Homes give troubled teens chance to turn lives around

A new Child, Youth and Family home being opened in Mangere today aims to divert troubled teens with behavioral problems from a life of crime or delinquency.

The Supervised Group Home, one of 12, is to be opened by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.

She said yesterday that the centres were unique because they included round-the-clock supervision and mentoring and aimed to change the behaviour of the residents and prevent them from taking a path to crime.

“For some of these young people it is about preventing that sort of behaviour and seeing that they’re … not committing crimes,” the minister said.

“Putting these young people into youth justice residences isn’t going to give them all the support they need to turn themselves around. These kids are ones that need a lot of help and their behaviour, with the right type of interventions, can be changed.”

The homes are set up to house five 12- to 17-year-olds at a time. They will be referred by a social worker or the Family or Youth Courts, and will stay for between two and six months.

The homes fill a gap between foster homes and youth justice facilities, which are essentially prisons for youths.

They are set up to be everyday houses in everyday communities, though the youths are not free to wander in and out unescorted.

They will follow a strict and structured programme that will include education or work during weekdays, and arts, cultural and sporting activities in the evenings and weekends.

Some will be home-schooled, others given training or help in finding work.

Family will be encouraged to visit the home and be a part of the programme.

Ms Bennett said it was in some ways similar to the Te Hurihanga programme, which the Government scrapped this year because it was too expensive.

The cost of keeping someone in the home is $338 a day, less than the $633 a day at Te Hurihanga.

“If we can stop them going on to adult jail, then it’s money well spent. But it’s not cheap,” Ms Bennett said.

“It’s based on best evidence, something that is intensive and ongoing but also looks as real as possible, which is the best way for these young people.”

By Derek Cheng

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