Teen to be given foster care instead of treatment

HOLLIDAYSBURG – A 13-year-old Altoona boy who twice took a knife into a city elementary school this past year will be placed in a therapeutic foster care home as opposed to a treatment center for delinquents, according to a plan outlined Wednesday in the Blair County Juvenile Court.

The youngster comes from a “family in crisis,” said President Judge Jolene G. Kopriva.

But he also was declared delinquent by the judge at a prior hearing because he violated a juvenile court consent decree in which he agreed not to take a knife to school.

Kopriva on Wednesday convened a hearing, which included representatives from Blair County Children Youth & Families and the county Juvenile Probation Office, in an effort to decide what happens next in the life of the youngster.

The judge said the boy has never lived in a “healthy family” and rather than sending him to George Junior Republic in Grove City, a treatment facility used by the probation office for delinquent children, she wants him to learn about family life.

The boy is now in shelter care, but after a lengthy discussion, Kopriva indicated the end goal will be to place him in a special type of foster home, called a therapeutic foster home. In such a home, services such as mental health counseling will be available.

While in foster care, the boy will have contact with his parents who are now separated.

When the boy’s father appeared in court, the judge said to him, “I’m sure [your son] is glad to see you here.”

The boy answered, “Yeah, I am,” as the father shook his head in the affirmative.

The father agreed that he would continue to have contact with his son and agreed he be available to work with him.

The mother also held out the possibility of continuing to work with her son, even though she is considering a move out of state.

She said she just wants to see the boy get help.

Assistant Public Defender Michael S. Emerick, who represents youngsters in juvenile court, pointed out how complex the case was with the boy meeting the legal criteria as a dependent child – thus under the supervision of the child welfare service – and a delinquent child – under the supervision of the juvenile parole and probation office.

The assistant director of the juvenile probation department, Jon Frank, said that more and more his office and Children Youth & Families are involved with the same cases because of the poor home lives of the children.

He said that representatives of the two county departments meet regularly to discuss the cases.

Kopriva convened the hearing Wednesday because, she said, “We are trying to meet the needs of this child.”

The boy and his mother were homeless for a time, it was pointed out.

The case involved multiple attorneys. Aside from Emerick, attorney Suzanne Bigelow-Cherry represented the father, attorney Catherine T. Miller was present for the mother, attorney William R. Brenner for Children Youth & Families and Assistant District Attorney Deanne Paul for the prosecution.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.