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Less than 5% of children who enter Shelby County Juvenile Court live in a home with both parents. As summer break begins for most of the Mid-South next week, many community members are calling for support, including a single mother who reached out to us for help.

“I don’t know where else to go,” she said. We are keeping her identity confidential as her son is still a minor. Her family moved to Memphis in 2021, and he started high school the following year.

“There were kids bullying him. He got into fights and then started running away,” she explained. “He was literally gone for three months.”

Although she eventually found him, he continued to run away. Balancing her new business and her son’s needs as a single parent has been challenging. Her partner and her son’s father passed away from health problems just before they moved to Memphis.

“I think his father’s death affected him deeply. I tried to get him counseling, but it didn’t work,” she said. “I can’t get him to sit still or listen. He wants to come and go as he pleases.”

She has sought additional support, including addressing the Memphis Shelby County School Board in 2022.

“I had an issue with my son when we first moved here. No one approached me about it,” she said.

She also contacted Memphis police and juvenile court for help.

“I asked if they could find him and pick him up for being unruly. They said there was nothing they could do,” she stated.

Although her son hasn’t been in trouble with the law, she fears he is surrounded by negative influences. She believes the city needs more positive male role models.

Research indicates that single parents often struggle to supervise their children effectively, simply because there is only one parent. More support leads to better outcomes. Data from Shelby County Juvenile Court shows that less than 5% of children they encounter live in two-parent households. Among children accused of being unruly or committing crimes, two-thirds are raised by a single mother, 5% by their father, 16% by relatives, and 4% by both parents.

Factors like neighborhood and economic conditions also influence a child’s path. Shelby County Juvenile Court is analyzing the data for more insights. Early life experiences are crucial for development and success.

“We need to rally around the idea of uplifting our youth,” said Dr. Archine Moss Jr., founder of The Gentlemen’s League, a mentorship program for boys of color from third grade through high school.

“Our goal is to get them on the right path and change the narrative surrounding boys of color in Memphis,” Moss said. The program mentors 364 boys in 13 schools, showing improvements in GPA, attendance, and behavior.

Former Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell noted in 2014 that the offender population is getting younger. Current Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris emphasized the need for more support for teenagers in 2022. Former Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and former Mayor AC Wharton have also called for more interventions.

“Youth often lack the necessary support to thrive,” said Stephanie Hill, Chief Administrative Officer at Shelby County Juvenile Court. She and Juvenile Court Judge Tarik Sugarmon have been working to create better plans for children and families to keep them out of the system.

Memphis Mayor Paul Young is working to involve more nonprofits and activities in community centers to keep kids engaged and occupied.

For the mother we spoke with, her love for her son keeps her fighting.

“I want these kids to know they are loved,” she said. “My biggest fear is getting a call that something bad has happened. I don’t want to get that call.”

In such situations, a Juvenile Dependency lawyer, like a Modesto Juvenile Dependency Lawyer, can be crucial. They can provide legal support to parents navigating the complexities of the juvenile justice system, advocate for necessary services, and help ensure the child’s best interests are protected. These lawyers can assist in obtaining court-ordered interventions, counseling, and other resources to support families in crisis and work towards a stable and positive environment for the child.

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