Closure of county youth home leads to change in thinking

The April closure of the Marquette County Youth Home was a cause of concern for many.

The home was a two-bed, state-licensed, non-secure facility used for short-term detention of delinquents and status offenders.

Unfortunately, even though the home was closed, there still was a need for dealing with troubled youths.

However, the closure has created the need for the juvenile court to provide alternatives, one of which has been placing more emphasis on individual assessments to provide more accurate services.

A full-time intake diversion specialist has been hired for the juvenile court to address this situation.

The Great Lakes Recovery Centers provides emergency shelter care for delinquent youths, with more beds possibly available at Teaching Family Homes of Upper Michigan in Sands Township. The courthouse also has regional detention support services to temporarily house children who will be supervised by a probation officer.

Chances are youths being at risk is always going to be a problem, so solutions always will have to be developed.

Probate Court Judge Cheryl Hill wants to develop a specialized local foster home for children in need of non-secure, long-term placement, which would be in the region, not downstate, so they can be near their parents.

In the meantime, they are being placed in local foster care or with relatives, plus the court is still using secure detention facilities in Escanaba and St. Ignace as well as non-secure downstate facilities for youngsters who need longer-term placements.

The whole issue of what to do with at-risk youths is a work in progress.

Some youths might be better suited to one type of placement versus another, depending on their individual problems and behavioral issues, and the economics that forced the youth home’s closure might very well lead to better solutions down the road.

There probably isn’t a one-cure-fits-all solution, so many possibilities have to considered and developed if delinquent and troubled Marquette County youths are to be nurtured.

If they aren’t, the problems will manifest themselves down the road with adult incarceration and even homelessness issues.