TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) - The Twin Falls County Juvenile Corrections Department said they have seen numbers of juveniles in detention decreasing. The director believes that's in part of the community incentive programs they offer.
"Its our goal to treat juveniles in our community because we know that our outcomes are better if we are able to keep kids in the community and with their families," said Kevin Sandau, the director of juvenile probation and the juvenile detention center.
Heather, whose last name KMVT will not disclose for her child's purpose, said her son got involved with alcohol and substances, and has been in and out of the detention center a few times since January.
"It’s tough. You go through every emotion in the book and there’s great people in the system that can help you through that," Heather said.
Those people are from the juvenile probation and detention center.
"You know that your child can do better than that. Your child is worth it and so you do everything in your power to reach out to all of these different agencies and activities to see if that will spark new habits for your child," she explained.
One of the activities in the program is equine therapy. Kids on probation or from the detention center have the opportunity to participate once a month for four hours.
KMVT spoke to Kylee, a 16-year-old girl who is on probation and attended the activity.
"It’s been very stressful. Being on probation a long, long time ago for things I did when I was younger, vulnerable and upset and had a lot of anxiety going on," she expressed.
Kylee said equine therapy has taught her a lot and changed her.
"The first day that I came, we learned how to put the rope on them and basically trying to connect with the horses, breathing techniques," she continued. "Which if you have anxiety or you have something going on in your life at home or at school it helps a lot. It’s just a really good."
Johnny Urrutia, the executive director of Idaho Horse Therapy, said he sees the kids relaxing while around the horses. However, that's not the case at first.
"I can’t tell you, I've been doing this for 10 years. Usually, when they come the first day, they're either scared or mad," he continued. "That part of the brain is really active and so that’s their defense method to be safe. It’s just what we know about people."
He said he sees the kids saying they hate the horses when they first get there, but then later,p they would say they love the horses.
"What we see is the trust. They feel better. The first time in maybe in their adolescent life, they finally felt they have a little control of themselves," he said. "They feel good and they’ve learned all these great skills."
Heather said her son participated in the therapy as well, saying he learned a lot.
"These skills they learn in there, they can apply it to real life, because if they’re in a bad situation, remember what you learned in that therapy. Step back. Do some breathing exercises, make a different choice, so you don’t go back to the bad habit," she said.
Sandau said probation officers normally make the referral for the kids to go to equine therapy, however there are times that the court does order the children to participate.
Kylee urged that those who may be on probation should try out equine therapy.
"When I came I didn’t have the greatest attitude about it but in 20 minutes of being here, my attitude completely changed and they have great techniques," Kyle continued. "Even though it might not seem the best thing to do - you would rather be playing video games than being out here - but it really helps and if you want to better yourself, this would be the way to do it."
She told KMVT she feels like she's a better, positive person now.
"I do have negative things in my life that I am negative about, but being here and working on myself in general and using their techniques, it’s made me more positive person, to look at things a lot differently," she said. "To look at the outcomes that you can deal with this, I just feel like a better person as it is."
With the help of this program, Sandau thinks their numbers are down because of it.
"I remember having a caseload of 24 kids that were in state custody. Now it’s odd for us to have a 24 kids total in state custody," he explained.
The funding for the program are state-allocated funds through the Department of Juvenile Corrections.
"The county was planning on a larger population when we built it, it was a 27 facility bed and it’s never full and that has a lot to do with the way we go about working with kids in the juvenile justice system," he said.
Sandau added that they know that outcomes are better when the kids are with their families and they are treating the children and families together.
"We just know that we’re going to have more success that way. That’s our goal," he said.
Working with her son constantly, Heather said seeing her son go through the juvenile justice system is hard.
"He’s very talented, he’s very smart and I know he can make a better choice. It’s just giving him the skills and reinforcing positive (things) for him so that he can see that he needs to make a better choice and have the potential to have a better life," Heather said.
Check back with KMVT as we highlight other programs within the juvenile justice center and how they try to help kids in the system.