COLUMBIA (WACH) -- Parents and teens say their families are back on track after enrolling in the Next Step Program with Richland County Sheriff's Dept.
The goal of the program is to help empower parents to help their kids stay on track and out of trouble.
After completing the program Friday, teenagers told WACH FOX they had been bound for jail before the program but were now back on track in school and respected their parents again.
The Next Step Program is in connection with the R.E.A.D.Y. Program which puts kids with behavior problems through a night in jail and shows them what they need to do to avoid a real trip to jail.
Any child who goes through the jail experience is required to go with his or her parents through the Next Step Program.
The intensive training workshops and mediation sessions with the Sheriff's Dept. are aimed at helping parents and kids get along at home.
"At first it was kind of rough because I felt like [my parents] didn't like me," said Jacquez Kennedy, one of the program participants. "That's why they sent me to the Next Step Program, and they just didn't want to care for me, but when I saw the changes that I did, they made me think that maybe they do love me."
The program lasts 18 to 24 months or until families are back on track.
The program was introduced in January, 2012, and so far 850 families have gone through it -- rebuilding the parent-child relationships.
Participants are accepted into the program based on a referral system. Any community group can refer participants here.