Jasper County Juvenile Office reflects on 2020

Local News

JASPER COUNTY, Mo. — From truancy to bringing teens before a judge, the Jasper County Juvenile Office saw some big changes in how they did business last year.

What’s the difference?

There were some big drops in year end totals for the Jasper County Juvenile Office. It’s a trend they’re hoping to reset in 2021.

Steve Norman, Jasper Co. Juvenile Office, said “We were always open. Our office is always open. We never closed.”

But how the Jasper County Juvenile Office operated was very, very different.

“It is like I said it was almost, if we look back when the pandemic started, it was almost, we were here, the lights were on in the building. We were all working, and then the next day, that’s changing.”

Juvenile offenders were still booked into the detention facility – more than 100 of them, totally 1,678 nights in the lock-up. The alternative education program saw a big drop, from 83 students in 2019, down to 40 in 2020. The pandemic played a big role, even in cases of truancy.

“Basically a new caveat to that was that ok, we may have had truancy issues with these kids when it was brick and mortar, when they were inside of the school. And then we discovered that even though they’re doing virtual learning, they’re still not going to school.”

The juvenile office is just now seeing operations start to return to pre-pandemic levels.

“We have a slight uptick in our alternative school referrals, with some kids that are, that were having some behaviors at home and things like that.”

Juvenile workers say they relied heavily on Zoom meetings and remote contact for much of 2020, but they are just now starting to meet face to face with teens and parents. That’s factoring in mask wearing and social distancing.

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