Augusta leaders, residents address problems facing youths

Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 6:48 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Our I-TEAM has spent over a year exposing truancy issues in Richmond County.

We found a driving factor is homelessness. The number of homeless students increased by 25 percent since this time last year.

Augusta city leaders say those are not the only issues. They held a meeting addressing teen mental health and crime.

Chief Judge Willie Saunders with the juvenile court says they’re seeing more violence in the courtroom and more crisis cases with our youth.

They’re bringing in community and state partners to try and understand what’s happening and find a solution to fix the problem.

For six years, Saunders has worked as a juvenile court judge. His forum is looking for answers to fix the youth crisis in Augusta.

“It’s an opportunity for us to start a conversation because the things that we are seeing in the courtroom and other partners, such as the school system and others are seeing, required the community’s input and help,” he said.

They say they’re seeing truancy, mental health issues, and child sex trafficking increasing in Augusta.

“It’s a problem that we, like everyone all over the state, is experiencing,” said Saunders.

Up to August, there’s been roughly 400 to 500 delinquency cases, about 400 foster care cases and complaints, and 2,300 children in need of services cases. All of those are on the rise.

“It sets us back whether we know it or not, whether we know that child or not, that potential of that child is not ever realized by society,” he said.

Saunders says parents need to be involved.

Check your kid’s phone, who their friends are, and what they’re doing.

“Parents, be nosy. Your kids do not have a Fourth Amendment right to privacy,” he said.

They’re hoping this forum can help get them an understanding of the community’s needs to help solve a complicated issue.

“This community is a wonderful community, and I know we can do better,” he said.

Saunders says they hope to continue working with the youth, parents, community, and state partners. They’re looking at holding this forum more often in the future.