To provide professionals working with truant children a means to rapidly and successfully address the critical issue of truancy within the schools and Courts of Berks County. Using evidence based practices to address those issues which lead children to become truant, the Truancy Reduction Initiative seeks to reduce truancy in Berks County Schools thus increasing graduation rates and better preparing students for post-secondary education. The TRI will target children who need the most assistance with periodic evaluation of the program ensure that it continues to meet the needs of the Schools and Court.
With one of the highest habitual truancy and dropout rates in the state, the County of Berks and the 23rd Judicial District - Berks County Court of Common Pleas decided to bring together a coalition of county agencies, service agencies, school district personnel, and other interested parties to look at developing a county funded program to address these issues.
The Berks County Truancy Program will enable schools and Magisterial District Judges to refer habitual truants to the program, which will provide assessment, case management, and mentoring to the students in an attempt to identify the causes of their truancy and develop a plan to get them back into school on a regular basis. This program, funded by the Juvenile Probation Office and Children and Youth Services, will be able to serve approximately 150 students this school year and is expected to expand and serve up to 300 students in 2012-2013.
This effort, lead by President Judge Jeffrey Schmehl, Judge Scott Lash, and County Commissioner Christian Leinbach, began with a general meeting in June, 2011, with a second meeting in September 2011. At the September meeting, 3 Sub-Committees were formed based upon 3 areas of concentration. The first, Policy, Process, and Protocol (3P), sought to develop a county-wide protocol to be used by School Districts, Magisterial District Judges, and County Departments to address truancy at all levels of the system. The second, Intervention, was focused on developing a list of Intervention practices to be used and shared by School Districts and other professionals. The Data Sub-Committee was tasked with determining what data should be collected, and developing a means to collect and evaluate the data to ensure program success. The 3 Committees began meeting almost weekly in an attempt to have the Protocol and other resources in place for a January 2012 launch date.