Youth in the Solutions Program implement a community-friendly way of tagging a previously vandalized wall facing an elementary school. (Photo Courtesy: Deputy Jim Bickel)
BY K.P. SANDER
Industry – There are many joys that come along with parenting. Seeing your children grow into productive adults is a source of pride and love. But let’s face it, the world we live in is full of dangers. You just have to watch the news to see violence, hatred, anger and negativity rampant nearly everywhere. As parents, how do you get your children through adolescence amid not just the societal challenges, but the peer pressure of fitting in without succumbing to alcohol, drugs, sex, bullying, gangs and perhaps even worse trouble? What if you lose the battle? What if you have run out of ideas to keep your children on the right path?
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), Industry Station, offers a special program called “Solutions”; a diversion program in partnership with several Los Angeles County Universities and Colleges to help find solutions and strategies for families struggling with teen conflicts and destructive behaviors.The goal of this program is simple: Success. In their words, “The Solutions program aims to demonstrate to at-risk teens that poor life choices lead to a destructive lifestyle, and there are alternatives to joining gangs, committing crimes and using drugs and alcohol.”
In January of 2012, Deputy Jim Bickel and Sergeant Toni Calton created and launched an education-based program at their LASD Industry Station. After years of referring parents who were seeking help for their teenager’s destructive behavior elsewhere, they found a solution and offered a comprehensive program of parenting at-risk teens to the local community. For ten weeks, parents and their non-compliant teenagers attend simultaneous classes, free of charge.
For the parents, Sergeant Calton teaches, “Parent Project”, a certified, court-approved parenting class, and a component critical to the program’s success. For the teens, Deputy Bickel teaches them how to make better “Life Choices”. The program is assisted with student-mentors from Mt. San Antonio College, Cal Poly Pomona, the University of California at Irvine, Fullerton College, and Rio Hondo College. The college students receive undergraduate credits necessary for graduation, and are made Sheriff’s Department Volunteers (undergoing a full background check to complete the process). The Solutions program provides the internships that give these students real life experience, and they in turn provide the teens with the benefit of their education and knowledge as they work toward a career in related fields. Deputy Bickel says it’s a win/win situation.
When asked what led to the development of Solutions, Deputy Bickel says, “We were tired of turning away families looking for help with their out-of-control teen. Also, our field deputies needed a resource to help cut down on service calls related to domestic problems.” Bickel goes on to say that, “Confronting violence with violence doesn’t work. There are better ways of dealing with these situations, and Solutions works; that’s the main reason I do this.”
It does work. In fact Solutions is showing such success that Pomona courts are now sentencing offenders to the program. The courts have been impressed by what they have seen and some probationary stipulations are requiring enrollment in Solutions. In 2012, the Police Officers Association of Los Angeles County awarded Solutions with the Centurion Award for Excellence in Community Policing.
Since the inception of the Solutions program, five classes have been conducted benefiting 60 families and 50 at-risk teens. The youth who have participated in this program have remained in contact with both their mentors and the deputies. Four of the teens have joined the LASD family and become law enforcement Explorers. The parents have learned techniques to improve relationships with their children, and the fact that structure and rules, along with unconditional love, are essential for success.
If you have or know of a teen that could benefit from this program, you can get more information by contacting Deputy Jim Bickel at (626) 934-3315 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enrolling in a class could finally be the bridge that leads to an improved relationship with a child who is currently in line for a dismal future. Through Solutions, and fully participating in the behaviors associated with better life choices, a much brighter future is on the horizon.