LIMA — A follow-up to a summit three months ago aimed at establishing programs for children to occupy their time with a positive influence is reporting success.
“For as many years as I’ve been with the court very rarely do I see a kid who has even one positive activity going on in their life,” Judge Glenn Derryberry of Allen County Juvenile Court said Wednesday.
Derryberry met with about 90 community leaders from organizations and churches to talk about progress and plans for new ideas.
Already, Iron Riders has formed to introduce children to bicycle riding. There’s also programs to introduce them to horses and 4-H has inner-city children making jam and bread, Derryberry said.
“We had a really good response at the first meeting back in April. We decided to keep the momentum going and give people the opportunities to participate in things that they expressed they were interested in,” he said.
Derryberry said the programs are about prevention and not so much trying to help the kids already in trouble. Some participants said preventing children from getting in trouble with positive programs will be cheaper than managing them once they get in trouble.
One of the big initiatives is keeping children busy in the hours after school specifically from 3 to 7 p.m. when, according to a study from the U.S. Department of Justice, reported children are most likely to be involved in a crime whether committing it or as the victim.
“That’s really the most dangerous time for a child in the community. Recognizing that, we wanted to engage the community in some prevention efforts,” Derryberry said.
Derryberry said he was encouraged by the programs such as Iron Riders, named after the only bicycle corps of the U.S. Army ever authorized. The group, formed in the 1890s, was made up of black soldiers who conducted drills and exercises on bicycles including a 1,900-mile ride from Fort Missoula in Montana to St. Louis.
“They are experiencing something they never experienced before. The goal is for them to actually take some bike trips to some historical sites around the state particularly related to the civil rights movement,” he said.
Plans also were discussed to overcome a big hurdle in getting children to and from the programs. Black and White Cab Co. offered to help with transportation at a reduced rate and there are plans to talk to officials at the Rapid Transit Authority.
The summit also has a religious component that draws in churches that are great places to offer space for programs. Its members also may have a skill to teach or help children participate in, Derryberry said.
“If we can get a kid involved in just one positive activity we think we can keep that kid out of court,” he said.