Community members, leaders and partners have made progress to identify the unique needs in our community. A plan to meet those needs and serve young people involved in or at risk of involvement in the juvenile justice system is currently being developed for youth and families in Stephens County and the immediate surrounding area. I am happy to see folks in the community joining in the effort and contributing to the development of this comprehensive plan. It allows us to come together and respond to the needs within our own community. Every member of our community has the opportunity to have a seat at the table to plan and respond to the challenges facing our young people and their families.
The Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA) recently (March 12 and 13) held four community meetings in Stephens, Cotton and Jefferson counties to address the lack of juvenile prevention and diversion services since last year’s closing of Youth Services for Stephens County.
OJA allocates funds to designated youth service agencies to provide community-based services to youth and families. Jefferson, Stephens and Cotton counties are in need of these services. The meetings are a part of OJA’s Community Action with Targeted Solutions (CATS) project to develop a unique plan for serving youth involved or at-risk of involvement in the juvenile justice system in this area. It is important that all community stakeholders have a voice in naming needs, existing strengths and resources; and creating a plan to prevent delinquency and promote success for all youth in these tree southern counties.
I’ve been informed that great suggestions were heard from a variety of participants there and at other meetings held in Waurika and Walters.
Those attending the four meetings in these counties included judges, court staff, district attorneys, juvenile justice staff, elected officials, school representatives, young people, family members, and faith-based leaders. Discussions were held to identify the needs (risk factors) and existing resources. For every risk factor (substance abuse, poverty, inadequate supervision, negative peer groups), protective factors must be developed to insulate our youth and protect them. Protective factors such as caring adults, positive social activities, and community connectedness are vital to prevent delinquency and strengthening the overall community.
To ensure community needs are met, a comprehensive plan will be developed to target existing dollars to the areas of the community with the highest need.
Follow-up meetings are scheduled for:
These meetings are to help OJA formulate long-term, community-based service strategies. I strongly suggest residents plan to attend.
In the meantime, I urge you to have your voices heard by taking part in a survey at www.surveymonkey.com/r/OKCATS.
Everyone in this area is welcome to participate. Answers will be anonymous and combined with all other answers. Results will be shared at the April 15 and 16 community meetings. Taking time to attend one of these meetings or just a few minutes to fill out this survey could go a long away to preventing juvenile delinquency and strengthening our community.
Marcus McEntire represents Oklahoma House District 50.