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Counselor Shelly Hunnicutt counsels teens at the Office of Juvenile Affairs.



A 49-year-old grandmother and a 12-year-old troubled grandson sobbed, clinging to each other after police put him in handcuffs.

“He was crying — I was crying,” said Denise McBride.

Her grandson had a lot of disorders at the time, causing him to be “unruly and violent — kind of obstinate,” she said. “He had threatened to run away and took off.”

When police handcuffed him, she knew he was on his way to the Community Intervention Center (CIC), housed in the back part of the Muskogee County/City Detention Facility.

“I told him it was no game,” McBride said.

Her heart was crushed, and he was scared. But she knew she had to let him go — something had to give.

McBride had foster twins at home and her grandson’s two sisters, whom she was raising. She said her grandson had started running with the wrong crowd and his grades “were in the basement.” They were both under pressure.

Troubled juveniles who are truant, drunk or on drugs, violating curfew or in need of supervision can find help at CIC, said Muskogee County Sheriff Charles Pearson.

“We’re open 24-7,” he said.

Some juveniles go missing from home or get arrested for crimes. More than 1,600 juveniles stayed up to the maximum 24 hours at a time in CIC last year, Pearson said.

City police, county deputies and some parents have taken youngsters there.

For McBride and her grandson it was a godsend.

“CIC has saved me and that child a lot of heartache,” she said. “It gave him time to calm down and me time to recoup.”

It was her grandson’s first trip to CIC, but not his last. He went back a couple of times when he was 13. Since he’s turned 14, he’s turned the corner and there have been no more visits, she said.

“Anytime I hear of people having struggles, I want to tell them about CIC,” McBride said. “I probably couldn’t have kept him in my home, it was so bad.”

Since January, Muskogee police have averaged 15 missing juvenile reports a month. Some are back home the same day they go missing, said Muskogee Police Lt. Bobby Lee.

When found, the “missing” juveniles are taken home or to CIC. Many parents overwhelmed by an out-of-control juvenile are not ready for that juvenile to come home, Lee said.

They want their son, daughter or grandchild to go to a community treatment center — anywhere to get help, Lee said.

Even though teenagers enter CIC through the back door of the jail in a section isolated from the jail, it’s a sobering experience, Pearson said.

“It’s a wake-up call,” he said.

And it’s just as sobering for the parents or guardians who come pick them up and have to enter through the front door of the jail to complete paperwork, Pearson said.

Parents arriving to pick up their children do not see other juveniles in the facility, he said.

If the parents can’t be found or won’t come get their juveniles from CIC, the Department of Human Services is called. If the problem is severe or a crime is involved, the Office of Juvenile Affairs is called, Pearson said.

CIC sometimes see juveniles often enough that trust is built up and those juveniles feel a need to disclose something to a CIC counselor, Pearson said.

The disclosures may be as serious as mental, physical or sexual abuse, Pearson said.

“We try to find out what their problems stem from,” he said.

CIC officials have a good idea what agency can help them, he said. CIC uses many resources, including area mental health facilities, Pearson said.

“A lot of kids who come here haven’t been in trouble before,” said CIC Director Lynn Flusche. “We try to do a lot of prevention.”

The kids receive counseling at CIC and follow-up counseling if needed. Some may go home and have a problem six months later. If they do, they can again call for counseling. Sometimes counseling is at school (with the consent of a parent), at their home or at CIC, Flusche said.

Kids also can get help with drug or alcohol problems, she said.

McBride praised CIC, saying they got her and her grandson in touch with home counseling.

“They followed through — they went above and beyond and treated my grandson with respect without coddling him,” McBride said. “Not enough people know about CIC. Once they arranged for me to send him to MCCOYS (Muskogee County Council of Youth Services) for a weekend.”

Again, it was when a “time out” was needed, she said.

Counselors at CIC are paid by the Office of Juvenile Affairs. Counselors Shelly Hunnicutt and Henry Petree, as well as other CIC employees, remain committed, Pearson said.

Some juveniles at risk may end up in MCCOYS shelter or in an area juvenile detention facility, Pearson said.

Director Mark Winters said MCCOYS’ shelter will house nine juveniles at a time. Juveniles don’t have to be “bad kids” to be there, he said.

“For the most part, we help keep them on the straight and narrow,” Winters said. “Parents need to know there is a place for them to go.”

He said when parents and juveniles are at each other’s throats every day that sometimes they just need a break. MCCOYS can give it to them, and does, Winters said.

There are a variety of reasons for juveniles to be at MCCOYS, he said. Some are awaiting foster home placement. Some are referred there by the municipal court. And some are there at a parent’s request.

“We don’t take kids involved in serious offenses,” Winters said. “It’s a pleasant atmosphere here. They get fed three meals a day, and they’re safe. But it’s not a lockup facility.”

One of the employees at MCCOYS, Tom Luker, said kids out of control sometimes need several days to figure out what they need to do to start making adult decisions.

He operates an adventure-based counseling program in which he tries to take from seven to 10 kids on a backpacking trip for up to two weeks every summer.

Two police officers and an emergency medical technician accompany the group, along with other adult sponsors, including one or more MCCOYS staff members.

He’s taken volunteers from Child Welfare in Wagoner and Muskogee.

“The idea is to help kids learn interdependence and self-reliance,” Luker said. “The mountains and trails become the therapist. Me and the staff are merely facilitators.”

It’s physically challenging for the kids, he said.

“You reach the points you think you can’t reach, but you do — like a lot of life experiences.”

Seven students attended this year’s adventure in southern Colorado, near Creede.

MCCOYS is more than backpacking or just taking a break from being odd man out at home.

The organization located at 4009 Eufaula St., not only works with juveniles but has programs for some adults, Winters said.

MCCOYS is involved with an adult drug court and a juvenile drug court.

It operates an alternative school for 12 school districts in the area and a juvenile detention center on Shawnee Bypass in Muskogee for the Office of Juvenile Affairs.

The detention center has 10 beds that stay full most of the time, Winters said.



Information

Contact Community Intervention Center (CIC) through the Muskogee County/City Detention Facility, 682-7851.

Contact Muskogee County Council of Youth Services (MCCOYS) at 682-2841.

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