Boys Town “Allowed Me to Be a Kid”: Kim’s #YouthJustice Story

Senator Ben Sasse
Kim G.
May 5, 2017

Kim entered the system when she was 11, but her time in Boys Town helped her have the childhood she needed.

When she was just 11 years old, Kim G.* was picked up for skipping school. This was her first encounter with the juvenile justice system, although she had already been “on watch” in her community for involvement with drugs and alcohol.

Her childhood was tumultuous — her mother was addicted to painkillers and her father was rarely around. Her older brother was abusing drugs. The turmoil at home led her to “act out” from a very young age.
 

Kim was sent to a juvenile detention center for truancy. This was not a positive experience for Kim, but eventually she was put before another judge for a readjustment of her sentence.
 

The judge recommended  Boys Town, a residential treatment alternative that offers a range of interventions, designed to support academic and behavioral skill-building in a family-style setting.  That’s where Kim ended up, at age 12.
 

But she was still angry, and at 14, she ran away with another young person. She was picked up in Iowa and incarcerated there for a week. She was then transferred back to Nebraska, and placed in a detention facility, where she says there were no rehabilitation programs available to her.
 

“I primarily stayed in my cell,” Kim reflected, “in part because of fear. I was young and smaller than a lot of the other girls...No one at this center asked why I was there; it was just a holding place.”
 

Kim asked her judge if she could go back to Boys Town, and that permission was granted. She came back to the same family and teachers who had been working with her before.

 

At first, Kim made progress slowly, but before long, she was doing exceptionally well.   She got involved with cheerleading, softball and track, and landed an off-campus job. She joined Junior-ROTC as color guard, eventually making color guard commander.  Slowly, Kim started to see herself as not only capable, but as a leader.
 

All that time, Boys Town worked with Kim’s parents and aunt to rehabilitate and support them in giving Kim the care she needed at home. Tragically, as Kim was preparing to go back home, her mother succumbed to her ongoing struggle with drug dependency. After her mother’s death, Kim’s social worker wanted to move her into foster care, but Kim took initiative and wrote a note to her judge asking to stay in Boys Town. The judge said yes.
 

Boosting Self-Esteem and Skills

Kim graduated from high school and with an additional degree as a Certified Nurse’s Assistant, through the training she received at Boys Town. Her confidence was growing along with her skills, and she was able to monetarily sustain herself right out of high school.
 

Now 25, Kim works as a dispatcher for a medevac company. “My time at Boys Town allowed me to be a kid, to play sports and continue my education. That was and is invaluable for me,” Kim says.
 

Boys Town is one of many community-based alternatives to incarceration proven to be effective in helping young people get their lives back on track. As growing number of states are reforming their juvenile justice approaches to connect more young people to the type of supports Kim received.
 

The federal Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) enables states to provide alternatives to incarceration that save taxpayer dollars and lead to safer communities and healthier young people and families. It is long overdue for reauthorization in Congress and must be fully funded in order to ensure that more young people get access to the treatment and opportunities they need.

You can help: contact Congress, ask them to reauthorize and fully fund the JJDPA.

 

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*Kim has asked that we not use her full name, given the sensitive nature of this post.

 

SparkAction compiled this profile based on Kim’s interview with Lisette Burton, the director of national advocacy for Boys Town.
 

Boys Town is a member of the Act4JJ Coalition, which advocates for the reauthorization and funding of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA).


This blog was produced as part of the #JJDPAmatters Blog series. Please use and share this post – all we ask is that you credit #JJDPAmatters and include a link to this page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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