SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Before 1991, the building at 933 Roberson Ave. used to house the entire Greene County Juvenile Justice Center, including detention. Today the juvenile center is down the street but now, but since the Commission a few months ago, 933 will once again be used to work with youth.
“In some ways, we are sort of coming home again,” said Bill Prince, Chief Juvenile Officer and Family Court Administrator.
The Greene County Youth Academy moved out of two old dilapidating buildings along Booneville, into what used to be the Commission’s Office. The Diversion Program has also moved into that building.
Juvenile workers say they hope the new location will be a one-stop shop for youth going through the system and their families, and hopefully their last stop.
The Greene County Juvenile Justice Center receives from 1,700 to 2,000 referrals every year on offenses ranging from truancy to homicides and everything in between, according to Prince. For some of those kids, Prince says the offense is serious enough to bring them into juvenile detention.
“Offenses that involve harm to a person, serious assault, serious property damage, sexual assault,” said Prince.
But for many others, who are younger, first-time or low crime offenders, there are other options. Youth Academy is one of them. It’s a day program ordered by the courts. Jamie Raab, is the director of community-based services and the person who supervises the two programs. She says kids attend classes, participate in therapy and other activities.
“They do earn credit through Springfield Public Schools while they’re here,” Raab said. “Some of our kids come in on a second-grade reading level, and some kids may have all of their credits and ready to graduate high school. So, it really varies on the level of the kids.”
She says there are on average 8 to 10 kids in the Youth Academy every day.
“We also provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the kids,” Raab said.
The diversion program, on the other hand, is voluntary for families and focuses on even less serious cases that include stealing, minor possession of drugs and minor assaults. Two full-time diversion officers work directly with youth and their families.
Its goal is to keep kids from getting deeply involved in the criminal justice system and prevent them from becoming frequent offenders.
“A kid who is referred here under the Diversion program doesn’t have a case number, they are not entered into the formal system,” Prince said. “The idea is to catch these kids when they are young, provide a strength-based service to not only them but their families, and adjust their conduct and hopefully never see them again,”
As both programs expand, Prince hopes to include anger management and GED classes.