Advocating for Troubled Teens in the Juvenile Justice System

February 14, 2024



For Immediate Release
January 22, 2024

Hamilton Strategies,, Jeff Tolson, 610.584.1096, ext. 108

Siouxland Youth For Christ advocates for troubled teens navigating the juvenile justice system

Karl Van Cura, Siouxland YFC Executive Director:

‘We build relationships that are sustained through ongoing involvement’

SIOUX CITY, IA — For 80 years, Youth For Christ (YFC, has engaged young people in authentic Christ-sharing relationships while walking alongside them through pivotal moments in their lives.

Perhaps no circumstance is as pivotal as incarceration. In any given year in the U.S., over 700,000 teens are referred to the juvenile justice system. Some will be sentenced to a corrections facility, others will be placed in a community-based alternative and many will receive probation.

YFC’s Juvenile Justice Ministry (JJM) is uniquely positioned to respond to this ongoing crisis. Siouxland Youth For Christ offers a comprehensive approach to caring for incarcerated teens while reaching a sprawling collective of four counties in Northwest Iowa.

According to Karl Van Cura, Siouxland YFC Executive Director, “JJM is geared toward fostering relationships with young people during any point of contact with the juvenile justice system. We build relationships that are sustained through ongoing involvement as young people navigate the different pillars encompassing the juvenile justice system: Community, Courts, and Corrections.”

Roxie Rahn, Ministry Director, noted, “JJM is one of our core ministry models. Then within that model, we employ an Advocacy Program where young people in lock up are connected with an advocate. And when a teen leaves the correctional facility, that same advocate continues to walk with them. This includes helping them navigate court appointments, corrections and re-entering the community.”

Rahn noted that this approach has inspired the team to reframe volunteers from mentors to advocates, a key distinction for young people.

“Advocates are more than mentors,” Rahn shared. “We’ve found that youth don’t necessarily want a ‘mentor,’ but they love the idea of an ‘advocate’ who will stand with them in front of a judge and vouch for them, get them connected to a local church and help them find a job.

“And this approach to ministry has caused us to think about critical moments both pre and post-incarceration. How can we address these issues in our teen center and catch these kids before they go in? And then, what are we doing to help those kids who are coming out get connected and have a community?”

Van Cura shared one example of this continuity of care.

“One young man we minister to got sentenced to 20 years in prison. YFC walked with, mentored, and advocated for him over a one-year period, and then we sat with him at his sentencing. Because of this investment into him, he is walking into prison with the Bible in his hand,” said Van Cura.

It’s just one story of many that highlights how Siouxland YFC isn’t just meeting students where they are, it’s helping them experience true life change for whatever comes next.

Van Cura said, “Through YFC Siouxland, these teens are learning what it means to follow Christ. It’s not about just saying yes to Jesus, as there is so much more to serving Him. We are helping them grow and go deeper in their relationship with Christ.”

YFC chapters impact thousands of communities across the nation, seeking out and serving youth from all walks of life. Young people are silently struggling through a wide variety of challenging issues — and through the YFC ministry God empowers them and they see the living power of a loving God. YFC trains its leaders in a proven, relational ministry model called 3Story®, which encourages staff and volunteers to be good news while also sharing the stories of the Good News of Jesus. It involves building relationships through the ups and downs of everyday life to lead people to Christ.

YFC has been a pillar of missional ministry since 1944, when Dr. Billy Graham served as YFC’s first full-time staff member. Since then, Youth For Christ has continued to be both a rural and urban ministry on mission, and it is always about the message of Jesus. Youth For Christ operates in over 100 nations and has over 120 chapters that impact communities across America.

Visit the Youth For Christ media page here. Learn more about Youth For Christ at its website, www.yfc.netFacebook and Instagram pages, Twitter feed @yfcusa or on Vimeo.


To interview a Youth For Christ representative, contact, Jeff Tolson, 610.584.1096, ext. 108.