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Juvenile probation division recognized for service to youths, community

Back Row left to right: Kip Anderson, The Honorable Rick Williams, Josh Frisby, The Honorable Charles Gurtler, and Gary Blanton. Front Row left to right: The Honorable Lee Jantzen, Emily Snay, Elaine Maestas, Nancy Tharpe, Sara Colbert and Amber Freed. (Photo courtesy Mohave County Probation Department)

Back Row left to right: Kip Anderson, The Honorable Rick Williams, Josh Frisby, The Honorable Charles Gurtler, and Gary Blanton. Front Row left to right: The Honorable Lee Jantzen, Emily Snay, Elaine Maestas, Nancy Tharpe, Sara Colbert and Amber Freed. (Photo courtesy Mohave County Probation Department)

KINGMAN – The Mohave County Probation Department Juvenile Division’s efforts to provide improved services to youth and their families has led it to receiving the Arizona Supreme Court Strategic Agenda award for the third year in a row.

This year’s award, in the category of Protecting Children, Families and Communities, was presented for the division’s work in two areas; the Opportunity School for education, and the Juvenile Health and Wellness Court for mental health services.

The Opportunity School is a partnership with Kingman Unified School District, explained Elaine Maestas, director of juvenile court services. Maestas noted many people are unaware that there is an accredited school and GED testing center at the juvenile detention center.

“We opened the juvenile detention center to non-detained youth,” she said. “We formed a partnership with KUSD for youth who are on long-term suspension or expelled. They could refer the youth to our school and receive credit recovery.”

She said the program provides another educational opportunity for children who don’t excel in the traditional school setting. Students study language arts, social studies, math and science. Upon receiving enough credit, they can then go back to their regular school.

“It provides youth with another opportunity to receive an education,” the director said.

The Juvenile Division was also awarded for their work at the Juvenile Health and Wellness Court, which provides mental health services to youth and their families. The program started in Bullhead City in June, and Maestas said it’s expected to come to Kingman in the fall.

The health and wellness court came to fruition, Maestas said, because the need was there for additional support for youth. The court is made possible through the Juvenile Division’s partnership with Mohave Mental Health and Southwest Behavioral Health.

“We look at barriers to their success and how we can fill those gaps with support services,” Maestas said of the Juvenile Health and Wellness Court.

The Mohave County Juvenile Division’s Community Advisory Boards also received the award in 2017 for Improving Communications and Community Participation. Community Advisory Boards work to provide aid to local programs that benefit local youth. Past recipients of the $500 aid include the Kingman Police Department’s Junior Police Academy, Kamp Girl Power, and the Kingman High School Lego Robotics Club.

“Under the direction of Judge (Charles) Gurtler, the CAB decentralized into three separate CABs, each representing the three main population centers in Mohave County,” a press release explained. “Judge (Rick) Williams provided guidance and technical support to the leadership team at probation to put together new by-laws, restructuring guidelines and membership requirements.”

Those population centers include Kingman, Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City.

In 2016, the Juvenile Division again won the Strategic Agenda award for Protecting Children, Families and Communities by way of its Runaway Handbook. The handbook provides resource information, and parent runaway-prevention and family-communication tips, in addition to addressing three “universal truths.”

Those truths are that children succeed when surrounded by adults who believe success is possible with no exceptions, they have meaningful and sustainable relationships with adults who care, and they can articulate their futures in domains of home and family, education and career, community and service, and hobbies and recreation.

“None of this would be possible without the support of our presiding Judge Charles Gurtler and juvenile presiding Judge Rick Williams,” Maestas said. “They set the vision for the court.”

She also applauded the probation officers, who she said are committed to local youth and families

“Without the work they do, none of this would be possible,” Maestas said.