Commissioners hear child care fund plan update

Children of St. Joseph County parents who are undereducated, live in poverty and might be involved with methamphetamine are at risk of becoming a dubious statistic in the county’s juvenile court system.
The conclusion was offered Tuesday to St. Joseph County Commissioners by Tom Robertson, director and referee of the county’s family court juvenile division.
Robertson’s appearance was a scheduled agenda item to afford commissioners an update on the annual child care fund plan and budget. As he fielded questions from commissioner Don Eaton, however, Robertson elaborated on factors leading to a high juvenile-incarceration rate.
Eaton said St. Joseph County is the 14th most-impoverished of Michigan’s 83 counties, according to the Michigan Education Coalition. Eaton also said the county’s number of children who live in poverty has increased by 30 percent over the past 10 years. He said that figure is almost double the pace across the state over the same time period.
Robertson said impoverished kids with no resources to occupy their time or fulfill any positive extracurricular activities have the greatest potential to run afoul of the law.
He said there are currently 20 17-year-old juveniles from St. Joseph County who are incarcerated. The county does not have a juvenile-detention facility and most of the young offenders serve time at a facility in Calhoun County, creating an additional expense for St. Joseph County.

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