(Bannock County Press Release, August 15, 2023)
Working in the Juvenile Probation Office for more than 20 years, Todd Mauger has seen it all. And typically, he finds that families have a hard time getting connected to resources that would benefit their children.
“You send these vulnerable kids out the door with a big, long list of things they need to do and people they need to contact. It can be pretty overwhelming,” said Mauger, the Chief Juvenile Probation Officer for Bannock County.
But now, struggling youth in Bannock County and Southeast Idaho will have access to the guidance and help they need all in one place.
The Village: A Place for Youth and Families, located at 345 N 5th Avenue in Pocatello, will serve children of all ages in the 6th Judicial District, including Bannock, Bear Lake, Caribou, Franklin, Oneida, and Power Counties.
A ribbon cutting and open house were held for The Village on Tuesday, August 8. See photos from the event below.
The Village offers families a single point of contact who will screen the child to identify the underlying issues contributing to their concerning behavior and then help the child and their family access the resources they need.
Most of the children who enter the Juvenile Probation Office aren’t felons, Mauger said. In fact, in 2021, 88% of the children referred to Juvenile Probation were either status offenders, meaning they broke curfew or were truant, or are at low to moderate risk of reoffending. Most of these children are first-time offenders.
“These aren’t bad kids, they’re often just misguided,” Mauger said.
But by the time they reach Mauger’s office, they’ve already got a record. Before The Village opened, children had to be cited by law enforcement or the school district in order to access the services that could help them get back on track.
“Those kids have to go through the court process in order to get the help they need. They’re coming to hearings, getting attorneys, seeing a judge. That can have a big impact on a developing mind,” Mauger said.
Now, families can access the services through The Village without needing a referral from law enforcement or schools. Police can also drop kids off at The Village if their parents can’t be reached.
“We’ll be able to streamline prevention and intervention services with youth who are just starting to exhibit concerning behaviors, rather than waiting until they enter the justice system to get them help,” Mauger said.
Through these early intervention efforts, Mauger anticipates a 60 percent drop in youth being processed through the court and entering the justice system and child welfare systems in the 6th District.
“If we can prevent these kids from entering the system, they have a better chance to get back on track and avoid becoming a repeat offender as an adult,” said Zoie Laggis, Bannock County’s Senior Deputy Prosecutor in charge of juvenile cases.
Children who are already involved with the juvenile justice system or child welfare system will also have access to the resources at The Village. About 60 percent of the juvenile cases in the 6th District are already being placed into diversion programs, with a success rate of about 85 percent.
Mauger is currently working with area providers and resources to create community partnerships. These partnerships will help make families’ transitions from The Village to the proper help more seamless.
“I’m excited this is finally coming to fruition. The Village opens a whole new world of possibilities for our community to better serve our kids and their families, and I’m so happy to have it up and running,” Mauger said.