Elkhart officials announce new whole-family rehab program for juvenile offenders

ELKHART, Ind. (WNDU) - Officials in Elkhart announced an innovative rehabilitation program on Friday to help juvenile offenders get back on their feet.

“Working together is the only way we are going to solve juvenile delinquency,” Elkhart Juvenile Court Magistrate Deborah Domine said.

It’s a nationwide problem that officials are trying to solve locally in Elkhart. It is called the Community Connections Program.

The program is designed to help juveniles who have committed a delinquent act turn their lives around before it’s too late.

“A very small number of kids commit most of the delinquent acts, and most of these kids are repeat offenders. We’re trying to make sure that once they come into the system, that one time is the only time they come into the system,” Domine said.

“We’re not about having to incarcerate everybody. There is a chance, and if we can work with these kids and give them that chance to take that second step in a different direction or break that cycle, that’s what we want to be a part of.” Elkhart Police Chief Chris Snyder said.

To help break that cycle, any juvenile mandated into the program will be required to serve 10 hours of voluntary service at the Boys and Girls Club and 10 hours in several life skills, academic and character development programs.

“Our goal is that, when they leave the program, they are fully equipped and their entire family is equipped to go on to a better life, make good decisions and be more informed,” Boys and Girls Club Area Director Ruben Nieto said.

While many juvenile-assisting programs exist across the country, Leah Plank, the senior director of prevention services at CAPS, says the program does not just help the juvenile in question; it helps mom and dad too.

“We’re hoping that we can provide them with those tools to say, ‘Yes, I know what to do and I know other community resources, and I know I have other places I can go as a parent to get the needs I have met for my children,’” Plank said.

The Community Connections Program will officially launch on Sept. 5.