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Program targets at-risk children
Linnie Darden Sr
Linnie Darden Sr. - photo by Courier file photo
Funds request

Save Our Children asked county commissioners for funds from the Drug Abuse Treatment and Education Fund at Tuesday night’s commission meeting. There is currently more than $12,000 in the fund.
Money from fines and forfeitures are accumulated to make the DATE Fund and anyone can request grants. Save Our Children was the most recent applicant and the Liberty County Drug Court received funds earlier this year.

The teen suspects arrested for last month’s fatal shooting remind Liberty County law enforcement and area professionals of the grave importance of prevention and intervention.
“Once they call the police and we catch them, we can’t mentor them anymore,” said Officer John Williams with the Hinesville Police Department.
The HPD crime prevention officer said children don’t usually start off committing capital offenses or dealing drugs.
Minors often begin small with trespassing, graffiti, knocking down mailboxes, breaking windows and other petty crimes.
“But then it goes up when they get a little older … as they get older and bolder,” Williams said.
Williams, who often organizes neighborhood watches, said narcotics aren’t a growing problem right now.
“They’re staying level,” Williams said of drug-related issues. “The only things that are increasing are burglaries and trespassing with juveniles.”
Children acting out usually starts with oppositional defiance, explained Linnie Darden Jr., director of the Save Our Children program in Liberty County.
The program teaches life skills and drug education to 13- to 18-year-olds.
Darden has master’s in psychology and is part of the Hinesville Psychiatric Network.
“When children get to be adolescent age, peer pressure is very strong on them and a lot of kids drift toward activities that eventually get them in trouble,” he said. “It’s very rarely that a kid gets in trouble by themselves.”
“The community suffers when you have a young person who begins to associate with others in the neighborhood and they may cause some distraction in the neighborhood.
“The clock is still ticking,” according to Darden. He said it’s very important to work to keep children out of trouble before they turn 18.
Williams agreed school age is the prime time to deter kids, “before they do anything too bad.” He said the Drug Abuse Resistance Education and Gang Resistance Education and Training programs are starts.
But a lot of times that doesn’t work, according to Williams, because children emulate family and friends.
“They’re not scared of jail right now,” Williams said, explaining how kids hear of locked up friends and family members. “Sometimes it depends on the person.”
Darden’s program takes referrals from individuals, psychiatrists, counselors, organizations and judges from the Department of Juvenile Justice.
“A lot of the kids get caught up in peer pressure and they maybe lean toward more serious trouble and we try to intervene and catch them,” Darden said.
In an attempt to rehabilitate underage offenders, a juvenile judge may sentence a minor to legal punishment, or refer them to Darden’s program.
“We started because there were so many kids who had dropped out and it was either by drugs or anger management and a lot of kids get in trouble for both,” Darden said of his 12-year-old program.
Officials say there usually is no pattern exhibited by at-risk children.
“You can get someone who’s never been in trouble in their life … and all the sudden one day they might do something crazy,” Williams said.
“Some kids have a stronger will than others to resist pressure,” Darden added. 
Williams agreed it takes input from the entire community.
But rehabilitation can happen and all hope isn’t lost when minors are arrested. 
“Once they get in trouble it’s not too late,” Williams said. “They can still be changed. They can’t still turn around.”
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