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Juvenile Probation Officer is Recommending DOC

Hi, Mark,

My son, K___, is almost 16. He was diagnosed as bipolar, adhd & odd in Oct. 2016. Shortly after being placed on meds we had to call the police to help with him. We were to take him to the ER where they transferred him to the psychiatric hosp. Later they sent him to the state hospital to stabilize his moods and meds.

Last Sept. they released him. He was not complying with his treatment plan and interfering with others. We contacted the State's Att. office to see what we could do. We were afraid of him. He was suicidal and homicidal. We were encouraged to file a CHINS (children in need of supervision) petition. For the past 1 1/2 yrs. he has been on probation. Not "breaking" the law but not doing well either.

We had an in-home counselor referred (in addition to the private counselor). Recently my son was caught smoking, which of course, is a probation violation. Soon we will go to court (Nov. 5th) for Probation Revocation. His Probation Officer is recommending DOC ...boot camp.

It seems in this entire process that there is something missing ...Like resources to get him the help he really needs. His PO is so frustrated that he tells K___ NOT to do something and he DOES. Doesn't it seem that money would be better spent to have something for the kids who fall into the category of Mental illnesses instead of looking having punitive consequences?

I live in South Dakota ...I don't know if there is something in other states that acknowledge that these kids need help ...just in a different way. We are hoping that the Judge will look at residential care rather than Boot Camp. What are your thoughts on this? How can I help make a change to the system?

We've been to court and will go again for a dispositional hearing ...we'll have results from a recent Psychological Eval by then. What are statistics like for kids going in to and coming out of DOC?




Hi L.,

Three things determine how we turn out: (1) genetics, (2) environment, and (3) personal choice.

Your son can’t do anything about his genetics (bipolar has a strong genetic link, so someone else in your family probably has or had bipolar, perhaps a great grandfather for example).

He can’t do anything about his environment (i.e., parental influence in his nuclear family). I’m not blaming you, but I need to say something here, so don’t take this the wrong way:

I work with parents that are in the same boat as you. And these parents have over-indulged their kids for many, many years (basically the whole kid’s life), and unfortunately they are now reaping the consequences of their over-indulgent parenting style.

However, your son can do something about his personal choices. And he simply hasn’t learned how to make better choices yet. As you may have read in my ebook, he (as the result of over-indulgence) is emotionally more like a 9-year-old, even though chronologically he is 16. So, consider this:

A “normal” kid (whatever that means) matures at about the age of 21 (the brain is fully developed around that age). Because your son is approximately 9-years-old (again, I’m going on the assumption that he was over-indulged most of his life, which may or may not be the case), he will not likely be fully developed emotionally for another 10 - 12 years. I don’t mean to shock you here, but this means he will be about 26 to 28-years-old before he will arrive at a point where he is capable of making “grown-up” choices.

DOC has its advantages and disadvantages (too many pros and cons to list here). The main advantage is that the DOC environment will help him mature. The disadvantage is he will likely become a better “criminally-minded” individual (strange example: if you hang around the “Mud People” long enough, it won’t be long before you’re all muddy).

Re: “What are statistics like for kids going in to and coming out of DOC?”

Dozens of studies exist on this topic. In one study, the goal was to evaluate the practical effect of alternative programs for juvenile delinquents, which have been championed for the last decade as a way to reform rather than punish juveniles for delinquent behavior. To the surprise and disappointment of many, the vast majority of alternative programs did not reduce recidivism, and in fact, those that participated in alternative programs had a higher recidivism rate.

This particular study, compared the recidivism rates of 600 juveniles adjudicated in the years 1994 and 1999. It determined that delinquents in 1999 who completed the alternative programs were more likely to commit crimes after being released than delinquents who were in the juvenile justice system in 1994, before the alternative programs began.

Juveniles were compared at 6-, 12- and 18-month intervals after release and those that took part in alternative programs in 1999, had higher recidivism rates.

Another key finding of the report was the failure of current programs to help juveniles in the areas of substance abuse, negative peer pressure and the needs of dysfunctional families. The study sampled 22 of 100 alternative programs and found that only two were able to significantly lower recidivism rates for juveniles. Of the 22 programs studied, 4 are administered by the Department of Children and Families (DCF), and the others by the Judicial Branch's Court Support Services Division. Recommendations included a focus on the need to increase parental accountability through the courts and the expansion of aftercare services for juveniles when they are returned to the community (this is what I do at my day job; I provide aftercare services for kids coming home after a stint at DOC).

I know that it seems like there is no hope here. But, if parents will dig their heels in and stick to the strategies outlined in my ebook, they will greatly improve the odds that the ‘maturation process’ will be expedited (i.e., their kid’s emotional age will, sooner than later, approximate his/her chronological age). Nonetheless, you’ll have to play a game of “catch-up” for a while yet.

Be patient with the process. If you had smoked for 16 years, you wouldn’t expect your lungs to heal-up over night. In the same way, it’s going to take some time for your son to recover from a history of “poor-choice-making.”

Mark Hutten, M.A.



I appreciate your e-mail. We are not beyond examining our over-indulgence towards our son. He is after all an only child (maybe that explains a lot???). I always thought we were a little on the stingy side ...after all we've never rushed out to buy him the newest ...whatever. But he has never lacked for anything either.

You mentioned that perhaps it seemed as if there wasn't much hope. Actually I find it to be a very hopeful situation. There are two things out of three that we CAN do something about ...providing that he cooperates in making better choices, and let's not rule out the power of prayer. I mentioned all of this to our pastor's wife (a very close friend of mine) and she did say, "well he IS an only child." So from here, we will pursue something different, so he can be different ...and though he will most likely be placed in DOC custody I am hopeful that THERE he will find the tools that he will need to make the better choices.

I have a great respect for those in authority over us, and though we do not have a fool-proof system, I do believe that God will use this time in K___'s life to change him. And in the process we will be changed.

Thanks again for taking the time to chat about this. I'm sure you have a very demanding job in addition to maintaining the web-site and all of the responses from that. My prayer is that God will bless you in and through this!


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