Children with problems and teen-agers who have run afoul of the law -- how do you help them? Where do you best house them and teach them, if they must live apart from their families? Two women -- one in Wyoming and one in Indiana -- are devoting themselves to finding answers to these questions. In recent presentation ceremonies in New York, each was given a major award to honor their efforts.
Since 1985 is International Youth Year, the National Council of Women named a young champion of youth, Julia E. Robinson of Cheyenne, Wyo., as its ``1984 Woman of Conscience.''
Miss Robinson is the administrator of the Division of Community Programs for the State of Wyoming's Department of Health and Social Services.
Several years ago, Miss Robinson became concerned about the lack of a program to help prevent troubled youngsters from entering further into the juvenile justice system. She was also concerned with the large numbers of youth being placed in institutions because there were no community alternatives available to them.
In 1982, Wyoming Gov. Ed Herschler asked Miss Robinson to organize a Governor's Conference on Troubled Youth, which was attended by 500 people from around the state. It brought together all the agencies responsible for youth in Wyoming to discuss problems and look at possible solutions.
Through testimony given at the conference, Miss Robinson learned that Wyoming had correctional institutions and a state children's home, but no community services to help youthful offenders and those with behavioral or emotional problems.
``Dedicated people all over the state were struggling to keep children in homes with their families,'' she says, ``but they had no financial resources and no services.''
After the conference, the governor made Miss Robinson project director of a task force he appointed to make recommendations on ways to improve the juvenile justice system. She then helped write the resulting legislation, and her division was subsequently authorized by the legislature to begin community services for troubled youth. These services include counseling for troubled young people and their families, the promotion of stable living conditions within families, and a more stable and permanent means of placement for children who must be taken away from their families.
``My state has proven itself willing to make children and families a top priority and to commit public resources to prevention of problems and to early intervention where we think we can help,'' Miss Robinson says.
The second woman honored during the ceremonies was Judge Clementine B. Barthold of Jeffersonville, Ind., who was named one of 14 Wonder Women of 1984 for her work in helping juvenile offenders rebuild their futures.
Judge Barthold came to this country as a refugee from the Soviet Union. In 1960 she became secretary to the probation officer of Clark County, Ind., and later served as a probation officer for 13 years.
As her county's first woman chief probation officer, Judge Barthold developed innovative and progressive programs for the prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of juvenile offenders. Such programs included volunteer tutoring for those with reading problems; group counseling for juveniles with drug problems and their parents; foster homes for children who needed to be removed from their homes but who should not be sent to state correctional facilities; volunteer officers who would work with probationers on a one-to-one basis; and community services that would help establish good work habits in young people.
At the age of 53, Judge Barthold went to college, at her own children's insistence. Six years later she had earned both an undergraduate and a law degree from Indiana University -- and proceeded, at age 60, to set up her own law practice in Jeffersonville.
``One of the reasons that I ran in 1982 for the particular office that I now hold,'' says Judge Barthold, ``Judge of the Clark County Superior Court No. 1: I knew that if I were elected I would be in a position to effect change.''
Feeling that young offenders needed an alternative to jail, this tiny but dynamic judge started raising over $100,000 herself for a shelter-care facility, which she hopes will be a model for the care, instruction, and rehabilitation of youthful offenders.
``We have done plenty of research into existing facilities in other communities, and now I think we have a plan that will really help troubled young people work out their problems. I feel very sorry for the juveniles who day in and day out are being held in jail with no programs, nothing at all provided for them. I intend to change that.''