The Community Alliance Family Services is a Newport-based non-profit dedicated to supporting individuals and families in maintaining their independence. The organization’s Juvenile Court Diversion Program gives young people the opportunity to learn from, and make reparations for, their mistakes. By attending the program a juvenile offender avoids having the crime added to his/her permanent record.
Goldie Burroughs, a long-time volunteer with CAFS, works with kids in developing an individualized contract, which spells out reparations for their actions. She says the program simply gives good kids a second chance. “That one time that they made a bad decision doesn’t define them; there’s so many other good things about them.”
Burroughs remembered one adolescent who had been referred to the program by a judge. He had stolen a bicycle, “and of course he was very regretful afterwards.” Knowing that he had aspirations of owning his own bicycle sales and repair business, Burroughs got creative when developing his contract. She had him develop a business plan, “how they would establish a business, what it would take for costs…”
She says the exercise turned his attitude around. He realized how valuable an asset is to a burgeoning business, “and realized how valuable [the bike he’d stolen] was to this person who lost it.” Burroughs has no doubt that he learned a lesson he would not have learned from a fine or prison sentence. “I’m sure down the road, we’ll see that he has a business up and running.”
And that’s the point, says Burroughs, “we like this to be something where they can learn from their mistakes. And they will become better people for going through this program.”