YOS Youth and Family Advocate Edwin Day
Cook County’s juvenile rehabilitation program, “Aftercare,” is being launched statewide later this year. The pilot strategy involves a case worker assigned to small groups of youth involved in the juvenile justice system. Each Aftercare specialist acts more as a mentor than a parole officer, attempting to instill motivation and confidence in each teen to improve their well-being. The pilot’s primary goal is to keep them out of prison. However, social workers like Edwin Day go the extra mile to increase the youth’s likelihood for success. His work, along with that of YOS Executive Director Rick Velasquez, was highlighted last week on WBEZ for innovative methods of keeping kids on the righteous path.
Day was accompanied by on-air personality Patrick Smith on a tour of the West Side last Tuesday to check in with kids involved with Aftercare. YOS currently is the recipient of a grant to work with a limited number of kids in the area. When the statewide expansion is implemented, over 1,400 youth will be assigned their own case worker. During the ride-along, Day noted the long and difficult process it takes to keep kids in school and out of trouble. They were unsuccessful in getting any of the three kids on Day’s case load to attend school that day. Aftercare specialists and helpers realize how difficult reaching troubled youths can be. Day’s silver lining is that there is still time to get through to the kids and steer them in the right direction. The Youth and Family Advocate discussed the little victories that come out of the program.
“I try to leave the impression on the kids that I care about them and I want them to succeed,” said Day. “The time that we’re spending trying to get them [to school] blocks them being somewhere else where they could be involved in a crime or something happening to them.”
Click HERE to get full coverage of Day’s recent work to improve the lives of Chicago youth.
Rick Velasquez sat down with WBEZ morning show host Tony Sarabia to discuss how Aftercare embodies YOS’ mission of keeping the most needed children safe and healthy at all times. The program addresses root issues in the kids’ lives. Knowledge of home life, full involvement and advice helps the kids feel more comfortable as members of the community rather than delinquents and will lead to further participation in the process. Promoting the plan across Illinois will educate others to recognize the kids’ potential and prevent negative associations with parole involvement.
“Just as if they were our own child, we cannot give up on these kids,” stated Velasquez. “We must hone away not only at the success of school, but capitalize on the person’s other interests. The important thing to remember is if we give up on these kids, they will give up on themselves. Let’s not be ready to pull the trigger.”
Numerous clergy members and community leaders are also involved with Aftercare. They constantly drive home the idea that the youth are reluctant, but not always threatening. The goal is for them to believe that they can be successful. Studies show that kids are more likely to be rehabilitated if youth programs are integrated into the community.“Most importantly, it gives the young person the sense that they can work toward their future rather than waiting to be thrown back into the community” Velasquez added. “They will respond if given the opportunity to participate.”
Click HERE to listen to Rick Velasquez and Mark Smith on WBEZ Morning Shift.