Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Potter’s House of Fort Worth graciously hosted the 2016 Willoughby House Family Day event on Saturday, July 23. An impressive turn out of the Deacon Board and TJJD volunteers and mentors helped make the day a success.

Youth and family members enjoyed the festive atmosphere, played games and had a picnic lunch.

Volunteer Mentor and Fort Worth Resource Council for Youth member Latasha Walker conducted a mini workshop on communication skills and Parole Officer Jeffrey Manuel shared with youth and parents the rules of parole.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The McFadden Ranch Book Club, begun in July by Superintendent Jimmie Prince, has spurred great interest among the youth. The club meets weekly, when they discuss their current book selection and also watch the movie made from that book to determine the differences and similarities between the book and the movie.

So far, youth have read The Boy in The Striped Pajamas by John Boyne, Holes by Louis Sachar, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and they’re currently reading The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.

One youth discovered that sometimes the characters don’t look as they were described or even imagined in the book. He said that in Holes, the main character is fat in the book but he’s not fat in the movie.

The books come from the Lewisville Library which puts together "Book Kits" for all ages. The kits consist of four to six copies of a book and a study guide. Superintendent Prince checks out the Book Kit and Volunteer and Reading Tutor Barbara Sutherland leads the weekly group. She said it’s exciting to see the boys reading and getting something out of the books. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

In August, TJJD purchasers attended the eighth annual Artie Lee Hinds Award Dinner hosted by Texas Institute for Blind and Handicapped (TIBH). More than 400 guests were at the event, including 43 award nominees, their family, and friends. Those in attendance recognized TIBH, its Community Rehabilitation Program and their employees for their contributions to the Texas State Use Program.

For the third consecutive year, TJJD was recognized as being in the top 10 of all state agencies as having the highest dollar amount of purchases through the State set aside program from TIBH. TJJD is in an elite group that included some very large agencies (TxDOT, DSHS, DARS, TDCJ, and TCEQ). Congratulations to TJJD’s purchasing staff for working hard this past year to keep us in the top 10. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Student Support Council for the Gainesville State School recently held their annual "Celebrity Wait" with a stellar roster of waiters. Local celebrities who pitched in to help raise funds included State Representative Drew Springer, City Manager Barry Sullivan, Sheriff Terry Gilbert, Director of Economic Development Arlene Loyd, and Texas Juvenile Justice Administrators Chip and Rebecca Walters.

Many other popular Cooke county residents such as Dr. Larry Sears, United Way Executive Director Angie Hare, First Presbyterian Minister John Hare, Abigail’s Arms Staff Maria Najera and Jessica Chambers, Gainesville State School Superintendent Mike Studamire, Assistant Superintendent Deidra Reece, and Chaplain Dennis Banks helped the cause and helped raise $2,700. The entertaining evening was held at Luigi’s Italian Restaurant.

One guest, Anita Schwartz, who was visiting from Austin exclaimed, "I have never seen so many happy people in one room! Everyone had a wonderful time and the food was delicious. It is always great to help a good cause."

The money will be used to purchase clothing, toiletries, and bags for youth, bus tickets for family members to visit youth, scholarships for college, graduation supplies, sports banquets, meals for youth who leave campus to play sports such as football, incentives for youth, success documents such as birth certificates, social security cards, and state identification cards, and many other needed items.

PHOTO: State Representative Drew Springer serves Richard and Linda Lira at the Celebrity Wait held at Luigi’s Restaurant.

Monday, November 28, 2016

By Cris Burton
(TJJD’s Cris Burton was invited to present the Pairing Achievement With Service program at the American Correctional Association at the organization’s August 2016 meeting in Boston. The following is his report on the presentation.)

"The 146th National Congress of the American Correctional Association has accepted your proposal."

If you would have told me this when Holli Fenton and I started PAWS in 2010, I would have said you were not playing with a full deck. But, in 2016, this is now a reality. The chance to talk about PAWS on a national stage and to colleagues in the field of corrections was an honor and somewhat overwhelming. When I think about what it took to get here, it is and continues to be an incredible journey. The ACA conference in Boston was certainly a pinnacle experience. One highlight of the conference was the opening Keynote from Governor Charlie Baker and guest speaker journalist David Gergen. Both had insightful comments on the corrections industry and on the current political atmosphere.

The PAWS workshop, "Canine Programs in Juvenile Justice," was well received. There was a wide range of attendees from counselors and social workers to wardens. All had some familiarity with canine programs and the wardens, in particular, from Alabama and Georgia, were already running adult canine programs. Many had questions about juveniles working with dogs. Some of the comments ranged from, "Everyone should attend this presentation," to "We need more presentations on Juvenile Justice." Everyone in attendance seemed to agree that the PAWS program is unique in that PAWS has an intentional therapeutic design, where other canine programs tend to concentrate on the outcomes of the dogs, especially in the adult programs.

As the journey continues, there are too many to name for the success. Much, if not most, of the credit has to go to Holli Fenton and the incredible staff at Ron Jackson that have hung in there over the last six years and have made PAWS the success it is today. Also, Deidre Reece and the staff who are just getting started at Gainesville are doing a great job continuing the PAWS legacy.

Look for PAWS at the upcoming Texas Correctional Association (TCA) Conference December 1-2, 2016 in Round Rock and at the Counsel for Juvenile Corrections Administrators (CJCA) in association with the ACA Winter Conference in San Antonio, January 22, 2017.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Fort Worth Resource Council for Youth (FWRCY) recently accepted a $125 donation in gift cards from employees at BBVA Compass Bank branches in Fort Worth. The FWRCY is the non-profit that supports the youth at Willoughby House and the youth on parole in Tarrant County. Pictured from left to right: Heidi Howard and Maria Lopez of BBVA Compass, Warner Filley and Carol Kenel with the FWRCY and Stephanie Henderson, who is with both BBVA and the FWRCY. Stephanie made the donation possible!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

What led you to your career in juvenile justice?
I would say God did. As a child I was raised in a very dysfunctional family. My siblings and I were involved at one point the Child Welfare Department, leading to us being placed in a children’s home in Arkansas for a period of time. Eventually my mother was able to get her life together to get us all back, but there was still continued dysfunction.

When I was in high school, I wanted to be a social worker to help children. However, I did not go that direction. Instead, I enlisted in the U. S. Army for several years and came home, married, and had a family. It was not until my youngest daughter was in high school, and I was working at Wharton County Junior College that I started going to college on the Hazelwood Act, which was available to people who have served in the military and entered and exited the military with Texas as its home of record. It was with this grant paying for my tuition that I was able to work towards a degree.

Initially, I thought I wanted to be a teacher. However, while working on my degree, I gravitated towards communications and criminal justice classes. After I received my degree from the University of Houston Downtown, I went to work at the Wharton County District Attorney’s office. During the two years that I was there, I pursued and earned an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Paralegal Studies. In 2009, I went to work for Adult Probation where I was the High Risk Caseload Officer. During my two-and-a-half year tenure at Adult Probation, I aided in the facilitation and implementation of programming and supervision that was client-centered, but also focused on having "no more victims." In my supervision, I was especially sensitive to youthful offenders and those who had been victims of violent crime. When the Chief Juvenile Probation Officer position became vacant, I felt called to apply for the position, and that it was where I was supposed to be. After submitting my application, I read everything I could find on juvenile justice topics, including much literature on evidence-based practices. I have been here for four and a half years. I felt that there was a plan for me to be here, so I am now able to work with juveniles and their families and provide for some of their needs in the gaps that exist within the juvenile justice system. I went to work of Wharton County Juvenile Probation November 1, 2011, and TJJD was born in December.

So when I say that God led me to the Juvenile field it’s because I feel that He truly did, giving me the opportunity to work with youth and their families, whose needs I feel I can personally relate. So many of our juveniles have unseen needs such as sexual abuse, mental and physical abuse, mental health needs and parents who just do not know how to parent. It is not always about the offense; it’s what led up to the offense.

What types of facilities do you operate?
Our department does not have a detention facility. Our Department consists of three officers, one administrative assistant and me.

What programs do you feel have proven most successful?
My proudest accomplishment has been working around the transportation issues by finding locations that we can have the provider come to the juveniles and their families. Our department has been able to bring services to the juveniles and their families in the town where they live by working with the local library for space. This has helped us get juveniles and their families to the services helping eliminate the transportation issues we have had in the past. We have been able to contract services and bring them to our county from Fort Bend County and Harris County and to offer in home family therapy, aggression replacement training, individual therapy and counseling. One of our local licensed professional counselors was a crisis center counselor, and she helps our youth and parents deal with different types of abuse as well as anger issues. We have learned that one service does not serve all. Each family and each child is an individual with individual needs.

What do you see as the biggest challenges for juvenile justice in Texas?
The biggest challenge is our mindset and the mindset of others. While we may have fewer juvenile referrals, the ones we are getting are much more intense. The mental health issues, the number of girls and boys who have been sexually assaulted and are victims and who are also probationers has risen dramatically. They need more services than we can afford, so we work with different organizations to provide these services. The juvenile we are seeing today has higher needs than we have seen in the past. Sometimes we see so many needs, it is hard to prioritize and know where to start.

This is where a validated assessment comes in to help us make that determination. As we have learned, it has to be used properly for it to be applied with any success. My department uses the Noble assessment, and it has been effective for us. I was able to go to an American Probation and Parole Association national training last summer and hear how other states treat juvenile offenders and what they are doing to help and deter them from state facilities. They all talked about using validated assessments, and they appear to be more about assessments and about rehabilitation for juveniles to help with recidivism.

Are there any changes that you are considering in your county?
We are a small county and we, like everyone else, have gotten budget cuts the last 4 years. Due to these budget cuts, we look to start using in- house, officer-driven programming workbooks and journals. The families and the juvenile will work together at home. Our officers will then go over the material with them to discuss the positive and negative issues. This not only reinforces the materials learned, but facilitates positive interaction between the juvenile and the family and the juvenile and the officer. One of our officers and I are trained to teach NCTI classes if the need arises to teach classes.

What do you want others to know about your department?
My department has dedicated officers who are sometimes the only stable influence in the lives of our juveniles and their families. They are willing to work with each family and help give them the hope they need to move forward in a positive manner. Each juvenile is important to us and our mission is to provide for the care, the protection, and wholesome moral, mental and physical development of children coming within its jurisdiction.

When you are not working, how do you spend your time?
I have been blessed with three beautiful grandchildren who I keep as often as I can; thankfully, they live close by so I see them quite often. I am very involved in my church where I serve as Vice-President on our Christian preschool board. I enjoy working at my church helping wherever I am needed. I am part of the community Manna Meals program where we feed the hungry of body and soul twice a week. I serve on the Women’s Crisis Center Board of Directors as Secretary, and I work in the community raising awareness of abused women and children in our county.

What is the best part of your job?
The opportunities to bring hope to the juveniles and their families that we work with, so that they can break the generational cycle that some of them are in to become a successful member of our community. We always enjoy getting graduation cards, seeing our juveniles do well in sports and academically or having them come up and talk to us at Wal-Mart to tell us how well they are doing. The best part is knowing you touched their lives in some way.

What advice would you give to a young new juvenile justice professional?
This is not just a job; this is a calling. You have to have a real interest in wanting to work with juveniles and their families. Change is something that is always happening in the juvenile world, and you have to be willing to learn and to accept change. Though we may not see success immediately with our juveniles, you must remember that you have planted a seed that you can only hope will take root. Hopefully, you will be the one who can give them the hope that they need to become successful. It is one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have.

PHOTO: Billie Jean Bram