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Budget Cuts Affect At-Risk Youth

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MEDFORD, Ore. — Authorities say the number of juvenile criminals has dropped nearly half in the past decade, but now sequestration cuts to early education could halt that progress.

Experts with juvenile services call it a continuum. They say crime prevention starts before they ever become involved, sometimes way before. They say early years are some of the most formative in a child’s life, particularly for low-income youth or kids from at-risk families.

Programs like Head Start offer those kinds of programs, but sequestration cuts are impacting their services across the board. That means not only education, but also mental health support and family intervention. They say those cuts in services will impact children as they go through school and learn how to deal with authority.

Head Start says they have to cut 5 percent of their budget by November. That means putting more low-income or at-risk children on the waiting list. The also have to shorten their term by three weeks, which for some children means three more weeks in a harmful home environment.

Authorities say any impacts to juvenile crime rate wouldn’t be seen for many years, but they say there will be an impact. They say they’re working to prevent that by learning how to better identify and focus on high-risk youth and teens.