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Sproul advocate of Sheriffs' Youth Homes

ALBANY — Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul addressed members of the Albany Downtown Sertoma Club Thursday on the topic of “at-risk,” abandoned or abused children — not just in Dougherty County but all over Georgia.

“When I first considered running for Sheriff in 2008, I was captain of the youth division for Jamil Saba,” Sproul said, “and my greatest concern was who would watch over my ‘kids.’”

Sproul said that in the 1990’s he and his wife opened up their home to underprivileged children and raised them “basically as their own.” He was able to resolve the child care issues and go on to become sheriff, Sproul said. Now he’s fully involved with programs such as the Georgia Sheriffs Youth Homes, as well as efforts instigated by his local office.

The Sertoma presentation began with a short video on the Sheriffs Youth Homes, featuring testimonies of several young adults who had grown up in that environment. Many of the accounts recall histories of drug-addicted, sometimes criminal parents who neglected or abused their children. The homes were said to provide safe and warm environments, with caring house parents. The home residents are sent to school and even college or trade school, according to the video.

“Children are up against a lot in this society,” Sproul said. “They have to deal with self-esteem issues, street gangs, confused standards, the need for acceptance from their parents, the stresses of sex, too much or not enough discipline, drugs and alcohol.”

Sproul later turned the presentation over to Terron Hayes, director of crime prevention and intervention at the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office. Hayes said than none of the department’s 18 programs for at risk youth receive any funding except through donations and funds generated by the annual golf tournament in April.

“We have a line item in the budget for zero dollars,” Hayes said. “My programs work with zero dollars. That’s why I say I’m a professional beggar. I believe in begging for my kids it it helps them stay away from gangs and drugs, be positive, productive and successful.”

For more information on the Georgia Sheriffs Youth Homes or other programs for at risk children go to www.gasheriffs.org or call the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office at (229) 431-2166.