Angels at Risk: Southern California Juvenile Courts Dissolved


Just last week, I received a significant and disheartening phone call from a judge for Juvenile Family Court on the Westside of Los Angeles. He informed me, in a dejected manner that the brunt of the current state budget cuts at this point would fall on the Juvenile Court System. Beginning in June, 12 locations are being eliminated and 23 judge and referee positions are being dissolved. All legal infractions for juveniles and their families, from the smallest to the largest, are being allocated to three new courts downtown. Education and prevention program options will be removed, and instead families will be required to pay a fee and walk away.

Because of financial misses and messes, which I am not positioned to comment on at all, our society is having to face a daunting reality of compromise. Removing an option of education, life lessons and a chance for something better, and replacing it with a cold assembly line and price tag, can only breed more sorrow, division, loneliness and heartache. Basically, the juvenile system is being gutted.

So what becomes of the broken-hearted?

All of the families who come to Angels at Risk feel alone. Their broken hearts come in the form of tears, anger, fear and innocent denial.

Unfortunately still, the overpopulation and demand for our programs is stunning. There are lines outside the classroom door and often not enough seats, with people standing in the back or sometimes sitting on the floor. Every week, due to the excessive attendance, there are teens and parents whose voices are not heard and whose stories the counselors cannot address. The dramatic truth remains that this grand but neglected issue is pervasive throughout all communities.

Despite the little that families get, what we know is every single time and what is evident every single week is that families still have a chance to make a shift in their hearts and to find a new way of life that can promise a new beginning.