Parents help make difference for youths

first_img Buildings at the camp – the dorm, library, gym and offices – face a courtyard full of grass, trees and a worn-out volleyball net. Snowmen, stockings and Christmas trees are freshly painted on some buildings’ windows. Boys at camp answer adults with ma’ams and sirs, and those words filled the cafeteria as they chatted with their families and their friends’ parents. Artwork drawn and painted by some of the teens hung on the cafeteria walls and depicted “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe,” a book read at juvenile detention centers countywide in a contest sponsored by Disney. Dashing across the room, 16-year-old Luis pointed out his first-place drawing done in marker. He said he worked on the piece for a week from an image he had in his mind. Then he ran off, returning minutes later with his trophy in tow. “I’m sad because my family didn’t show up,” he said, displaying his shiny award. “My mom could be proud of me, because I won a trophy.” Parents can visit their sons at the camp on Sundays. But not everyone gets a visit, and some don’t receive any at all, said Dave Wong, Camp Mendenhall supervisor. Parental involvement with their children in juvenile camp plays a large role in their success when they return home, because they know someone is looking out for their welfare. But some parents give up. Parole officers, teachers and community-based organizations can provide some degree of support, but Wong said they can’t replace parents or guardians. “I think parents have a greater impact on them than they know,” Wong said. Still, others stay involved. Priscella visits her son Jonathan every Sunday, as long as his grades are up and the problems are down. When Jonathan came to the camp, his report card was filled with failing grades. His first three months at the camp were also rough. But now he’s maintaining a B average and is doing well, she said. “Parents can give up, but when your child is doing well, you have to support them,” Priscella said. Sue Doyle, (661) 257-5254 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake “It’s real,” said Beverly, whose name is not being released to protect the identity of her son. “Parents get to see their kids.” The juvenile detention camp is surrounded by a thicket of trees, rocky hilltops and a barbed-wire fence about 20 miles above Interstate 5. Most of the youths are 13 to 18 years old, all were found guilty of felonies and all will stay at the camp about six months or less. They all wear military fatigues and black boots, reminiscent of the days when the place was operated as a juvenile boot camp. The Los Angeles County detention center moved from the boot camp style years ago but kept the regimentals and program structure, said Director Willie Doyle. LAKE HUGHES – Without a car, trips to visit her son Travis at the juvenile detention camp tucked deep in the vast Angeles National Forest are next to impossible. In fact, Beverly had never been to Camp Mendenhall until this past weekend, when the facility, which houses about 92 boys, had an open house and resource fair. But vans from the Los Angeles County Probation Department picked up Beverly and other parents from San Fernando, Los Angeles and Downey, then drove them more than 50 miles to see their boys for the day. All told, about 55 parents and guardians turned out for the open house, meeting with teachers and counselors, checking out the rows of bunk beds in the dormitory and eating turkey lunches in the camp’s small cafeteria. last_img read more