For at-risk youth, weekend service, special fund provide second chance

Boiling Springs, Pa.    Friday, November 30, 2018

“Savanah” was apprehensive. What was this wilderness-based program she had been sent to? She had to spend time in the woods? 

But, truly, she had no choice.

Savanah, who graduated from Diakon Youth Services earlier this fall, spent 10 weekends in the Girls Weekend Alternative Program after having been referred by juvenile probation. Her first contact with the courts initially placed her on a consent decree but with recent violations and new charges, she had been adjudicated and ordered to complete the weekend program.  

In fact, Savanah’s assessment placed her at a higher risk level with focused areas of concern related to multiple school suspensions for both physical and verbal altercations, issues with being accountable to her mother’s rules and following curfew in the home and involvement with a negative and criminally involved peer group.

Diakon staff members developed a program for Savanah to focus on repairing her relationship with her family, specifically her Mom, as well as to help her make better decisions about the peer group with whom she had been associating.

“We quickly realized that Savanah had no problem making friends; she was engaging and positive with staff members and other youths in the program. It became an important part of her treatment goals to help her use this strength to engage with more positive peers as both mentor and leader,” says Jason Brode, an executive director with Diakon Youth Services.

As she began to step out of her comfort zone and become confident in the program environment, Savanah also was able to use her influence to mentor and guide other girls in the program. In fact, Savanah enjoyed the positive feedback she received both from her peers and staff and began to work on being more positive and helpful at home; she grew to appreciate being closer to her mother and helping out.

This new focus became part of her strategy to avoid negative peers: Staying at home more frequently and focusing on obtaining a job.

As Savanah became confident, she was able to use her influence to mentor and guide other girls in the program. 

Savanah was able to graduate from the program successfully in those 10 weekends. As a graduate, she was interested in gaining success in her community and at school, while simultaneously working toward completing her time on probation. She saw Diakon’s Second Chance Fund as a way to reach that goal.

She applied for support in paying her fines so that she could work toward completing probation. Savanah wrote in that application that her motivation stemmed partially from a new desire not to take freedom for granted and not to hurt her mother through her actions. She also noted that she had come to realize the value of education and the satisfaction of being able to mentor and guide others.

Diakon agreed to pay $250 of her fines if she was able to meet her goals of staying on track with her probation efforts and not committing any new violations.

“I am delighted to report that Savanah maintained her momentum and Diakon happily supported her again by paying her remaining fines through the Second Chance Fund, helping her to complete probation,” says Brode. And, he adds, she remains on track to success in life, at home and in school.

Diakon’s Second Chance Fund

The needs of the youths Diakon serves do not end when they graduate from a Diakon program. In fact, this transition often becomes one of great struggles and obstacles to overcome.

Given their new awareness of how to become successful, contributing members of the community and an eagerness to put newly developed skills into practice, they nevertheless face the same challenges and, often, the negative influences that lead them astray in the first place.

The Second Chance Fund represents a way to keep these young people on the path to success. Although the youths now have an intense desire for success, they often lack the financial means to reach their goal. For that reason, we developed the Second Chance Fund—which allows donors to “partner” with youths through a fund-matching program that helps the young people overcome obstacles that would otherwise delay their positive growth.

Needs often beyond the reach of successful graduates fall within two categories: Meeting court-related financial obligations such as court costs, resitution and related fees ... and ... becoming contributing community leaders, a focus that relates to successful employment and related independent and family living skills and needs.

If you would like to support this important fund, click here

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