.


Posted in After School Program, Bully, Communication Tips, Family Counseling, Internet and Technology, Parenting Tips, Safe Place, SLCO, Substance Abuse, Success Stories, Teen Counseling, therapist, Treatment, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

National Summer Learning Day

Authored by Danielle Latta, SLCO Youth Services Afterschool Program Manager

National Summer Learning Day was celebrated on July 14th in Summer Programs across the nation.  This incentive, led by the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA), highlights the importance of keeping kids learning, safe and healthy every summer.  Research shows that summers without quality learning opportunities put our nation’s youth at risk for falling behind—year after year—in core subjects such as math and reading. The math and reading skills low-income students lose each summer are cumulative, and contribute significantly to the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income kids. Many kinds of high-quality learning opportunities during the summer can make a difference in stemming learning loss, from reading and math to sports, cooking, nature, arts, STEM, and more.  Summer programs also play a critical role in child nutrition, serving as feeding sites for the federal summer meals program. Summer meals ensure that low-income students who rely on subsidized meals during the school year do not go hungry in the summer, and draw students to attend learning and enrichment programs.National Summer Learning Day 2

Youth Services just wrapped up 8 weeks and 3 Summer Programs in Kearns and Magna serving over 150 youth a day. Kearns Jr. High Summer Blast Summer Learning Day National Summer Learning Day 3Event was held on July 19th, 2016. Youth participants were exposed to a wide range of learning opportunities mixed with a lot of fun. Weekly field trips included college campus tours, visits to the pool, museums, hiking parks and much more! Other popular activities included archery, Capoeira, bowling, biking, Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), sports and art.  Instructors from West Valley Capoeira did a demonstration of the Brazilian Martial Arts that student participated in throughout the summer.

Jan Van Der Beek, Kearns Jr. High Coordinator sharing the importance of summer learning to youth and their families. Student from Kearns Jr. Summer Blast Program showing off her talents by singing a beautiful song in celebration of summer learning.

National Summer Learning DaySummer is not over yet, there’s still time for parents and youth alike to take action.  Here are some resources provided by Utah Afterschool Association:

The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA): is the only national nonprofit focused on closing the achievement gap by increasing summer learning opportunities for all youth. NSLA offers expertise and support for programs and communities and advocates for summer learning as a solution for equity and excellence in education.
The Crucial Role of Summer and Enrichment: Songwriters might call summer “lazy and “endless,” but education researchers have found it’s a potential danger zone. That’s because many young people lose ground over the summer in terms of reading and other things learned in school. Find out more by You 4 Youth.

  • Tips to keep tweens and teens learning during the summer
  • Tips to keep kids active and healthy during the summer
  • 10 Tips to help you plan for summer learning
  • Summer Matters: 10 Things Every Parent, Teacher, & Principal Should
  • Know About June, July, & August

Readers will be entertained by the quotes and anecdotes, surprised by the facts, and ultimately, encouraged by the knowledge that they can, and should foster learning even when schools are closed. Mixing evidence, stories and expert accounts in a highly readable format, Summers Matter introduces readers to the problem of summer learning loss and provides tips and guidance for parents, teachers and principals. Summers Matter available on

  • Tips to keep tweens and teens learning during the summer
  • Tips to keep kids active and healthy during the summer
  • Summer learning ideas at home and in your community
  • Top 10 “Easy Summer Learning Tips”
  • 10 Tips to help you plan for summer learning

To learn more about our Afterschool Programs please go to call 385-468-4500 and ask for Danielle Latta.

Posted in After School Program, Communication Tips, Family Activities, Homeless Youth, Safe Place, SLCO, Success Stories, Teen Counseling, Youth Groups | Leave a comment

Does Pokémon Go Have Health Benefits?

Authored by Khanh Tong, Salt Lake County Youth Services Case Manager

Adults and children are heading out of their homes and into the streets to catch Pokémon, and it has been a great health benefit for many since the game encourages people to walk tPokeman go 2o designated places. You can catch Pokémon or find rare items for the game at a virtually designated place called a PokeStop.

In addition, to the physical health benefits it also has mental health benefits as well; we’ve seen Twitter and Facebook fill with people claiming that the game has help them get out of the house.  People are said that they didn’t want to leave the house before due to anxiety or depression, but now feel compelled to get outside because they need to catch those rare items for the game which can only be located at certain location on the map.
At many parks in Salt Lake City, we also see that people circling up with their faces still glued to their phone, and their fingers flicking to catching Pokémon. And, people are making new friends, talking about the Pokémon they’ve caught and how to get rare items for the game.

We asked Chris Bereshnyi, Salt Lake County Youth Services Family Therapist his thoughts about the Pokémon craze. Chris said, “Pokémon Go can help those who have social anxiety because they’re in the social environment while at the same time distracted from their anxious thoughts because they’re playing Pokémon.”

We should be cautious to say that Pokémon Go is the solution for depression and anxiety; with any good intervention, only time will show if it will have long lasting effect. For nowPokeman go the game has both physical and mental health benefits and we can see that people are responding well to it.

If youth are looking for additional help with any kind mental health issues, they can find help at Salt Lake County Youth Services. We have psycho-educational classes, therapist, crisis counselors, family resource facilitators and case manager available onsite 24/7. Most of these services are provided without a charge to the public or we accept Medicaid. Call 385-468-4500 for additional information and consultation.

Posted in After School Program, Communication Tips, Family Activities, Family Counseling, Mental Health, Mental Health, SLCO, Teen Counseling, therapist, Youth Groups | Leave a comment

Summer Youth Technology Use

Authored by Sally Hannon
Afterschool Program Coordinator, Lake Run Elementary

The weeks prior to children returning to the school year are among the least structured and least supervised span of time, and thus present unlimited entertainment and teen-boys-video-gamesdistraction needs. The tablet, laptop or cell phone have now replaced adult supervision.  Technology is a permanent fixture for youth and it provides many positive educational, social, and emotional outlets for youth. Many studies estimate that children between ages 5-18 spend about seven hours online every day. As with anything that is overused, significant damage is inevitable.

This form of entertainment grossly limits their imagination, creativity, and motor skills. It also increases physical, psychological and behavior disorders in developing youth-digital-kids-code-onlinechildren. Because the human brain continues to develop well into your early twenties, psychologists, neurologists and pediatricians agree that the increased presence of electronics is augmenting children’s minds. There is also strong evidence that increased use of technology is leading kids to lose their ability to feel compassion and empathy toward those who are feeling pain, sorrow, anger, or other type of emotions.

kids6368Technology isn’t going away, but for our youth, it is helpful to approach its use with balance.  Perhaps for every hour they spend outside throwing a Frisbee with friends or family, they are rewarded with one hour of a video game. If they visit your nearby library and pick a book to take home (and read it), reward them with one television show episode.  The more parents and guardians provide diverse chances for our youth can spend their time, the better you will enhance their creative, social and emotional learning.

Salt Lake County Youth Services encourages and teaches youth life style balance when it comes to the importance of helping them develop and choose healthy options. For more information about our Afterschool Program call 358-468-4500 or visit our website at

Posted in After School Program, Communication Tips, Family Activities, Mental Health, Parenting Tips, Safe Place, SLCO, Youth Groups | Leave a comment