Unique Collaboration Cuts Across City and County Lines to Provide Needed Services
TUALATIN, OR. – A partnership between the Washington County Juvenile Department, the Tualatin and Tigard Police Departments and the Tigard-Tualatin School District is making a difference in the lives of troubled youth.
For the past four years, these organizations have worked together to lead the implementation of the Tigard-Tualatin Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative. This initiative, which is part of a federal grant program, provided funding to hire Juvenile Counselor Susan Winterbourne to help middle and high school students who are involved in the legal system or at risk of being involved. She works to get them back on track, both in and out of school.
In addition to her regular caseload, Winterbourne works closely with School Resource Officers from the Tigard and Tualatin Police Departments and other school staff to identify students who might be at risk, such as those with frequent absences or declining grades. She provides counseling and links students with programs and support. When needed, she connects families to mental health services through Mental Health Care Coordination, which is another Safe Schools/Healthy Students program.
Winterbourne’s students have shown an increase in attendance and graduation rates, a decrease in disciplinary incidents and an improvement in schoolwork. Her interventions have been so successful that when the original grant funding for her position ended in Spring 2012, the Washington County Juvenile Department decided to fund her position and dedicate additional staff time to the Tigard-Tualatin area.
To make Juvenile staff more accessible, the Department looked for a site in the Tigard-Tualatin area. The Tualatin Police Department offered office space in their building. And when cars were needed to transport youth to services in Hillsboro, the Tigard Police Department created an agreement allowing Juvenile staff to use their police vehicles.
Juvenile Department Manager Milt Ewing said the collaboration directly benefits the community.
“This partnership allows us to serve youth and their families where they live,” Ewing said. “Working in their home communities and across organization boundaries helps us to help Tigard and Tualatin youth get their lives back on track and keep them from falling further into the system.”
And because of the new partnership, Juvenile staff will spend less time traveling back and forth to Department offices in Hillsboro, saving money and providing more time to work directly with youth.
“We have always worked well with each other, so we were ahead of the game,” said Larry Braaksma, Support Services Captain of the Tualatin Police Department. “Safe Schools/Healthy Students gave us a chance to get really creative about how we could share resources so that everyone benefits.”
Bob Rogers, Services Commander at the Tigard Police Department, said that the initiative has improved communication between organizations, resulting in better collaboration.
“Now I routinely pick up the phone and call the Juvenile Department Manager, and he calls me,” Rogers said. “This support between organizations helps us all handle cases better.”
The Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative is a federally funded program that supports healthy child development, increases school safety and expands access to effective programs and services. The initiative is lead by partner organizations Tigard-Tualatin School District, Tualatin and Tigard Police Departments and the Washington County Juvenile Department, Mental Health Services and Commission on Children and Families.