Former probation officer works with at-risk teens to avoid juvenile justice system
Listen to the story
A former Washoe County probation officer has started a local nonprofit called Safe Talk for Teens to keep at-risk youth out of the juvenile justice system.
With the school year starting up this week, former probation officer Joe Dufur says that teens can now call or visit the program for confidential guidance when they're confronted with social, personal, or family issues.
Dufur spent more than 25 years working for the Washoe County Department of Juvenile Services and has seen the need for early intervention firsthand.
"We realized that there were a number of kids with unmet needs that were experiencing truancy, their grades were starting to decline, and then they go on to start using alcohol and drugs. You know, those are the early warning signs."
Most teens will be referred by school counselors. When they call, Dufur will work with them on life skills like decision-making and goal-setting.
He'll also link students up with substance abuse and mental health counselors to work through the larger issues behind their behavior.
"Some of the challenges usually originate at home. It could be parents going through divorce, having some marital issues. It could be some social or personal issues, bullying issues. Kids do things for a reason."
Safe Talk for Teens has also started a work experience program by partnering with nine local businesses to provide teens with mentorship in the areas of time and money management, teamwork, and overall self-confidence in a professional environment.