Innovative Youth Services Agency Receives UCC’s Genesis Fund Grant

A new, game-changing “Restorative Justice” program at the United Church of Christ’s Charles Hall Youth Services in Bismarck, N.D., just received a boost in the form of a $12,000 grant from the denomination’s Office of Philanthropy and Stewardship.

The Genesis Fund Grant –– specifically for new initiatives in Christian mission, or those that may be deemed by some to be controversial –– will help Charles Hall give the program a successful launch.

“Charles Hall Youth Services will use the fund designated through the Genesis Fund to implement a Restorative Justice process and Council to hear specific youth cases where a youth has engaged in problematic behavior that infringes on another person’s rights,” says Rhonda Styles-Rohde, director of marketing and communications. “These behaviors are typically ones that are not severe enough to warrant substantive juvenile justice interventions.”

The goal of Restorative Justice is to enable youth to have a voice in a restorative action plan to make right –– as much as possible –– the youth’s offenses and restore relationships between the youth and community. For example, says Styles-Rohde, a recent case involved a youth who had run away multiple times, adding to the burden of the local police department and juvenile court. Because of the Restorative Justice Council, the youth received an opportunity to make amends, instead of receiving a juvenile court citation.

“She baked and cheerfully delivered 24 cupcakes to” the local police department, says Rohde. “This action plan was effective because both the youth and the police felt good about the positive connection made. To sustain this relationship, she has decided to bake for them monthly.”

Restorative Justice will build on the already successful approach Charles Hall takes to serving youth –– a model of care that emphasizes learning from mistakes, fulfilling responsibilities, and thinking through actions and their consequences.

“The Restorative Justice Council will provide appropriate avenues for dialogue between victims and offenders in order to work toward restitution and restored relationship, and it will find meaningful ways to involve the broader community,” says the Rev. James Moos, executive minister of the UCC’s Wider Church Ministries and a former pastor in Bismarck, N.D. “This opens the way to move beyond silence, mistrust and alienation toward collaboration, reintegration and restoration.”

Widely known for its holistic approach to high-risk youth between ages 10 and 19, Charles Hall Youth Services helps answer its clients’ physical, educational, spiritual, cultural, and psycho-social needs. About half of the 90 youth served each year are American Indian, 45 percent are Caucasian, and 5 percent are Latinx or other ethnicities. Many of the youth come from abusive situations and are suffering from post-traumatic stress, depression or anxiety disorders.

“It means a great deal for our CHHSM agency when the larger UCC stands behind us with financial support for the justice issues we confront on a daily basis with the youth that we serve and the systems we sometimes have to battle,” says Gayla Sherman, executive director, programs & resource development. “We will be good stewards of the funds, which are a tangible sign of the grace that God continues to provide our agency as we work to do the mission for which we have been called.”

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