Bill supporting at-risk youth heads to governor

Posted by: Allison Vanatsky  | Tuesday, March 26, 2019

STATEHOUSE (March 26, 2019) – Legislation sponsored by three local lawmakers creating a pilot program to support Hoosier children at high risk of becoming juvenile offenders could soon become law.

According to State Rep. Donna Schaibley (R-Carmel), proposed legislation would establish a two-year pilot program in five counties throughout the state to serve as an intervention initiative for children not yet in the court system. These children exhibit extreme behavioral issues that put themselves at risk.

“This program could offer much-needed support services like mentoring, mental health counseling and tutoring at no cost to families,” Schaibley said. “It is vital to address these behaviors before these children get involved in the juvenile justice system. This way they can be set on a better path toward graduation, a career and a productive life.”

The Indiana Supreme Court would implement the program to help juvenile court judges put this plan into action. Other state agencies would assist the courts in connecting youth to appropriate services. State Rep. Tony Cook (R-Cicero) said children could be referred to the program by parents, school staff or police, but participation would be voluntary and confidential.

“This program would be based on a model that has shown success in Hamilton County, known as the Youth Assistance Program,” Cook said. “Since it was established in Westfield in 2009, there has been a huge decrease in children being detained, despite the population growth our community has seen in recent years. These encouraging results are exactly why this program should be expanded. We cannot sit by and let children fall through the cracks when there is something that can be done to help them.”

According to State Rep. Chuck Goodrich (R-Noblesville), to develop a program that serves the wide variety of needs of all communities, at least one rural and one urban county would be included in the pilot.

“It is not always possible to control the challenges life throws as us, but this program can help provide these children the tools to make productive choices in the future,” Goodrich said. “Programs could coordinate with schools and local governments to determine the needs of young Hoosiers, identify any missing support systems and establish a plan.”

Senate Enrolled Act 596 is now eligible for action by the governor. Visit iga.in.gov to learn more.

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State Rep. Donna Schaibley (R-Carmel) represents House District 24, which includes portions of Boone and Hamilton counties.

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State Rep. Tony Cook (R-Cicero) represents House District 32, which includes all of Tipton County and portions of Hamilton, Madison, Delaware, Howard and Grant counties.

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State Rep. Chuck Goodrich (R-Noblesville) represents House District 29, which includes portions of Hamilton County.

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