Scioto County Juvenile Court Judge James Kirsch spoke about his Alternative to Detention program for at-risk youth at the Portsmouth/Scioto County League of Women Voters Annual Dinner/Meeting at Oscar’s at the Holiday Inn, Portsmouth, in May. “It is our belief that many of the problems of young people are learned in the home,” said Kirsch. “This program is mandatory for the youth and their parents. We attempt to teach both the youth and their parents new behaviors.”
There are several teachers involved in the program, including a Master’s level reading teacher. “Many of these young people are behind in reading skills,” said Kirsch, “and reading is needed for everything in today’s world.” While the children are learning basic educational skills, the adults are learning parenting skills, like how to set boundaries and say “no” to their children. “One young woman has particularly turned her life around,” said Kirsch, “having graduated high school and going on to college to study law enforcement, she is now on a state juvenile justice committee under Governor Kasich.”
The at-risk youth also receive counseling, work on trash details, and spend a week at Boy Scout Camp Oyo sprucing up the camp and learning camping skills. “Kids respond to the order of camp,” said Kirsch, “where they learn concepts about teamwork and participation that they may not get at home. Scouting principles carry over into their adult lives.” At first, some of the parents are reluctant, but by the end of the program many admit that they see positive changes in their children and that they’ve learned a lot about being better role models at home. “We give these children an opportunity to turn their lives around,” said Kirsch.
At the meeting, the League members wore hats to commemorate the suffragettes. The purpose of the League of Women Voters is to promote political responsibility through informed and active participation of citizens in government and their community. The LWV does not support or oppose any political party or candidate. The League may take political action on issues on which member agreement has been reached. Members, as individuals, are encouraged to participate fully in the political process.