(Clarinda) -- Efforts to stem juvenile crime in Page County and KMAland, in general, continue on many fronts.
Page County Attorney Carl Sonksen is a 10-year member of the Southwest Iowa Families Board of Directors. In an interview on KMA's "Morning Line" program Thursday morning, Sonksen says juvenile court says is held at the county courthouse at least twice a month. The number of cases average 15 to 20 cases per court session. About 16 cases, alone, were set to be heard Thursday. Sonksen says juvenile court cases usually fall into two categories. The first involves Child In Need of Assistance--or CHINA--cases.
"Probably the biggest issue we have there is issues involving parenting and substance abuse," said Sonksen. "There's always a tie-in--almost always a tie-in--with mental health issues. That's one of the things that Southwest Iowa Families does, is they do a lot of court-ordered mental health evaluations for parents in those kind of cases.
"I would say probably the biggest issue is substance abuse--and that would be methamphetamine. I look at the docket, and I think about 95%-plus of the cases involve meth used by one or both parents," he added.
Sonksen says meth use has grown as a factor in CHINA cases over the past decade.
"We had a fair number of cases that involved some sort of neglect issues," he said. "that I generically refer to as 'dirty house cases,' where the're unhealthy living conditions for kids. There may have been some physical abuse issues now and again, but just about everything nowadays involves methamphetamine use and abuse by parents."
Sonksen says delinquency is another category--and that takes many forms.
"The delinquencies can range anywhere from something as simple as a juvenile having possession of drug paraphernalia, or up to burglarizing a house, or burglarizing a car," said Sonksen. "It kind of runs in fits and starts. We'll have a fair number of cases once in a while, then we go through a period where we don't have very much. Those, to me, just kind of anecdotally have held fairly steady."
Sonksen says counselors with Southwest Iowa Families assist youth involved in juvenile crime through mental health evaluations, as well as Parent-Child Interaction Therapy--or PCIT.
"The PCIT portion of that is typically used when we have parents who have some sort of parenting issues that's not necessarily related to mental health issues, or substance abuse issues," she said. "A lot of times in CHINA cases, the court orders mental health evals, and substance abuse evals, for all the parents. Typically, Southwest Iowa Families is one of the providers that ends up doing all those evaluations."
Recently, Southwest Iowa Families was announced as the winner of KMA's Non-Profit Marketing Assistance Project for 2018. For more information on the agency's services, contact Southwest Iowa Families at 712-542-3501 or toll free 1-888-486-9599, or you can check its website. You can hear the full interview with Carl Sonksen on our "Morning Line" page at kmaland.com.