After delay, River Forest park district OKs funding for youth interventionists

Park board asks more oversight of township run program


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By Megan Dooley

Staff Reporter

After a long delay, the River Forest park district board decided last week to contribute its share of funds this year to the township's Youth Interventionist Program, which targets troubled young residents at risk for involvement in gang activity, violence, or drug use. But the board asked for a future review of the program in return.

In a letter to Gavin Morgan, the manager of Oak Park Township, which operates the Youth Interventionist Program, park district Executive Director Michael Sletten outlined the board's stipulations for continued funding. The first asks for more oversight in the program.

"The board feels that the Townships of Oak Park and River Forest should assume direct management responsibilities of this program," Sletten wrote.

The letter also called for program staffers to work individually with different partner agencies in both Oak Park and River Forest, including schools, local government, and social service agencies. This may include training seminars for identifying at-risk youth, dealing with bullying, conflict resolution, and more.

The final requirement stipulates that the program identify specific issues within the youth communities in Oak Park and River Forest, and take action in molding the Youth Interventionist Program to address these issues.

The 14-year-old youth intervention program has long been funded on a proportional basis by every local taxing body – schools, villages, libraries, park districts. The long delay in authorizing funding by the park district in River Forest has been unusual.

But Morgan said the delay didn't harm the program. He said the funding issue originally came up because the park district questioned whether or not the program fit in with its mission. But Morgan said program representatives have since made regular appearances at the park board meetings to discuss new ideas for programming and how to measure the success of the program.

"In all of those discussions we were able to answer the questions of our partners," Morgan said, and eventually, they came around.

Sletten said the total funding for the program contributed by the park district is somewhere around $4,000 – not a huge amount, he said in an interview Thursday.

"This isn't a money issue. It never has been," said Sletten. Instead, it's an attempt to improve the useful program. He added that the board is very supportive of the Youth Interventionist Program, which they consider to be a "great program."

Morgan said he's happy with the positive outcome, and believes it's fair to ask everyone to contribute.

"The strength of this program is the partnership," he said. "Through the partnerships, we understand what issues involving youth that the community is dealing with, what issues the youth are dealing with. We can reach conclusions on what the best way to deal with those issues is. That requires that partnership. In addition to that, it sends a message to the community that we're all in this together, that we all support this, and it enables all of us to hold each other accountable for the outcomes."

The park district board decision specifies that these improvements be implemented within a year.

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Charles from RF  

Posted: May 17th, 2011 12:03 PM

@G Sullivan where does article say the PD wants to "assume direct responsibility"? It said "...Townships of OP and RF should assume direct management of the program" The program is funded by all these groups yet NO one was taking DIRECT responsibility. Thanks to the RFPD for raising this. Things have moved on considerably since you were a trustee in the '90s

D. Boulanger, OP Township Supervisor from Oak Park  

Posted: May 16th, 2011 4:45 PM

Oak Park Township is pleased that the River Forest Park District has rejoined the Intergovernmental Agreement that funds the Youth Interventionist program, and that the park board's general evaluation is that it is a "great program." Over the past year, the township has made frequent contact with the park board and provided responses to its inquiries. This interaction along with the comments from the other 10 cooperating units has provided valuable information that led to a revision of the fee structure and plans for improved communication of progress and outcomes. The basic premise of the program and the importance of cooperative funding is that all units have a clear stake in addressing issues of youth behavior, especially as related to gangs, drugs and violence. Every unit can expect attention to its special needs, while appreciating that all benefit from successful interventions with youth in any unit or when a seriously at-risk youth and a family are helped whatever their unit affiliation. This community-wide collaboration has proven effective for 14 years in this critical area of public safety and perception. Oak Park Township thanks all units for their continuing confidence and support and welcomes their inquires and recommendations

Charles from RF  

Posted: May 13th, 2011 9:42 PM

Well Done for the PD! It is so refreshing that there are still some people (the PD Board) in Gov that stand for accountability. It is clear that OP Township has NO metrics for this program - that could be so GOOD. OLD ideas need to stay fresh - and the governance of this thing sounds like a real Money pit - with NO reporting or anyone being held accountable for results. Looking forward to Public reporting on how and what the Money has done? We need more than just to FEEL good!

James P. from Oak Park  

Posted: May 12th, 2011 9:40 PM

I think we might need another anti-bullying program. One the targets newspapers that BULLY local government into doing things. The WJ got their way with this one. If the WJ could bring improvement to the intervention program they will have accomplished something. The idea of the program is good, but this 14-year-old program could use some major improvement. Their ideas are stale and out of touch with today's youth. Revamp the entire program and both RF and OP will come out winners.

Thankful for OPTYS from OP-RF  

Posted: May 12th, 2011 6:12 PM

Thanks to JOHN WILLIAMS, Bert Patania, Melissa and crew for taking care of so many of our families.

Gary Sullivan from River Forest  

Posted: May 12th, 2011 5:34 PM

On first blush I was happy to read that the PD opened the wallet to let the moths escape then I saw that the Exec. Dir Michael Sletten wants "to ssume direct management responsibilities of this program" Now when yours truly was a trustee in the 90's I was a representative for the village reporting back to the board on how they were doing. Then and now John FS Williams does not need another body looking over a successful program. Not enough characters left to continue other to say leave em alone

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