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Where's the leadership?
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Court Appointed Special Advocates Executive Director Irene McCall expresses her displeasure over the lack of community-wide support to slow increasing rates of juvenile crime and delinquency in Liberty County.

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The apathy and inability of community leaders to generate support to stem the growing rates of juvenile crime and delinquency in Liberty County were at the forefront of the discussion during a community forum this past weekend.
Hosted by the Liberty County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the event was the second forum held this year to bring together local leaders and citizens to share possible solutions to the county’s most pressing issues.
With only about 40 people in attendance, Atlantic Area Court Appointed Special Advocates Executive Director Irene McCall, blasted what she called a growing sense of indifference concerning the at-risk youth of the community.
“There is no reason this room should not be packed. This is what’s happening to our community,” she said. “Now let it be a football game or a basketball game, it would be a packed house.”
Acknowledging the responsibility of parents in raising their children, McCall said there is a lack of good parenting, which leaves guiding young people in the right direction to the greater community.
“Today, in our community and all over the United States, mama, grandmama, and granddaddy are all doing the same thing as the teenagers,” the director, who trains volunteers to become courtroom advocates for children in the foster care system, said. “That’s the real world. That’s the problem.”
According to Liberty County Department of Juvenile Justice Juvenile Probation/Parole Specialist Karla Sapp, her office handled 759 cases in 2006, with many cases involving teens searching for attention they are not getting at home.
“Most of our kids come from single-parent homes, which means they’re longing for something. Some of them are longing for that father role in their life and they don’t get it,” she said. “So they look up to those other individuals in the community who they feel are giving them those things that they have.”
McCall, noting the mostly negative influences that tend to fill the voids in the lives of many youth, said local churches could step in and be the positive influences needed, but church leaders are too busy bickering with each other.
“They get so territorial. They think somebody’s going to steal their members. They think somebody’s going to give some money to another church,” she said. “But that’s not what it’s about. We’re talking about the welfare of children and families.”
Sapp said more programs should be created for at-risk youth, but Cider House Inc., Executive Director Clarenda Stanley said the current programs are grossly unsupported and have to jump through too many hoops in order to get involved.
“Our organization has been here since 2005. Up until the last year, I funded pretty much 100 percent of the organization myself,” the arts outreach director said. “The problem is there’s too much red tape and too much bureaucracy. The politics and personal agendas are really compounding the issue because the agenda should be homogenous and that's help the kids.”
Liberty County Juvenile Court Judge Linnie Darden III, agreed and said until the differing sectors of the community can come together for the common good of the county’s children, young people will continue to flow into his courtroom.
“We have to create a greater since of community, that the community must be involved with the children,” he said. "We're going to have to focus on more generosity.”
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