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Besides helping children thrive in school and stay out of courts and child welfare systems, SOCs are reducing the number of suicide attempts among these children, he said. “Suicide remains the third leading cause of death for teenagers in this country, and clearly, from our perspective, it’s the most preventable of deaths.”

In Jonesboro, Ark., their SOC currently works with 125 children and their families, said Matt Knight of Arkansas Collaborating to Improve Our Network (ACTION) for Kids.

The local juvenile justice system “loves us,” he said. Not only do troubled youths see their health improved by being in an SOC, but very few of them end up incarcerated again.

Creating a specific safety net for a child is not necessarily a new idea, but it’s one well worth investing in, Mr. Blau said.

Years ago, as a clinical psychologist in Connecticut, he said, “I could see a youngster for one hour a week.” But there are 168 hours in a week, and the big worry was always, “What about the other 167 hours?”

With SOCs, he said, it’s clear that children and teens “do better — they stay out of juvenile justice, finish school and frankly become happier people.”

Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at