Funding Found to Revamp Ventura County Juvenile Offender Program

Ventura County Star

By Jannette Jauregui

The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Oxnard and Port Hueneme for three years provided a second chance to local juveniles serving in area detention facilities.

The Targeted Re-entry Program from 2007 to 2010 was a support system that youths could use to help rebuild their lives. It proved successful, with only 15 percent of the 97 teens involved becoming repeat offenders.

The program, however, was part of a three-year funding cycle that inevitably came to an end.

But thanks to a grant written in partnership with the Ventura County Probation Agency, funding was secured in October to develop the Re-entry Aftercare Mentoring Program. It is slated to begin working with local youths this month.

With a goal of preventing repeat offenses by juveniles, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Oxnard and Port Hueneme was one of only nine organizations in the U.S. chosen to receive the Department of Justice’s Second Chance Act Juvenile Mentoring Grant. The $609,232 will be used to match each incarcerated youth in the program with a mentor, probation officer, case manager, drug and alcohol counselor and mental health clinician.

Youth probation officials will refer eligible candidates to the program.

For the final 90 days of their sentence, youth offenders will meet weekly with their assigned caseworkers to prepare for life outside custody. The weekly meetings will continue for nine months after release. The goal is to ensure that the adjustment period for returning to life outside of a state facility is a positive one.

“A majority of the kids that come out of custody return to the environment and lifestyle that got them in there in the first place,” said Erin Antrim, director of program services for the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Oxnard and Port Hueneme. “The Boys and Girls Club is passionate about this kind of work. These are the kids that need us most.”

According to Antrim, the organization couldn’t do it alone.

The Boys and Girls Club is seeking at least 20 volunteer mentors from the community.

With a one-year commitment, each mentor must pass a background check and complete 20 hours of training. They will then be matched with a youth in a juvenile justice facility. The mentors, Antrim said, are crucial to the success of the program.

Shana Mullin has served as a mentor with the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Oxnard and Port Hueneme since 2010.

“I enjoy making a positive difference in someone’s life that is less fortunate than me,” she said. “I’m a kid at heart, and I use that personality to connect with youth at risk.”

Mullin says the re-entry program is vital in helping at-risk youths assimilate back into society.

“The program is only as strong as its mentors, she said. “The youths in this program have had negative role models in the past. The program provides positive role models for youths at risk that are willing to change their lives for the better. I have been able to share with my mentee my experiences and positive influence. I gained a new friend that I will have for the rest of my life.”

Partners in the program include the Ventura County Probation Agency, which is providing a half-time deputy probation officer for the program; the Palmer Drug Abuse Program of Ventura County, which is providing a half-time drug and alcohol treatment counselor; and City Impact, a local outreach facility that is providing a half-time mental health clinician. Joining each representative will be a case manager from the Boys and Girls Clubs.

“These kids are up against incredible odds when they try to get their lives back on track,” Antrim said. “Working together, we can give them a second chance.”Contact Antrim at 483-1118, ext. 305, to learn more about volunteer opportunities as a mentor.