Pal-Item Part of the USA Today Network on 3/19/2018 by Mike Emery
WAYNE COUNTY, Ind. — Teenagers are indeed different from adults.
They think differently. Their emotions drive them differently. They act differently.
Therefore, it makes sense to treat them differently than adults.
Three Teaching the Teen Brain training sessions this month taught this to Wayne County educators and education administrators. Sponsored by the Wayne County Probation Department’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative and Centerstone, the sessions were conducted at schools in the Centerville, Hagerstown and Northeastern districts.
“The three trainings provided 45 educators and administrators new skills for interacting with youth, gave them an understanding of the teen brain and why youth behave the way they do,” said Kory George, Wayne County’s chief probation officer, in a news release.
Five local trainers have been certified in the Teaching the Teen Brain program that was developed by Butler University’s Brandie Oliver, the release said. Keith Morey of Centerville, Chris Ross of Test Middle School, Kristin Lumpkin of Centerstone, John Engle of Lincoln and Karla Hobson of Hagerstown provided the local instruction.
The training, which was piloted in Tippecanoe County, teaches educators about adolescent brain development, the impact of trauma in a school environment and classroom management strategies to increase compliance and decrease school disruptions, according to the release. The ultimate goal is to increase learning time in schools.
Teaching the Teen Brain follows the Policing the Teen Brain program that has been taught to local police officers. Police officers and teachers, the release said, receive little formal training in youth management strategies. The idea for Teaching the Teen Brain came from Tippecanoe County Judge Faith Graham, and 108 education professionals served as the testing ground for what became a six-hour course.
“The educators and administrators that attended are showing that working effectively with youth is a priority,” George said. “I am hopeful the new approaches and skills help them in their classrooms. We plan to continue to provide supports in our community that have been effective elsewhere in Indiana, and nationally, in reducing the number of youth that are arrested.”
Wayne County Probation Department is a Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative site, the release said. The JDAI system, which teaches that a reduction in secure detention does not sacrifice public safety, promotes reducing the number of youth unnecessarily or inappropriately detained, minimizing the number of youth who fail to appear in court, redirecting public funds toward successful reform strategies and improving the juvenile justice system.
Richmond Police Department’s Youth Services Division, which has been rejuvenated this year, includes Detective Neal VanMiddlesworth, who is trained in JDAI, offering a different perspective on when detention might not be the best avenue for a youth.
Policing the Teen Brain training also exposes police officers to reasons why youth might act as they do in stressful situations or following trauma because of the differences in their brains compared to adults. That understanding can shed a different light on their actions and what might help the youth.
Recently released statistics indicate that Wayne County youth continue to be impacted by poverty, hunger and neglect or abuse at high rates. The Kids Count Data Book from the Indiana Youth Institute indicates that 25.2 percent of Wayne County children live in poverty, the ninth-highest percentage among Indiana’s 92 counties, and that 23.5 percent are food insecure, ranking third in the state for percentage of children who do not have nutritionally sound foods consistently available.
Department of Child Services statistics from 2017 recorded 417 substantiated cases of neglect, sexual abuse or physical abuse for Wayne County children. The number has skyrocketed during the past five years fueled by adult substance abuse and addiction.