Because I wanted to make a difference for kids and families who would be most impacted by the high costs associated with our youth justice system, I shared my personal experience with lawmakers during the legislative session.

Watch my video below to learn why I shared my story and how the youth justice system is changing because of advocates like me.

Through Stand for Children Indiana, I have learned that my voice matters. My story helped influence lawmakers to make a big change in the law that will prevent youth and their families from being negatively impacted by unjust costs and fees in our youth system.

If you have a story to tell, I encourage you to join Stand for Children Indiana’s email list and share your story by emailing [email protected].  

I appreciate Representative McNamara for authoring House Bill 1493. Below is my personal story and reason I believe HB 1493 is a great step in the right direction for our youth justice system.

I would have never imagined the stress of having a child go through the criminal justice system before experiencing it. A few years back, my oldest son Marcus was arrested at the age of 16. He was taken to a juvenile facility after some older boys he was with blamed him for a crime they committed.

From there, my son Marcus was scheduled to attend court on two separate occasions. He also had to write a letter and go to counseling. Last, he was placed on probation. All these things came at a cost. These costs and fees were in my son’s name, despite the fact that he was a minor with no income.

I felt fortunate at the time because we had health insurance, and I had the savvy and resources to seek out a counselor for him to complete his sentencing requirements. We had to do this on our own though and if this situation would have happened just a few years before, it wouldn’t have happened as smoothly. I would have struggled to cover the costs.

Because the prosecutor understood that my son was a good kid, he decided not to put him through court. Even though he didn’t go, I still had to pay the fees for the dates that were previously set. Even though it wasn’t as burdensome for me as it may have been for someone with a lower income, there are people that look like me that may not be able to advocate for their child or navigate the criminal system as well.

As traumatic as the situation was, it could have been worse if I didn’t understand how to navigate our system or didn’t have the money available to pay the cost and fees.

I do not know of a single child with the ability to afford the fees and costs associated with our juvenile justice system. Kids simply don’t have the money to pay. If they are able to afford anything at all, it is because they have been given the money by a parent or another adult. And for families already struggling, the costs of our system can be devastating.

Our juvenile system is meant to be rehabilitative and forcing kids to pay, especially kids who come from families who cannot afford it, makes our system punitive.

As I understand it, parents are currently responsible for reimbursing the state for out-of-home placements and this bill would eliminate that cost for families who cannot afford it. While my son luckily never had to face being placed in a detention center or foster home, I fully support this bill. It would eliminate some of the costs and fees for kids in our system. It is a great step in the right direction.

As someone who has experienced our youth justice system, I want to share my story –that explains why I support House Bill 1493 and why I spoke at the statehouse to offer my support for this bill.

In the 7th grade, I was pulled out of my classroom by the police because of unpaid costs and fees. I was too young to remember exactly what those costs and fees were, but as the police took me into the hall and searched me, the bell rang and everyone saw. It was my worst nightmare come true at that age. The embarrassment of that day followed me around for years. My peers were still reminding me of it through high school.

I was a kid and I wasn’t a bad kid – I just made an unfortunate choice in what looking back feels like an impossible situation.

My mom was livid that day. She felt it was unfair for a child to be taken from class and served a warrant for unpaid fees. What was my mom supposed to do? She was a single mom who could not pay. I didn’t have a job and I couldn’t pay.

Eventually, we went back to court and a judge dropped the cost. But it took time and the damage was done. I know my mom was relieved financially because we didn’t have that cost hanging over us, but I was still facing embarrassment at school and the image I had of myself was altered.

I was innocent before that day. But I was treated like a criminal after. My teachers and my peers saw me differently. As a result, I started to see myself differently too.

My point in sharing my story is simple: Expensive and unaffordable costs and fees don’t teach kids that they have a future. It takes small, petty crimes and holds kids’ hostage. It sends a message to kids, especially kids whose families can’t afford it, that the mistakes they made will follow them forever. I never want any of my children to face what I did or have to overcome it.  

Having experienced court fees as a child, the high amount and what can happen when they go unpaid, I know firsthand that they hurt kids. It negates the purpose of rehabilitating kids, which is what our youth justice system should do. I hope to see House Bill 1493 pass because it would eliminate some of the costs and fees for kids facing our juvenile justice system.