Partnership aims to enhance support for at-risk youth

Since the onset of COVID-19, Kingston Police and Youth Diversion have been working together to address an obvious gap impacting youth in our community.

Young people are falling through the cracks of many social service agencies due to the impact of COVID-19, leaving police as the last line of support, Youth Diversion said in a statement released Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020.

According to the statement, this unique initiative will see Youth Diversion staff embed with the Kingston Police to support the coordination and facilitation of pre- and post-charge diversion and ‘Intersections’ program referrals for children and youth between the ages of eight and 17.

The goal of this program is to hold youth accountable for their actions through a restorative approach that incorporates the young person, their family, community members, and people impacted by the offence. The youth justice program Youth Diversion runs aims to provide rehabilitative and reintegration programs and services to youth in conflict with the law.

The pre- and post-charge diversion process allows a youth to take responsibility for their offence, while also providing education and support for the youth and their family to prevent further conflict with the law, reads the statement. The pre/post charge diversion program can be used to support youth who are aged 12 to 17 at the time of their offence. 

‘Intersections’ is an early intervention program for youth, ages eight-17, and their families. This program focuses on navigation and coordination of services for children and youth who are at-risk of becoming justice involved. The result for young people is improved well-being and reduced involvement with police services.

According to the statement, young individuals and/or their families often come into contact with police because of situations relating to mental health challenges, childhood and youth developmental needs, and/or substance use struggles. A newly adapted online reporting tool, accessible through the Kingston Police website, will provide families with access to supports to address mental health and addiction struggles, parent/teen conflict, and other behavioural challenges that find them in contact with the law.

“This is a key initiative that will address youthful offending behaviour in a timely manner applying a social service lens and not a criminal lens,” said Shawn Quigley, Executive Director of Youth Diversion.  “COVID-19 has required all of us to think outside of the box and adapt how we support children youth and families.”

Quigley went on to say, “Youth Diversion has partnered with the Kingston Police on many initiatives over our 45 years and this new partnership is another example of how our two systems are addressing the needs of children, youth, and families in our community. By linking up directly with the CORE unit and working alongside the Youth Programs officer, this new partnership should further strengthen our longstanding relationships for service delivery and the goal of reducing youth coming in contact with police.”

An evaluation component, designed to measure the effectiveness of this initiative, has been incorporated into this new partnership. According to the statement, data collection and analysis will provide valuable information for further planning to support youth in conflict with the law or youth experiencing social issues, such as mental health and addiction, or parent/teen conflicts. 

“Kingston Police are grateful to have community partners such as Youth Diversion to enhance our outreach to and support of youth,” said Kingston Police Deputy Chief Chris Scott. “We are fortunate enough to have already established a strong relationship with Youth Diversion over the years. Now, this dual implementation of both a digital online reporting tool and an increased in-person collaboration between staff will only serve to better ensure Kingston youth receive the services best suited for their unique circumstances and steers them away from the criminal justice system.” 

The initiative will be piloted between September 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021. 

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