It's always tricky to know what to call them, delinquents, juveniles, teens, minors, kids. Ultimately, the young people "locked up" in these facilities are too young to be housed in adult jails. They range in age from eight years old (their orange sweatshirts way too big on them), all the way up to sixteen (most seventeen year olds are placed into the adult correctional system).
Throughout the state, you will find juvenile centers filled with youths who have been incarcerated for everything from shoplifting to drug use, from selling narcotics to homicide. Most have committed crimes for which their trial or sentencing is still pending, and their stay can be as short as a day or more than a year. Some will go home, others to foster homes, or treatment centers, while still others will spend years in long-term juvenile centers or adult correctional facilities.
They all have a story to tell and I find myself amazed sometimes as I listen to their stories: parents struggling with addictions, in and out of prison, at times even locked up in the same facility the child is currently in. In ministering to youth, you never know what kind of reception you’re going to have, but you can almost always count on the fact that your mere presence —your, taking time to be with them— will mean a lot. They appreciate hearing God’s Word, and knowing that others are praying for them as they muddle through this difficult time in their life. And as we do this important work —sharing hope with those who need it most— our gracious God is there to guide and bless our efforts in reaching out to these troubled young souls.
Deaconess Sarah Owens