PARKER COUNTY — Tom Kidd can’t help but look at the needs ahead for young people in Parker County as he approaches a Feb. 3 retirement after serving them for a quarter of a century.
The juvenile probation chief also reflected, during a recent interview in his office off North Main Street, on how some challenges have evolved in an era of cell phones and vapor pens loaded with THC — temptations for young people that were not around when he started.
“I think we make a lot of positive inroads with the kids, and especially with the parents,” Kidd said. “We see a lot of kids make a lot of good changes. And, really, the relationship we build with them — that’s the key.”
Kidd joined the department in 1988, coming from a private sector treatment program. It was then-Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Jerry Richey and one other probation officer.
Today, Kidd leads nine juvenile community supervision officers.
“The referrals (from the courts) have steadily increased,” he said, numbering the average caseload for each officer at 20 to 25 juveniles. (The adult side averages about 100 to 150).
The Student Resource Officer phenomenon was in its infancy in 1988. Placing cops in hallways has closed the gap between young students and law enforcement.
But Kidd noted the unpleasant result of knowing much more about teens’ destructive habits than in decades past. That includes using THC vape pens in the restrooms.
“That’s been a huge problem the past two or three years,” he said. “I think the point of it is obviously the schools are aware of it, and the SROs are aware of it. And they definitely target it.”
They’re also watching bathroom cell phone misuse, such as taking embarrassing photos of the kid in the next stall.
“And that’s a terroristic threat offense,” he said. “I think, with the phones and social media, we get a lot of offenses in that.”
He lists two elements of unfinished businesses, the first being the need for a juvenile detention center in Parker County.
“We contract with about seven other counties,” he said, naming Dallas, Denton and other neighbors, where costs for keeping Parker County kids reach around $200 a day. “What I would hope and foresee is maybe some counties like us … go together with a facility where we can share costs.
“This is important: now that the county is over 125,000 population, we’re going to have to open a Juvenile Justice Alternative Education program. We’re in the process of working with the school districts. That’s another thing that’s going to have to happen in the next years. It’s going to be a big project, and it’s going to be costly because you’re talking about a facility and all that. And there’s only about 20 statewide.”
As in the adult criminal justice system, poor mental health often contributes to crime. An MHMR grant secured three years ago is helping speed help to young people.
“We can get the kids those services much quicker because of that grant,” Kidd said, putting historic wait times at a few months. “With this program, we can get kids in right away.”
Kidd, 65, said he and his wife, Zenovia, a Weatherford ISD music teacher for more than 20 years, plan to travel in their upcoming free time.
“I’m a golfer, so I’ll probably do some of that,” he said.
The couple’s grown sons, Glen and Kyle, stay in touch, and the former is finishing a master’s degree in counseling and has five years of MHMR experience.
Kidd also will remain active on the board of the Parker County Committee on Aging, which operates the senior center on Holland Lake Drive.
“I’ll be active in the community and be involved in things,” he said.
The nonprofit agency is resisting calls from the county to return the senior center building the county owns and the agency maintains and pays utilities.
“We’re working with the county to do a lease agreement,” he said. “That is something that really needs to be figured out. I think there’s a lot of support in the community to keep it as it is. We just need to figure out what works best for the county as well as the senior center.”
And a 35-acre donated tract once envisioned as a new senior center has been placed back on the sale block, Kidd said.
Kidd wraps up his days with the county with its young people on his mind — and their families. During the interview, he rarely if ever brought up “the kids” without including their households in the same breath.
“I’ll miss working with the kids and the families,” Kidd said. “A lot of times, it can be stressful. What motivates me is that I can see the changes and the growth with the families.”
Stress accompanies a job in law enforcement, juvenile community supervision included. Kidd has his de-stressors —beyond living with a musical spouse.
“I do work out a little bit at Planet Fitness,” he said. “I enjoy watching movies and sports. I think I do a good job of trying not to take things too personally. What I won’t miss is those 4 a.m. calls from the police.
“Yeah, the stress is there, but I think knowing you did the best you can — that kind of helps you know you’ve done what you can to help.”
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