Program aims at helping Macomb county teens

The Macomb County Juvenile Justice Center, the Health Department and the Animal Shelter are collaborating to raise delinquent teens’ sense of self-worth while training shelter animals to become suitable for adoption, according to program officials.
The Teacher’s Pet program, which began about a year ago in Macomb County, is a joint effort the three departments, and serves Juvenile Justice Center teens ages 14 to 17.
As part of program, according to Juvenile Justice Center Director Charles Seidelman, young men and women are paired with shelter animals, who they train twice weekly for seven weeks.
The animals learn to interact with humans, come when called, and respond to basic commands such as “sit,” or “stay,” so that they become more highly adoptable.
For the teens, the experience helps foster self-esteem, empathy, and lower recidivism, according to Seidelman.
“It’s an overall confidence builder for the kids,” he said. “They really learn a lot of positive traits when they work with these dogs.”
The program, according to Seidelman, “teaches (the kids) to become calmer and more patient, respond more appropriately, and be more understanding.”   
The Macomb County Juvenile Justice Center is a Child Care Institution under the administration of the Board of Commissioners.
It strives to provide a safe, secure, and caring environment to youth that are remanded into custody through the family court.
 “This is a program we feel very good about,” said Paul Gieleghem, chairman of the Macomb County Board of Commissioners. “Not only does it serve our shelter and Health Department, but it also gives young people in our court system some of the tools they need to create better futures for themselves.
“It’s a truly positive effort, all around.”