The Family Court of St. Louis County has decided to expand its Juvenile Conference Committee (JCC) Program to include the School District of University City, and volunteers are needed.
The JCC is an innovative new juvenile justice program that was piloted in the Kirkwood/Oakland area in 2001, and has since expanded to also include the communities within the Webster Groves, Normandy and Hazelwood school districts.
This new approach uses panels of trained community volunteers to assist the Court by handling cases involving non-violent juvenile offenders in their community. The committees work closely with their local police departments and school district to serve youth who have been referred to the Family Court for offenses such as shoplifting, trespassing, possession of marijuana or alcohol, simple assault or disorderly conduct.
The program’s goal is to make an impact on these youthful offenders by involving the community in the handling of their cases.
The committees, which consist of six to eight volunteers living in University City, meet with the juvenile offender and parent(s) in a local conference/meeting room, ask questions and develop a plan of action. This plan can be in the form of restitution, community service, counseling or letters of apology. If the expectations of the plan are met, the case can then be “closed.”
If the juvenile fails to comply with the plan, the case may be returned to the Court for further action. All activities of the committees are confidential.
The U City JCC will be chaired by volunteer/U City resident Christopher Lhotak. Lhotak formerly chaired the Webster Groves JCC prior to moving to U City in 2009.
Lhotak said his volunteer time with the JCC was quite meaningful, as he saw youthful first time offenders being held accountable and responsible for their behavior while getting an opportunity to stay out of the formal juvenile justice system. He also noted how the JCC benefits the youth, their family, the victim and the community and believes it will be quite useful for the U City community.
The Family Court is currently recruiting volunteers to fill the positions for the University City JCC. Volunteers need not have any experience in law enforcement, mental health or social work—just a willingness to serve their community. Volunteers will be expected to complete an application and an interview, submit to state and federal criminal history record checks and child abuse/neglect screens, and attend training.
If you reside in the University City School District area, are over the age of 21 and are interested in finding out more about volunteering, you are invited to contact Program Coordinator Michelle Meyers at 314-615-8446.