Support interventionists

Opinion: Editorials

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Good for the River Forest Park District to seek greater accountability in exchange for its continued funding of the Youth Interventionist program, run these past 20 years out of Oak Park Township Youth Services. 

Accountability is great. 

But for the 2 percent of overall program funding it provides — all of $3,750 this year — we'd like to see the park district start from a place of support for this impactful and innovative program. Insist on accountability as you express support for the good work of this project and its small staff. Instead, renewal of its support this month came on a hard won 3-2 vote.

We don't write too often these days about the Youth Interventionists. Two decades back when Oak Park and River Forest were both rightly concerned about incipient gang issues moving into these villages, the interventionist program was a radical notion.

Step back from a strict police response to kids identified as being on the edge. Instead, the township asked every taxing body in the two villages to share funding for a small program that hired young social workers to directly intervene with those young people. These were conversations in local parks and often around dining room tables where the interventionists spoke plainly to whole families about the dangers ahead.  

Carla Sloan, supervisor of River Forest Township, told park board members the program, has "over time, taken the long view of long-term problems. I think now is not time to take short-term views." We agree completely.

The strength of this program is the solidarity of every taxing body. Twenty years back it wasn't easy for River Forest entities to acknowledge that it too had youth challenges. This is no time to back away from that truth.

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