Oklahoma Youth Agencies Seek State Assistance

Article excerpt

Drugs and alcohol. Peer pressure. Suicide. Hunger and homelessness. Relationships.

Those are just a few examples of the issues facing Oklahoma youth every day and a major part of what workers at the 42 youth services centers throughout the state work on when attempting to help kids and adolescents get through the pressures of life.

Youth service providers from across the state joined together at the state Capitol in an effort to encourage legislators to provide less authority and more funding for community-based youth services. Also attending the legislative meeting were a school district administrator, a judge, and officials from the Department of Human Services and the Office of Juvenile Affairs.

Brenda Lyons, associate superintendent from Edmond Public Schools, said counselors from her school system were adamant about the quality work performed by Edmond Family Counseling in improving the lives of youth in northern Oklahoma County. She said she was aware of real-life situations in which adolescents were helped tremendously through youth services.

"It makes all the difference in the world," Lyons said.

Justin Simmons, executive director of Youth and Family Services in Enid, said most, if not all, of the youth service centers worked directly with or received referrals from the schools in their areas. He said it was important that the agencies were responsive to the needs of those kids whose lives were disrupted in ways many people couldn't comprehend.

"They don't know where they're going to stay tonight," Simmons said. "They don't know if they are going to get beat up tonight. …