By Mike Sicilia, Division of Juvenile Justice
Photos by Deacon Fidel Carrillo, Jr.
On the second weekend of June, a chartered bus rolled into Stockton after making stops in Los Angeles, Sylmar, Bakersfield and Fresno in order to reunite youth with their families, some who had not seen each other in years.
Organized by staff members and religious services chaplains at the Northern California Youth Correctional Center (NCYCC), and paid for entirely by fundraisers and donations, families without financial means or transportation issues were welcomed with complimentary meals and lodging, and most importantly, emotional reunions with their loved ones.
“The bus program helped me reconnect with family members that I haven’t seen in over two years,” said youth Calvin Charles. “My favorite part was getting to play with my daughter and build a stronger connection with her. I felt like I was making up for a lot of lost time.”
Division of Juvenile Justice Director Chuck Supple was on hand to greet families during the day and half of visitation activities.
“Restorative justice begins with healing, and families are big part of that process,” said Supple. “Families, staff, and the community all play a vital role in the mission of making these youth ready for a return to society as contributing, functioning adults. Family visits play a vital role.”
Eighteen families totaling 54 participants were able to participate, according to lead organizer Deacon Fidel Carrillo, a Catholic Chaplain at NCYCC.
“We are hoping to help re-build the family unit that is in so much need in this day and age,” said Carrillo. “By offering this program, we intend to hold all participating youth accountable to a higher and more dignified standard of life within the facilities’ walls, and challenging them in the building up of their character and respect of the other.”
Among the lead organizers and fundraiser is Michael Trotter, a Treatment Team Supervisor at N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility. “Part of the requirements to participate is that the youth go three months without a documented behavioral incident,” said Trotter. “Keeping this promise instills self-respect, self-worth and self-accountability.”
“It was nice to see families being able to visit their loved ones”, said Superintendent Linda Bridges. “Some of the family members enjoyed the trip so much the first time, they returned for the second trip. This provides motivation for the youth to return home.”
With the help of personal contributions and fundraisers, the goal is to make this program an annual event for the youth facilities community. Plans and fundraising efforts are underway for a Family Bus visit to the Pine Grove Fire Camp this November.