RNJ Youth Services touting its programs, services across Lanark, Leeds Grenville

RNJ Youth Services
RNJ Youth Services executive director spoke to Perth council’s committee of the whole on June 4 regarding the programs and services offered at the organization that has been helping youth in the tri-counties overcome challenges such as addictions, mental health and involvement in the justice system. Photo credit: Laurie Weir.
Posted on: June 10, 2024
LAURIE WEIR

RNJ Youth Services has been around for more than 30 years, but many don’t know about the organization that helps young people and their families across the counties of Lanark and Leeds and Grenville, that started in Smiths Falls in 1987.

Representatives from the organization have been making their rounds to local municipalities hoping to increase awareness of the programs and services offered, and to gain support in their advocacy. 

“Our numbers across the board are dramatically increasing,” said Rachel Burns, executive director, to Perth council’s committee of the whole on June 4. “The last fiscal year along, we serviced 1,700 youth across three counties, (in 2021-23).”

Of those numbers, there were 48 youth served in Perth, compared to Smiths Falls with 238 youth served. Comparatively, Brockville youth represented 298 people on the high end, while Merrickville-Wolford had 24. 

“We are already sitting at 350 youths this year and our fiscal year just started,” Burns said. 

Lanark County Community Justice is the organization that deals with restorative justice, and RNJ Youth Services “handle all the rest,” Burns said. “We do a lot of the early intervention, working with youth before they are criminally charged.”

They work with youth aged eight to 17 “to try and push them down a different path,” so they don’t have to access the resources of restorative justice, she said. 

RNJ Youth Services also work with youth who have a conviction but there is no victim, like drug charges.

Burns said they are seeing increased caseloads with more complexity. From petty thefts to kids threating to harm others in the family, calls for service are escalating. 

“It’s not something we have a lot of experience with but it seems to be on the rise,” she said. 

Other trends are internet related crimes, like hate crimes or pornography, and “that’s alarming.”

Burns said they work with their police partners to create educational presentations for schools, as these threats are up over 42 per cent.

Burns said they haven’t seen a funding increase from the province for 18 years. 

For 2023/24, their annual expenses were $795,700, with an income of $585,049, giving them a $210,651 deficit.

Coun. Jim Boldt trying to address the need an earlier age would be key.

“We all know that a lot of the preventative maintenance should be started at home,” he said. “But parents are also caught in a world where we’re all so stressed.”

Boldt asked what they could do as collaborative communities to help the organization achieve their goals. 

Burns said a task force created in the Greater Toronto Area doesn’t tackle the issues of rural Ontario. 

She said letters of support when they attend the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) conferences would be helpful to possibly gain some funding opportunities.

RNJ Youth Services is financed by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, Ministry of the Attorney General, Lanark, Leeds and Grenville Addiction Mental Health, United Way of Leeds and Grenville, community grants and the Sifton Family Foundation. Burns said their expenses are however, increasing, while funding is not. 

Deputy Mayor Ed McPherson asked if they’d approached county councils. If they did that, then they would capture a lot more municipalities in one shot, he said. 

“I’m just trying to save you some time and running around,” he said. “I’d welcome you as come to county council.”

Committee passed a recommendation to draft a support letter and circulate it to the tri-county municipalities and the ministries involved.

Hometown News
Author: Hometown News

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