Girl Scouts Reach Youngsters, Even Behind Bars"
If the Girl Scouts conjure up images of children in tidy uniforms making crafts together in safe suburban homes, think again. Girl Scouts are creating a range of programs to meet the needs of troubled youngsters --including girls who have committed serious crimes and are confined to correctional facilities. Last year the Girl Scouts of Racine County, Wis., launched their first Girl Scout program at a maximum security juvenile facility, the Southern Oaks Girls' School.
The 90 girls there, from 12 to 19 years old, have committed crimes ranging from theft to assault to homicide. Almost 95 percent of them are victims of physical, emotional or sexual abuse. Now every Saturday and Sunday, the girls are learning about Girl Scout ideals from staff social workers.
The girls have planted a garden, studied women's history, made greeting cards and worked on Girl Scout patches as they learned new skills. The workers say the girls show more self-confidence, responsibility and a willingness to make positive changes in their lives.
"We already see a lot of the girls working as a team," said Shannon Couch, the liaison with the Racine Girl Scouts. "They're also having a chance to experience new things, as simple as planting and harvesting a garden. They see what it takes to nurture something and see it through."
Further south, the Northwest Georgia Girl Scout Council decided to take a similar approach with young first-time offenders. Their probation officers assign the girls, ranging from age 13 to 16, to the program for one year. Parents are also encouraged to participate.
Girl Scout troop leaders visit the girls at the Georgia Hill Neighborhood Center in Fulton County. At their meetings, troop leaders use a variety of activities to encourage self-esteem and work on conflict resolution. They also talk to the girls about how they might live their lives differently once they get back to the real world.
Copyright ©1997 American News Service