Substance Abuse Coalition outlines truancy procedure

By Frank Weir
Legal News

Anyone who has worked with teens, knows that truancy is a behavior that leads nowhere.

And the Jackson County Substance Abuse Coalition knows it better than most.

The Coalition wants area residents to learn about the truancy process and what young truants can face.

It is also hoped that the process can help steer offenders away from more serious troubles.

The Coalition notes that the Juvenile Probation Department of the 4th Circuit Court – Family Division works with local schools and the Intermediate School District (ISD) to deal with truancy.

“According to policies set by the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, a youth is considered truant when they have 10 unexcused absences in a school year and determining truancy includes several steps,” a spokesperson said.

First, truancy complaints are submitted to the prosecutor’s office by school districts or the ISD where they are reviewed. 

If the prosecutor authorizes a petition (a formal request from the court), a hearing will be scheduled with either the Juvenile Referee or the Diversion Coordinator. 

For first petitions, an informal court hearing is conducted to set up a youth program.  If the program is successful, the youth's record will be concealed. 

“For second (or more) petitions, an inquiry hearing is scheduled with a referee and a probation officer will be assigned to the case.”

The Coalition said that the court uses two programs for youth with truancy issues including “Nurturing Parenting,” sponsored by The Child and Parent Center which has a Truancy Component. 

This 10-week program focuses on enhancing bonding and communication between parents and children and increases parenting skills in coping with stresses that arise in raising teens. 

The truancy session discusses what keeps youths from doing well in school and gives information on how to be more successful. 

Second, the Jackson County Youth Center runs a summer TIP (Truancy Intervention Program) day camp for five days at the end of the summer. 

“The program is designed to get teens focused for the upcoming school year. Youth Center staff monitor the first 30 days of school, by visiting each youth at school to check their attendance.  This follow up portion of TIP adds extra support during the critical transition from summer vacation to the beginning of the school year.”

Youth also are sent to the Juvenile Justice System for charges linked with drugs and alcohol. 

“Once petitioned to the court a youth may be placed in a diversion program or on probation depending on their past court history.  As with truancy, there is programming designed specifically for substance abuse.”

A First Time Offenders Program (FTOP) is offered to those who have no previous drug or alcohol charges. 

An assessment is completed on the youth to determine program eligibility. 

“FTOP is an educational program designed for youth and their parents to inform them of short and long term affects of abuse.  The program also teaches stress management and helps improve communication and strengthen the relationship between parents and youth.” 

FTOP is run by Family Services and Children’s Aid (funded through the Jackson County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition and Mid-South) and classes are held at the United Way of Jackson County. 

The program lasts for six sessions; three of the sessions parents and youths participate together.

If the assessment conducted determines a youth may be in need of a more intensive program, the youth is referred to Allegiance Substance Abuse Services. 

There, they may receive individual, group or a combination of both therapies.  If a youth successfully completes the FTOP or Allegiance Substance Abuse Program, the diverted

petition will be concealed at the court and will not be open to the public. 

“Through the hard work and dedication of local non-profit agencies, schools and the courts, the youth of Jackson County can have a chance to succeed in school and be drug and alcohol free,” a spokesperson for the Jackson County Substance Abuse Preventio Coalition said. 

“Teaming up with local agencies, the courts are able to give youth in Jackson County a chance to have their first (and hopefully last) petitions diverted and concealed if they are successful in programming.” 

For more information, contact: Jackson County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition , Kelsey Haynes at (517) 796-5133 or via email at khaynes@uwjackson.org

“Our efforts are funded through Mid-South Substance Abuse Commission and the Michigan Department of Community Health.”
 

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