The process of attaining justice through a court of law is challenging for most, but is especially difficult for youth. Here in Mississippi, thousands of kids come forward every month to seek help and modification for their unfortunate circumstances. *
Kids caught up in our criminal justice system desperately need guidance and advocacy, as many are fighting to free themselves from abuse, neglect or poverty. Prolonged exposure to these circumstances can persuade adolescents to resort to criminal activity such as violence, substance abuse and theft. Discourse on behalf of youth in the court of law is necessary to save children from hostile environments and prevent future criminal behavior.
Growing up, I was all too familiar with youth court. My childhood began in the foster care system, which left me vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse from different adults who were supposed to be guardians or supervisors. This landed me in years of legal battles that ultimately resulted in a lifelong passion to help youth who have faced the same difficulties as me.
Throughout my time in the justice system, I felt discontent with the lack of public figures and direction to guide youth through legalities in my area. I saw no private resources in my region to help cover the exorbitant legal fees of this demanding process, as well as the therapeutic means that process it. Since I have the privilege of being able to call myself a survivor, I am in a unique position to help
Last month, I launched The Youth Court Fund of North Mississippi, which is an emergency fund designed for the betterment of youth court cases. The fund is a $1000-$2000 donation set to cover legal fees and ease the minds of kids going through this extraordinarily difficult process. I needed something like this when going through my own cases, so to be in a position where I can help someone just like myself is an honor beyond words.
You can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about this project. If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, I strongly urge you to contact Mississippi’s Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-222-8000.
While the amount of youth court cases in the state of Mississippi are slowly dropping, the drive for awareness is far from over. There are still thousands of kids in the state, and hundreds of thousands of kids across the nation, who are anxiously awaiting to have their voices heard. Some are kids who have been placed in unfortunate circumstances, while others are adolescents who resorted to criminal activity due to difficult situations. I hope that by spreading awareness and sharing my story, I give a glimpse of how important it is to bring legal justice for the youth who cannot defend themselves and need help.
Jésus Ramirez is a guest writer and a freshman social work major from Corinth, Miss.