Ungovernable Youth

Who are you going to call?
Tuesday, July 2, 2019
Article Image Alt Text

Lewistown Police Chief Justin Jenness is one of the many positive resources for parents or guardians who struggle with an ungovernable youth. 

Photo by Miriam Campan


Summertime – a time of sparklers, sprinklers and hanging out. Unfortunately, it can also be a trying time for families, as the less-structured vacation time can lead to issues such as curfew violations or minor property crimes.

“For some reason Lewistown has a higher rate of juveniles in our system than other cities,” said Chief Probation Officer Starr Brown. 

The trouble typically begins in the home with a call on an ungovernable youth.

“On average we receive two to three reports a month. Some months there are none. Some months there are several,” said Lewistown Police Chief Justin Jenness.

Probation and other interconnected agencies work together with families on reducing the higher rate for juveniles before real trouble sets in.  


What is an ungovernable youth? 

“Generally the term ungovernable youth is more about youth not following directions. They haven’t really committed any specific crime,” said Jenness. 

“Sometimes, during the school year, we receive calls about kids not wanting to go to school. In the summertime it’s kids not coming home or not abiding by the house rules,” added Jenness. 


The problem begins in the home 

“Family dynamics is an indicator for a youth in need of intervention,” said Brown.  She added, “When there is a problem I would say family turmoil is at the root.”

Idle hands, lack of structure, family dynamics, and generational patterns can each or all contribute to the call for a youth in need of intervention.

On idle hands, Peggy Albee, a Lewistown licensed therapist said, “I usually encourage an increased structure in the [youth’s] environment. Things like consistency, especially in the summer, because if the kids aren’t working they have a lot of time on their hands.” 

Ashley Jenness, school counselor, said, “Be firm. Every child needs stability and structure. Even when they don’t like it, it is still in their best interest. I have to remind myself that I am their parent, not their friend.” 

 “They [parents] need to be engaged with their children all the time and not just at the point of crisis. I see a pattern involving a kid who has a lot of latitude and it’s when those freedoms are taken away that altercations begin,” said Jenness.

Sharon Napier, who offers parenting classes at the Child Protective Services location said, “One of the most important things we can do as parents is to model behaviors we wish to encourage. We often don’t think about being the model for our children.” 

Napier conducts a 14-week course on parenting covering everything from household budgeting to past trauma affecting parenting styles. “If you haven’t been treated with love and kindness then how do you know how to treat with love and kindness?” 

“We can do better than what was done for us,” added Napier. “That is one of the hugest factors in how people develop; in modeling the behaviors their parents had. We talk about our own backgrounds and for some people they have really sensitive information. Yet, they can come to some place of reasoning.”  

As with other meetings that deal with personal trauma Napier added, “The most important thing about our classes is to keep the shared information confidential. Confidentiality is of upmost importance.”

For more information on the parenting classes, which are offered without referral, call Napier at 535-7253. 

Once a youth is referred to Youth Probation, Brown said, “We do an intake with the youth and family to try and determine what the needs are. We try to implement services such as counseling and not just for the youth. Parenting classes are often recommended. We also will work with Child Protective Services. We do get cases that are mutual between the two of us.” 

“I encourage everybody to be as patient as possible, including the children. The children need to be able to say what’s on their mind which may be all it takes to resolve the situation,” said Jenness.



Do you think the 2020 census will show that Lewistown is growing or shrinking?