A New Direction

A story about Juvenile Justice

James had a challenging childhood, like many of the youth in our Juvenile Justice programs.  James’ father left a wife and two kids when James was small.  James’ mother used alcohol and drugs, and by age 10, James and his sister were in the care and custody of DCFS.  Experiencing a few foster homes and a couple of group home placements, James’ connectedness and trust with supposedly “caring” adults was put into question.  James rebelled.

He started committing crimes at age 10, including 5 arrests for burglary, 2 for property damage, one for battery and one for aggravated assault.  James was in and out of local detention and on and off probation, and violated his probation on more than one occasion.  Ultimately he was put into the juvenile correctional system, with convictions of 3 counts of possession of stolen motor vehicle, 1 property damage, and 1 parole violation.  After doing his time in prison when he was eligible for release, James had no family willing to take him.

Aunt Martha’s admitted James into our Juvenile Justice program in August 2006.  He was committed to changing his life, and through Aunt Martha’s, James received support, encouragement, housing, case management, counseling, life skills education, healthcare, and transportation assistance, and quickly proved that all he needed was a chance to show he wanted to do right.  Still in our program today, James graduated top of his class at a City Colleges of Chicago Technical program receiving a certificate in welding and plumbing in January 2007.  He enrolled at another college to pursue his associates degree and is doing excellent.  He is employed part-time, and is now living in his own apartment, responsible for rent, utilities and food.  James is behaving like a grown young man.  In addition, he has rekindled his relationship with his father, who has proven to be a valuable family support resource, and makes regular visits to see his sister, his father and his mother.

While Aunt Martha’s provided the program, services and support, James provided the internal motivation, determination and focus to achieve these outstanding results.  Despite his seven years of crime, Aunt Martha’s does not see James or any youth as a “lost cause,” rather as a person needing guidance, structure, education and support — and we are proud that James has accomplished so much and succeeded so well.  We’ll continue to support him, providing after-care until he successfully transitions to independence and is discharged from the program.  We are confident that James will positively represent our Program Outcomes and will not recidivate and return to crime.  Most importantly, James will contribute positively in his life, to his family and his community.

Dave Betz, Senior Administrator
Aunt Martha’s 2007