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Justice of Peace seeks ideas to turn around troubled teens

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JOHN CAPPS
Ellis County Press
Chad Adams, justice of the peace in Precinct 4 of Ellis County, related the following personal experience with the Ellis County Press:

'There was such bitterness and resentment in the young man, it showed in his eyes, his face, even his posture,' Judge Adams said. 'He was silent, but stood before me in the courtroom like a cornered animal all poised to snarl and bite. He was disrespectful, yet seemed helpless and confused. He was an enigma to me, and I wanted to know more about him.'

Judge Adams gave the 17-year-old an assignment of community service as a penalty for his misdeed, but kept the teen on his mind. After the boy completed the required term of service, he was called back to court for review.

'I placed him last on the docket and made him wait,' he said. 'When it was his turn, I attempted to ease into a dialogue with him. When I asked about his parents, he became increasingly bitter.

He seemed particularly bitter at his father, and perhaps as a consequence, he seemed bitter at all authority.

'Finally I learned his parents were divorced. When I asked about his father, he said his dad was in a nearby community, but hadn't seen him in three years.

'We talked further — slowly and with caution. I told him it was okay to be angry, but bitterness will destroy you from the inside. He nodded. Then a look of realization came over him, followed by the appearance of immense relief. Maybe - just maybe - the young man benefited from our heartfelt encounter.'

Adams sees numerous cases like this one and believes the breakdown of the family unit leaves numerous children as casualties after divorce.

'Children carry a sense of betrayal by the parents, primarily by the father,' he said 'I feel each child deserves parental attention and guidance, and where those factors are lacking it stretches a long shadow over society.

'Many youth today have lost their identity as to who they are. If a person does not know who they are, they do not have a purpose or direction in life. So we have a large part of our population wandering around without direction... mentally, emotionally and physically. This is a breeding ground for crime.

'I had a parent call me recently to see if I would give his 15-year-old son a good talking to. The parent somehow thought I could set his son straight. Quite frankly, in the 15 or 20 minutes of lecture I might give this child as a judge, I feel telling him of the consequences of his actions will never change an establish habit of rebellion over numerous years.'

Adams has suggestions about what caring citizens and community leaders can do for our young. He believes kids need relationships with responsible, sympathetic adults, and while groups such as Sunday School or scouting have an enormous impact, one-on-one relationships are critical to children.

Readers of the Gateway To Crime series can look forward to additional and frequent contributions from Judge Adams. Beyond his traditional duties as a Judge, Adams teaches a large class of young people at his church, actively assists area schools with teen mediation programs, and is a participating co-leader and valuable member of a newly formed 'think tank' on teen crime in Ellis County.

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