To the editor:
I wanted to write in and clear up some inaccuracies and possible misconceptions about the Youth Service Bureau that has been communicated over the last couple of weeks.
The Youth Service Bureau of Jay County, Inc. (YSB) was established in 1978 and incorporated on Nov. 27, 1978. The YSB is now in its 46th year of providing services to youth in Jay and the surrounding counties. Prior to the establishment of the YSB, children in need of services and status offenders were often placed in local jails or were sent back home with no services. If these children were placed in care, it often meant they were sent a great distance from their home communities. A local judge, Dale Hunt, with the backing of several other judges in east central Indiana, inspired the creation of the YSB.
Our first program, typically referred to as “Shelter Care,” has changed and adapted over the years to meet the needs of our youth in care. Currently, our program is referred to as Emergency Shelter Care and Residential Treatment. Our facility is licensed for 12 beds for youth ages 10 to 19 who are referred for services by the Department of Child Services or by probation departments and are then court-ordered into our care.
Like many businesses, it is still a struggle to find employees. Based on the number of staff we have and licensing ratios we do not go beyond eight youth in care at a time. We house both males and females in our facility, females on the second floor and males on the first floor. Male and female interaction is against the rules in our facility. Youth are supervised by staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week including awake third-shift staff.
In the early years of the program, staff had to combat the negative stigma that surrounded the youth in placement. Many in the community saw them as criminals or “bad kids.” YSB personnel worked for years to show the community that our youth in care were “just kids”! Some of them had made bad choices, some of them came from difficult family situations and some of them simply had no place else to go. I will still hear a negative comment occasionally, but it is rare. The majority of the community strongly supports the work of the YSB and wants very much for our youth in care to succeed.
While it is not uncommon for youth placed in our Emergency Shelter Care and Residential Treatment Program to have used substances in the past or were using substances when placed in our care, we do not operate a detox program for youth. Neither our facility nor our staff are equipped for the medical concerns that come with many detox situations. There have been a handful of times that youth arrived in our care on a substance and we did not know what it was until after the fact. In those situations, we had to consult our medical coordinator and physician on how to proceed, what to watch for, and when to seek medical attention. This is not a regular occurrence in our program as we are not equipped for this. While many of our referrals have had some kind of substance abuse exposure and/or involvement it is rarely the primary reason for placement, and typically the substance abuse in question is marijuana and/or alcohol use.
I do believe a well-run and well-staffed recovery housing program in a community where it was accepted and supported would be a huge asset to those seeking treatment. I also believe it will likely be a significant challenge in getting to that place given the negative stigma associated with substance abuse. It will take a lot of time and commitment from those overseeing this program to prove and demonstrate that the individuals involved can be productive members of the community, worthy of the communities support and acceptance.
The Youth Service Bureau of Jay County, Inc.