By JD Green, Youth Services Crisis Services Manager
On October 27, 2015, Salt Lake County Youth Services was honored to be invited to the Youth Advocates of the Year award ceremony hosted by Juvenile Justice Services at the Salt Lake Valley Detention Center. The purpose was to honor six individuals whose work has had a significant impact on Utah’s youth in the last year.
The six individuals receiving awards were:
Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, Rep. Lowry Snow, R-Santa Clara, Republican Sen. Daniel Thatcher, Rep. Erik Hutchings, R-Kearns, Judge Dane Nolan and
Judge James Michie.
Combined, their work is helping juveniles have better access to legal counsel; enforcing their stay in detention until they are 18 even if they have been sentenced in adult court; not requiring shackles to be worn in court unless they are a risk to themselves or others; allowing judges greater flexibility to keep offenders in juvenile court instead of sending them to the adult system; utilize funding allocated for a Juvenile Receiving Center (JRC) in Price, Utah, and a JRC in Vernal, Utah; and restore funding to increase operational hours in other centers in the state.
It is important for Salt Lake County Youth Services to be part of the community and be recognized as an influential partner in regards to youth services in general and as a positive support for other JRC programs across Utah. Expansion in any of these areas supports our philosophical approach, demonstrating our value to these important community partners and the public in general.
These awards show that the therapeutic approach can achieve effective results, especially with cases new to the juvenile system. This is a movement away from a “one size fits all” approach. It shows there is a place for more restrictive environments and tools like shackles, however, there are enough instances where the needs of children and community are better served by a more therapeutic approach.
Having funding restored indicates that people outside of Salt Lake County government have been watching JRC programs, such as the largest and most successful JRC in the State located at Salt Lake County Youth Services, that were not subject to closure and reduced hours. This event was a clear indicator that providing children, youth and families in crisis with immediate safety, shelter and support is a recognized value in Utah.