February 18, 2002 11:00 pm

By Bill Rautenstrauch

For The Observer

ENTERPRISE The Wallowa County Board of Commissioners has named John Lawrence as director of the countys Juvenile Department.

Lawrence, 52, moves up from the assistant directors position, a job he has held full-time since January 2000. He replaces Molly Rogers, a six-year Wallowa county juvenile director who recently resigned to manage the Wasco County Juvenile Department.

I am extremely pleased the commissioners put their faith in me, Lawrence said. Altogether, 13 people applied for the position.

Lawrence came to Wallowa County from Southern California in the mid-1990s, purchasing Wagners Mens Store on Main Street in Enterprise. He and his wife, Karen, operated the business until 1999.

After it closed, Lawrence became involved with the Wallowa Valley Together Project, working in various youth programs. He found the work satisfying.

Molly saw something in me and invited me to apply for the assistant directors position. I did, and found myself doing something I enjoyed immensely, he said.

A mix of on-the-job training and classroom study helped him develop his skills.

Through the Oregon Association of Juvenile Department Directors, Lawrence became a certified counselor and probation officer. The training included a 32-hour in-service at the MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility. He has completed two-thirds of the training he needs to be certified at the intermediate level. He handled a large caseload while working under Rogers, and will continue to do so as the departments director.

Molly didnt carry that heavy a caseload, due to her involvement in the Central Eastern Oregon Juvenile Justice Consortium and other programs. I wont have those kind of responsibilities, so I will continue with a full caseload, he said.

Normally, Lawrence said, the juvenile department handles between 50 and 60 cases, though the number is down to 39 at present. Not all of them involve crimes. Some of the cases are termed dependency cases where a youngster has been declared a ward of the court.

I find this job very challenging, Lawrence said. Every kid is an individual with a different personality. You figure that personality out and develop an approach. Its a strength-based approach, one built on the kids strengths.

The new director maintains a healthy optimism when it comes to young people.

Actually only about 5 percent of kids ever become involved with the department, he said.

Lawrence said the juvenile department is part of a community resource team. Under that concept, individuals and agencies throughout the county work together for the good of youth.

Prevention and early intervention are important, he said. Very often, teachers help us identify kids who are at risk.

There are four juvenile department staff positions, including the directors. Marilyn Hulse works 32 hours a week as an administrative assistant, and Lisa Lively works half-time as a counselor and probation officer. Lively also works half-time in the district attorneys office as a victims advocate. The assistant directors position is a full-time one. Lawrence said the position will be filled later.

Lawrence made the budget proposal for the coming fiscal year, asking for $183,000. About $107,000 would come from the countys general fund, he said.

Karen Lawrence is a teacher in the Wallowa School District. The couple have three grown children. David, 28, is an attorney in Southern California. Amy, 26, was recently married and is a teacher in Boston, Mass. Michael, 21, is a college student.

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