Juvenile delinquents are young people who engage in criminal activities as they transition from youth to adulthood. These activities range from underage drinking to gang violence. Programs designed to help juvenile delinquents lead healthy, peaceful and law-abiding lives are present within schools and correctional facilities. Others are available within communities, and families may elect to enroll their children. Ideas for starting or adding to your own group for juvenile delinquents come from investigating existing programs.
The impact that journaling can have on curbing delinquent activities was popularized by the 2007 release of the feature film "Freedom Writers." Based on the true story and corresponding book by teacher Erin Gruwell, "Freedom Writers" shows how a teacher used writing to transform a classroom of troubled youth already affected by gang violence, juvenile detention centers and drugs. As of 2011, Gruwell leads the Freedom Writers Foundation, through which she educates teachers nationwide in her techniques. She also delivers presentations at schools and detention centers intended to motivate juvenile delinquents and provide ideas to their instructors. Similarly, Inside Out Writers is a California-based program that offers therapeutic writing classes to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated youth. By collaborating with, or simply taking inspiration from, these groups, you can use writing as a transformative therapy for juvenile groups.
Wilderness therapy is another popular idea to help juvenile delinquents. The general philosophy is that, by learning to confront life and death situations in nature, juvenile delinquents will develop a greater appreciation for life and will feel more empowered to take control. Additionally, people have profoundly spiritual experiences in nature, and a renewed sense of spirituality changes their life direction. One of the most well-known wilderness therapy programs is Outward Bound. Outward Bound offers programs directed specifically toward troubled youth. Other programs, such as Turtle Island Nature Preserve, do not specifically address delinquents. However, they do offer courses that combat delinquency by teaching extreme living and self-sufficiency skills. Adults interested in using wilderness therapy with juvenile groups may complete programs at Turtle Island and use the knowledge they gain to create independent groups for delinquents.
The 12 steps popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous can be helpful to juvenile delinquents combating alcoholism and addiction. Some formal chapters of AA for Youth exist. However, the 12 steps alone can be adapted to meet the needs of any group seeking to overcome negative behavior and achieve good health, whether it be physically, mentally or emotionally. While the steps relate to belief in God, various groups may define God in different ways and still find the steps applicable.
Boarding schools are a good alternative for some juvenile delinquents who also show academic promise. The boarding environment removes children from dangerous neighborhoods and provides them with a stable family structure when the children's biological parents cannot. Likewise, boarding schools stimulate children's intelligence and may make a college education an option to students who previously were at risk of dropping out of high school. Finally, boarding schools often offer sports teams, student-run publications, campus activism and adventure-based field trips. These opportunities each serve as their own unique form of therapy. If starting a group for juvenile delinquents, key ideas to glean from boarding schools are that they provide a family structure and a location that is physically separate from areas where delinquent behavior happens the most frequently.
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