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Jacksonville Parents Concerned about Lack of Programs for At-Risk Teens

Updated: Wednesday, July 16 2014, 04:26 PM CDT

In most communities, there are programs to help disadvantaged youth stay on the right track and off the streets.

But some concerned Jacksonville residents say in Morgan County, that's not the case.

Jacksonville Police Chief Tony Grootens says in 2012, they arrested 168 juveniles.

Last year, they arrested 184.

Parents and community leaders say those numbers could be reduced if there were programs in Jacksonville to deter teens from getting into trouble.

"It's like a mom that's standing here with her hands tied and watching her child go down the drain," said Jacksonville mom, Vanessa Tyus.

Sneaking out of the house, lying, and not coming home at night were all red flags to Tyus.

She says her 15 year old son is headed down the wrong path.

"It's heartbreaking. It's sad. I wouldn't want any mother...married, single...to go through what I've been going through in the last couple months," Tyus said.

But when Tyus went searching for a program in Jacksonville to help her son, she says, she came up short.

"I've been everywhere. Even outside our community. Trying to find funding. Even residential, boarding schools," Tyus said.

Jacksonville Police Chief Tony Grootens says it's critical troubled teens have mentors to help re-direct their life.

"It's almost like a feeling of helplessness with the kids when they don't have this type of influence in their life. Like, are they going to go to college? Are they going to finish high school? Are they going to go into the military," Chief Grootens said.

Chief Grootens says he believes more teen mentoring programs would help decrease teen crime in Jacksonville.

But establishing such programs takes something most organizations don't have right now. Money.

"I think it would be very important for the community to look at this issue and if we could get a group of individuals together...concerned parents and community members, some movers and shakers that could help us look for some funding for a mentoring program," said Susan Wilson, Executive Director of Midwest Youth Services.

But until funding is in place, parents like Tyus are left worrying what the future holds for their kids.

"It's devastating to see that your child need the help and you can't. You can't help," Tyus said.

Midwest Youth Services, which is based in Jacksonville, works to help keep teens out of jail.

Their organization serves five counties with 50 percent of their clientele being from Morgan County.

The Jacksonville Police Department has several programs for teens that are alternatives to the justice system if they do get into trouble for petty offenses.

Jacksonville Parents Concerned about Lack of Programs for At-Risk Teens

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