Keeping PEEPS busy
Kids say it. Parents say it.
Even Janesville Gazette reporters age 31 and under say it.
Some juvenile probation officers want to change that attitude.
In the summer of 2002, officers thought about how things slow down in the summer when kids aren’t committing school-related offenses.
But kids also have more time on their hands.
“They’re bored. They have too much free time,” said officer Tom Seibert. “We want to show them there are things they can do in a very legal sense.”
Without a budget, Seibert, four other officers and 20 kids on probation got out of the office and into the sunshine. Positive Educational and Experiential Peer Situations—or PEEPS—was born.
They went to the bike path and picked up trash. They sat down for a chat with Rep. Paul Ryan.
Everything was free.
Five years later, the program continues thanks to a Brighter Futures grant. The division isn’t sure, however, if that money will come through in 2008.
The program combines educational and fun activities, said probation officer Teresa Cleveland.
During transportation week, the PEEPS went to a car dealership to learn about used car shopping. Then they went on a pontoon boat ride.
Aside from learning obvious skills, trips in public are a chance to practice appropriate behavior—something many kids don’t learn from their families, Seibert said.
Officers think kids who are beginning to step into risky behaviors can step back if they see other options.
“The program is for kids who are right on the fence,” said officer Lea Gerue. “We can teach them that there are other things in life.”
It’s not always easy to convince taxpayers to spend money on something as hard to see as confidence building. But without spending money on prevention, it’s impossible to control crime, Seibert said.
“It’s so easy to put water on a fire now, but if you don’t put the money up front, it’s never going to go out,” Seibert said.
Cleveland said it’s easy to see improvement when you look at individual children.
“I love it when I see kids not give up and the way they pump each other up,” Cleveland said. “You can see their self-esteem just rise.”
County proposes staff increase
It’s all about the people.
After years of no increases or cuts, Rock County is proposing to increase staffing in its human services department during 2008.
Department Director Charmian Klyve calls the additions critical.
“We have had more referrals so far this year to child protective services than all of last year.”
County Administrator Craig Knutson’s proposed budget includes eight new staff positions in the department: two for the Community Support Program and six in the juvenile justice and foster care divisions.
This week The Janesville Gazette took a closer look at the proposed staff in the juvenile divisions. Next week we’ll take a look at staff proposed to support adults with mental health and addiction issues.
ROCK COUNTY BUDGET
A look at the 2007-08 budget for Rock County.
-- Next year’s budget reflects strides taken in 2007 to reduce crowding in the jail, Knutson said.
-- The budget proposal reaps the windfall of the half-percent county sales tax that went into effect in April.
-- The focus in 2008 will be the Human Services Department.
The department has reduced its staff by 42.6 positions since 1999 and should be commended for working hard to save millions, Knutson said.
But the time has come to put resources back into the department.
Caseloads are increasing for county employees. So far in 2007, the Child Protection Services Division has had more calls than it did in all of 2006.
To handle these changes, Knutson is recommending three new child protective services positions, two new positions for the Community Support Program and three new positions in the Juvenile Justice Division. Grant money will pay for part of these staff additions.
The county board will have three meetings—all open to the public—to review and approve the budget.
-- At 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 5, Knutson will host a Q & A session with board members.
-- At 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7, the board will host a public hearing.
-- At 9 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13, the board could approve the budget.
Next year: $173.5 million
This year: $168.0 million
Percent increase: 3.3%
Next year: $53.4 million
This year: $51.8 million
Percent increase: 2.9%
(Per $1,000 of equalized valuation)
Next year: $5.46
This year: $5.59
Percent increase: 2.3%
Note: Percent changes calculated on whole numbers.