Greater than the sum

Greater than the sum

After lockdowns related to COVID-19 started earlier this year, our Juvenile Justice Ministry team in Dallas-Fort Worth had to find creative ways to serve these at-risk 11-19-year-olds in Texas.

YFC’s Juvenile Justice Ministry serves teens living in and recently released from detention centers, correctional facilities, residential treatment centers, and emergency shelters by offering life-skills training that incorporates the word of God and the Gospel.

“We know that the 10,000 kids arrested in the Dallas area each year come from 10 zip codes, so we have identified two major (areas), and partnered with community churches and centers,” LaToyia Dean-Dennis, YFC DFW’s Executive Director, said.

When the pandemic locked down facilities, the YFC DFW team partnered with Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program to launch an after-care ministry specifically targeting kids whose parents are incarcerated.

“They are at a higher risk of repeating the same behavior [as their parents] and of going into juvenile detention themselves,” LaToyia said. “We are beginning to disperse our volunteers to the Angel Tree kids in [those two areas].”

Because of their connection within the community, a mother reached out to the YFC team just after the pandemic hit trying to find help for her son, Michael, whom she felt was starting down a “wrong path.”

“We immediately provided a mentor for him,” LaToyia said. “They connected by phone, got him a mask, and went to play basketball. Since then, Michael’s demeanor has completely changed.”

Youth For Christ is the largest provider of juvenile justice ministries in the world. LaToyia believes that young people, especially those who are “at-risk,” respond very well to authenticity.

“The greatest gift you can offer them is your true self. Don’t hide your scars. It’s important for us to share our mistakes so that they can see that God is greater than the sum of our mistakes. We know that if we can connect kids with Christ, we can change the trajectory of their lives.”

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