Source: Sherman Publications

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Oakland County Youth Assistance celebrates 60 years of helping kids

by Susan Bromley

September 04, 2013

Take a walk on the wild side.

Oakland County Youth Assistance will celebrate 60 years with a 4k "Walk on the Wild Side" and birthday bash picnic Sept. 22 at Independence Oaks County Park, 9501 Sashabaw Road, Clarkston.

"Hazel Park was the first youth assistance program in 1953," said Gail Innis, caseworker for Brandon Groveland Youth Assistance.

"The intent back then was similar to now, to provide local guidance to youth and families in hope of reducing incidents of delinquency, child neglect and child abuse."

Youth assistance, which operates as a partnership between the county juvenile court system, communities and school districts to strengthen families through counseling and various programs, is now present in 26 communities and covers every district in the county. More than 3,000 children receive services directly from caseworkers annually, and hundreds more are helped through mentoring programs, summer camp opportunities, recreational scholarships and more.

Brandon Groveland Youth Assistance was established in 1979. Innis became an Oakland County caseworker in 1989 and was assigned here from 2002-2007 and returned to BGYA as caseworker in 2010. In 2012, she counseled 64 children and their families and so far this year, has served about 50 children with individual and family counseling regarding a variety of issues including family problems, behavior problems at home or school, attendance issues, and minor infractions of the law including substance abuse, curfew violations and petty theft.

"I try to keep kids out of the legal system and strengthen youth and families to lessen the likelihood they will be at-risk for juvenile delinquency," Innis said.

"In recent years, we've received a significant number of youth in need of mental health services. Often we provide families with referral to services they can afford because there are so many people uninsured or underinsured."

Innis said she believes the number of families seeking help may be increasing because of the economic recession. They may not have financial means or insurance to pay for services they may have sought earlier or elsewhere if they'd had the resources to do so.

"Children, due to immaturity, make mistakes and can learn from those mistakes with the help of youth assistance," said Innis.

However, in order to provide help, youth assistance needs help in the form of funding for their programs. The "Walk on the Wild Side" is a pledge walk and will raise donations for your local Youth Assistance programs.

"If we don't pay for things now, we pay later," noted Innis. "If you look at the figures of what it costs a family to have a juvenile involved in the justice system, it multiplies astronomically the cost to the family and to the community."

For more information on the 4k Walk on the Wild Side, call Mary Schusterbauer, chief of OCYA, at 248-858-0051. For more information on BGYA, call Gail Innis at 248-627-6445.