On Sept. 14, Judge Alvin Turner accepted a $20,000 donation on behalf of Ascension's Families in Need of Services (FINS) program from Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley on behalf of APSO.
Turner said that the money will be used to secure raises for FINS employees.
"We have some great workers with our program who are woefully underpaid," Turner said.
The mission of FINS is to ensure that children, who are identified as status offenders (according to the LA Children’s Code) and their families have timely access to an effective local system designed to match the needs of the family with quality services to deter youth from more serious offenses, including delinquent arrest and/or delinquent adjudication.
Turner said he believes the pay raises will improve the program overall.
"To be honest, [the employees] would probably still work being underpaid, but there's a better chance of people leaving you - we've had that happen. The salary is just not commensurate with the duties and their experience - one girl we have has a PhD."
The work includes employees going into the schools and working with guidance counselors, students and parents to address the needs of at-risk teens. A conference is then held to determine what services are most needed to assist the family. The program also deals with runaways and children who have problems in school or at home. Turner said the main goal is to keep the children out of the juvenile detention system.
"We try to intervene - we try to find out why did this happen? Why is this child fighting in school? Is there an underlying problem there? Is there a problem that needs to be addressed? Is there behavior counseling that can be done to save this child - it's an intervention program to keep the child from being a causality in the juvenile system."
The program is regularly funded by the Louisiana Supreme Court and local government. Gonzales, Donaldsonville and Ascension Parish Government also contribute to the program.
Turner said in the two years he has been over the program in Ascension Parish, he has seen great results. He further hopes that the pay raises will increase morale and see more positive work happening.