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Training underway for screening at-risk youth

DeKALB – Officials from around DeKalb County will begin training this week for a screening program designed to help rehabilitate delinquent youth.

Orbis’ Youth Assessment and Screening Instrument is a tool already used by every probation department in the state. It determines whether children are at low, moderate or high risk of committing a crime and then recommends different services to help them turn their lives around.

Several local police departments will now be using the same tool, thanks to a $81,200 one-year grant the DeKalb County Juvenile Justice Council received from the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission. The grant will cover the $15,000 four-day web-based training. Excess money will go toward the hiring of three part-time employees who will be trained in a more intensive assessment that involves working with the youths’ families.

The council would have started using the screening tool earlier had it been in operation, said Donna Moulton, DeKalb County Juvenile Justice Council chairwoman.

Judge Ron Matekaitis started the council in the early 2000’s when he was the DeKalb County State’s Attorney. When he became a judge, no one took over leadership of the council until current State’s Attorney Richard Schmack revised the bylaws, allowing the council to continue as its own entity.

This is the first time one risk assessment tool will be used throughout the county to help at-risk youth. Previously, some local police agencies would conduct their own pre-screening, Moulton said.

DeKalb, Sycamore, Sandwich and Genoa police departments and the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office all have signed on to use the Youth Assessment and Screening Instrument screening.

“Everybody was doing their own thing,” Moulton said. “Our hope is, the further along we get, we’ll all use the same [program] so it’s consistent.

“If we have the same terms and ideas about youth behaviors, then maybe we can be more effective going forward.”

The four-day training this week is being split into two parts: The first two days will train 13 law enforcement officials, as well as 28 DeKalb County officials. Thirteen people will participate in the last two days, said Peggy Carey, DeKalb County Juvenile Justice Council program coordinator.

The training will teach participants what the tool is and why it’s important to assess a youth’s risks. Based on what areas a youth is found to be at risk – such as drug use or poverty – they are pointed to appropriate services to enhance chances of being successful, Carey said.

Carey said one of the most common areas of risk tends to be in a youth’s attitudes and skills, which involve how they deal with their problems.

“This is a research-validated tool used internationally,” Carey said. “We know that it works.”

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