Chronic truancy is more than just a bad habit; it harms children as well as schools, which receive less state funding when attendance rates are low. In Alameda County, the truancy rate is above the state average and, at 35%, is also the highest in the Bay Area.
Alameda County’s truancy court works to combat these soaring truancy rates. The program works to stymie truancy by addressing the root of the problem: lack of parental oversight. Parents of truant youth are fined by the court and are placed on a 12 month probationary period to increase their child’s attendance rate. During this period, parents attend classes and work with wrap around service programs, which help address some of the causes of chronic absences and educate parents about the importance of school attendance for their children’s future.
Juvenile Dependency and Delinquency judges are working tirelessly throughout the Bay Area to intervene at a young age for lasting change. Recognizing the importance of the work these judges do, PVF launched a Juvenile Court Judges program in 1999 to support judges in five counties. This program grew from the realization that some of the most at-risk youth in a community interact with judges in court daily. Judges are therefore in a unique position to identify critical needs. To date, we have funded a range of critical needs through this program, including incentive gift cards and teddy bears for National Adoption Day.
We have also supported Alameda County’s truancy court by funding incentive backpacks for their annual graduation ceremony. This ceremony is for the parents who successfully complete the anti-truancy program, and during the ceremony the children of the graduating parents receive backpacks. This truancy court funding was born out of an effort to support the work of an outstanding leader, Teresa Drenick, the Alameda County Deputy District Attorney. When asked how she could best use discretionary funds, Teresa informed us that she wanted to provide participating children a reward for their improved attendance. Eight years later, we have paid for hundreds of backpacks to support the court’s efforts to combat truancy and in turn foster a new generation of educated youth.