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Red Willow County Juvenile Diversion Program
The mission of Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska is to express God’s love for all people by providing quality human care services that build and strengthen individual, family and community life. LFS is a multi-program human services organization dedicated to the vision of “Safety, Hope and Well-Being” for all people. Founded in 1892 as two orphanages, LFS has grown to dozens of human care programs impacting over 43,000 individuals across Nebraska, with additional services in Pottawattamie County, Iowa. LFS provides human care through three primary broad service areas: children services including behavioral health counseling and foster and adoptive care; community services for refugees and immigrants; and behavioral healthcare for adults and families.
In McCook, the mission is expressed by providing diversion services designed to: • reduce the number of youth entering the juvenile justice system; • increase accountability for youth who have broken the law; • strengthen the availability of substance use assessments and treatment options; • implement a community plan to address high risk youth; • improve school attendance; and • involve families and caregivers of youth in behavior change. First-time youth offenders get a second chance with the Lutheran Family Services’ (LFS) Youth Diversion Program. Funds raised through “McCook Gives” will be used to deliver the education, guidance and networking services of the juvenile diversion program specifically in McCook. Through this program, first-time youth offenders age 11-21 are prevented from formally entering the juvenile justice system, avoiding a permanent legal record. Together with McCook and other communities, the program collaborates with schools, local law enforcement and other providers, to identify and assist youth who need help correcting conduct problems. Diversion is the key deterrent of youth entering the juvenile justice system. The diversion program includes a letter of apology, restitution, community service and achievement of individually designed goals (such as maintaining passing grades in school), with referrals to mental health and substance use providers as appropriate. The program also offers early intervention educational activities including “Attendance, Grades, and Life Success” in the McCook Schools to reduce truancy. The curriculum is divided into three age groups – junior high, high school and post-graduation, with topics ranging from study skills to mental health and anger management. Last year, the program served 55 young people with these services, keeping them out of trouble today and improving their lives in the long term. 90% of youth who went through the program did not re-offend.