(WKBN) – As First News continues its in-depth look at solutions to gun violence on our streets, we’re learning about the juvenile court system.

The court tries to identify what may cause young people to find violence acceptable. One of the concerns that are rising is the issue of trauma.

“Trauma is near and dear to my heart for people to learn more about. We all experience trauma, and I think most people understood that now that we have gone through COVID and how it has impacted so many lives. But the important thing to look at is the trauma that occurs to any youth from birth to age 18. That needs to be measured, and that indicates your level of trauma and the impact it may have on you,” said Mahoning County Juvenile Court Judge Theresa Dellick.

Dellick says you have to balance that with resiliency factors that may be in your family, your surroundings or your support system. She says they’re seeing levels of trauma in all of the students who go to juvenile court.

“We do ‘ACE’ study — Adverse Childhood Experience study. Actually, the evaluation of each student coming in, and we’re seeing students with five — the most you can get is 10. The level five is significant. When you have someone who has a 10, that poor child’s been through an awful lot, and trauma then affects how we react and how we don’t react. It affects how we perceive. It affects how we judge and how we just see the world. So trauma is a major influencer in our lives and your life. Our life and then take upon that once you turn 18. The other trauma is that you have death in the family, loss of a job, divorce, being fired. Same thing as that loss of a job, but then you put COVID on top of it. Many people said they were traumatized. So trauma is a driving force for a lot of our behaviors because it affects your fight, flight or freeze and how you’re going to deal with every situation that you encounter,” Dellick said.

We wonder if this is a new approach to violence.

“We’ve been doing it at juvenile court for 20 years, so I don’t want to say it’s new, but it’s really gaining a lot of attention recently because we’re seeing that many of these lives, you’re seeing who’s coming in and you’re trying to evaluate what’s coming in. What are some of the identifying factors? You’re seeing it’s trauma, not mental health, not necessarily drug, because trauma can influence your mental health. Trauma can influence your need to do drugs and so it’s probably at the bottom and it’s at the root for the cause of what’s causing many of these problems,” Dellick said.

As a judge, Dellick is intricately involved in this as it’s evolving not just across the state of Ohio but across the nation.

WKBN Community Affairs Director Dee Crawford: “Will any of those indicators be made public to the community for a better understanding? Because every community is grappling, trying to understand what’s happening, and that is traumatic, whether you are a direct result, relative of the individual, it’s traumatic. How we deal with that seems to be a struggle.”
Dellick: “Oh, it is a struggle because if you’re not equipped with how to do it, I mean, it’s almost as if using the right tool for a job. If you don’t have the tools in gear because they’ve been traumatized and damaged, you’re not going to be able to deal with every situation.”

On Wednesday, we will talk with Judge Dellick about programs the juvenile court uses to help youth.