Tuesday, February 21, 2017

This past October, 136 members of Giddings youth’s families had the amazing opportunity to worship together with their loved ones at the first ever Family Worship Day Event held on the Giddings campus.

The event featured Christian rap artist Ivan Nacianceno, creator of Christ Like Music and Ministries out of Madisonville, Texas. Ivan shares his faith through captivating lyrics matched with undeniably catchy beats that youth, family members, and staff all enjoyed. Ivan pairs his musical gift with the inspirational message of his life story, which is easily relatable to our students.

Giddings State School staff Heather Brock (Family Liaison) and Thomas Merchant (Chaplain) did an incredible job of providing this opportunity to youth and their loved ones. The event was broken into two sessions to accommodate the overwhelming response from families. Youth were able to sit and worship with their parents, siblings, and other family members and some youth led prayers and devotionals during the service. Students whose families were unable to attend were provided the opportunity to attend themselves.

The response from both students and their families was exceptionally moving and evidenced the important impact these programs can and do have on the lives we strive to change.

“The kids have responded in great numbers,” said Chaplain Merchant. “We will have to do group class and then baptism for all those that have responded.”

Students and staff alike are looking forward to the next worship event and other exciting happenings on campus.

Friday, February 17, 2017

TJJD’s Melissa Headrick welcomed hundreds of participants to the annual Tree of Angels ceremony in Austin on December 6, 2016. The service at Central Christian Church offered a poignant way to honor loved ones lost to violent crime. Representatives from law enforcement, the Governor’s Office, county commissioners, TDJC and TJJD provide assistance to People Against Violent Crime and the Travis County Sheriff’s Office, who host the event each year.

TJJD takes special pride knowing that the Tree of Angels ceremony started through the creativity of our own Kristy Almager’s mother, Verna Lee Carr, who serves as Executive Director of People Against Violent Crime. Since Ms. Carr held the first event in 1991, it has grown into an annual ritual throughout much of Texas, nationally and internationally.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Fort Worth Resource Council for Youth (FWRCY), the Salvation Army and One Heart Project helped make Christmas brighter for parole youth and their families in the Northern District of Tarrant County and Fort Worth.

Thanks to their generosity, Fort Worth Parole Officers delivered Christmas baskets to 15 families and gave 35 youth fan and goody bags. Fort Worth Parole Staff Vickie Griffin was instrumental in making sure the baskets were well stocked.

Parole Officers Natasha Johnson, Billy Branch and Jeffrey Manuel, along with their supervisor Diana Goodwin and Vickie Griffin, made home visits that included dropping off a basket that contained a ham, vegetables, cake mix and icing, instant mashed potatoes and more food for the holiday meal.

Parole youth picked up their bags when they saw their Parole Officer – either at the office or at home, work or school. The youth fan and goody bags contained socks, gloves, a cap, body wash, shampoo snacks and other goodies.

The families and youth were very appreciative and thankful.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Denton County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. conducted an EMBODI, (Empowering Males to Build Opportunities for Developing Independence) program at McFadden Ranch on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016.

Eight women from DST, and three men, representing Omega Psi Phi, Phi Beta Sigma, and Alpha Phi Alpha fraternities, presented a powerful program that impacted McFadden Ranch’s more than 50 youth in a big way.

First Vice President Robbin Robinson, Shade Lester and Kalilah Coulter spearheaded the event which is part of the Sorority’s outreach and mission. Their program emphasized the importance of being successful in life, having good self-esteem, getting the right education for you and having a positive and professional presentation.

Representing different professions, everyone shared their stories and experiences with college, careers and life with the youth. They led group discussions and allowed the youth to share their view points as well, concluding with a tie tying demonstration with each youth getting to keep their tie.

Alex Coulter led the LIFE group and shared how his decision to NOT take a gun to a party saved his life and his future; Courtney Thompson and Tiffany Scott demonstrated the value and importance of getting an EDUCATION by sharing and comparing salaries and careers; Leslie Ekpe and Robbin Robinson explained SELF ESTEEM and how it impacts decision making; and everyone demons t rated how to tie a tie.

In closing, many youth expressed appreciation and thanks, saying that they learned a lot, from how important it is to feel good about yourself and keep a positive attitude, to getting more than a high school diploma if you want to have certain things and how emotions – such as fear, embarrassment and anger impact decision making but they especially enjoyed learning how to tie a tie.

Photo: Sorority and fraternity members assist McFadden Ranch youth with learning how to tie their ties.
When the Positive Behavior Interventions and Support program came to the Mart campus and it was decided the Violent Offender Program would be part of the first wave PBIS dorm, the treatment team was prepared. This program is based on the highly successful and acclaimed Capital and Serious Violent Offender Program at Giddings, and incorporates much of the proven program into a campus-based treatment program for youth.

The dorm was extremely clean and organized, positive posters were everywhere, groups were taking place and program was followed to the letter. Incentives for good behavior motivated youth to perform and have a positive outlook towards the future. The program is not easy and changing internal culture and personal values is a difficult accomplishment but, with the help of the team, the dorm managed to be the star of Mart Complex and a model dorm.

The dedicated professionals managing the program include front line JCOs, JCO Supervisor Monica Coward, Case manager Alberta Riptoe, Dorm Supervisor Raquel Hightower and Program Supervisor Ana Matei. This team works around the clock to maintain and improve the program, the culture, and the untapped potential of the treatment. Now, since PBIS is officially part of the VOP, the entire team is thriving to be better, more specialized, have organized training for staff, have better motivation and incentive for good behavior and prepare youths to break the negative boundaries and become even stronger.

Photo: The VOP dorm mural, which was created by all the VOP youth participants.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

January is NATIONAL MENTORING MONTH and TJJD would like to express deep appreciation to each Mentor! Throughout the month, the agency has shared a variety of stories, training/webinar invitations, and video links that underscore the critical role mentors play in the lives of TJJD youth. If you, or someone you know, is interested in becoming a TJJD mentor, please contact Tammy Holland at 512-490-7090.

Scott Bolsins: The Story of a Reluctant Mentor

I have always had a place in my heart for youth and have served as a volunteer coach on several sports teams. When I was approached by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department about working with a 10-yearold boy who was serving a possible 15-year incarceration, I would like to say I jumped at the chance; however, I hesitated because I was anxious about working with a child who was incarcerated. I tried to reason away that I would have little impact on someone who had committed an offense that resulted in such a lengthy sentence. Nothing could have been further than the truth.

My initial meeting was not what I had anticipated. I was introduced to a child who was polite, however shy. He was no different from any other boy I had coached, with the exception that he desperately needed someone to care about him. We played games and he cheated several times to ensure himself that I would win. When I asked him why, he said he wanted to make sure I came back. It broke my heart.

After a few months I learned that he was making less than average grades and it was obvious that he had no concept of a life outside of the justice system. We worked on his confidence and I started to get him to dream again of what his life would look like if he could change things. His grades improved to an A-average as he set goals to graduate, not only from high school, but to earn a college degree. Within a year, the introverted child who was unable to look me in the eye or complete a sentence was laughing, talking nonstop and planning to earn a degree as a graphic artist. He picked up the passion for reading, and was reading books that were several grade levels above his age.

I have worked with him for three years and I am proud of the young man that he has become. He is now living with a foster family in my hometown and is like any other awkward teenage boy you would see at the mall or playing with friends. His eyes are now filled with hope instead of the undeniable pain I saw during our first visit.

Looking back, my initial thought was that I had very little to offer and I have come to realize that I had everything he needed. I didn’t have to have profound advice or even all the right answers; all he needed was a little of my time and to know that someone cared. It can make a difference that is impossible to measure, as this experience has changed us both.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

By Doug Vance, PhD
Chair, TJJD Advisory Council

The TJJD Advisory Council has for a number of years maintained several standing committees charged with addressing a specific area of importance to the field of juvenile justice. These committees focus on standards of care, performance measures, mental health, probation funding, and regionalization. For this article I wish to provide a general overview of the Standards Committee.

The Standards Committee was formally created on May 1, 2012 at a regular meeting of the TJJD Advisory Council. At that time the Advisory Council deemed it a top priority to initiate a systematic review of certain administrative rules (standards of care) impacting juvenile probation departments. After establishing the committee,  Brazos County Chief Doug Vance was appointed Committee Chair and Cass County Chief Philip Hayes as Vice-Chair.

In addition to Advisory Council membership on
the committee it was deemed prudent to solicit
additional representation from juvenile justice
professionals from across the state. As such,
membership on the committee soon expanded
to include representation from the following
organizations and or entities:
  • Juvenile Probation Regional Chiefs Associations
  • Texas Juvenile Justice Department
  • TJJD Advisory Council
  • Texas Juvenile Detention Association
  • Juvenile Justice Association of Texas
  • Texas Probation Association
  • Subject Matter Experts
To ensure the best chance for success the Standards Committee implemented a very distinct and uniquely strategic method of operation as outlined below:
  • Standards Committee Receives an Assignment
  • Chair Secures Committee Membership from Across the State
  • Project Parameters are Established
  • Committee Develops a Plan of Action
    . Goals

    . Guiding Principles

    . Time-Lines
    . Methodology. Independent Research. Homework Assignments 
  • Committee Meetings Objectives:
    . Create Atmosphere that Encourages
    . Input & Debate
    . Provide for a Thorough Vetting Process
    . Keep Accurate Meeting Drafts
    . Solicit On-Going Feedback
    . Stay-on-Task
  • Seek TJJD Board Approval
  • Recommend an Effective Date
  • Provide State-Wide Training
Since 2012 the Standards Committee has been hard at work reviewing and revising multiple chapters of the Texas Administrative Code. Following is a list of projects completed by the Standards Committee.

2012 Elimination of the TAC 343 Compliance Resource Manual
2012 Creation of the TAC 343 Addendum
2012 Creation of Specific TJJD Auditing Procedures
2012 Revision of TAC 343 Mental Health Rules
2013 Creation of TAC 355 – Standards for Non-Secure Facilities
2014 Comprehensive Revision of TAC 343 - Secure Pre & Post-Adjudication Facilities
2014 Major Revision to How Seclusion is Administered in Texas Juvenile Detention.
2015 Revision of TAC 341 with Special Emphasis on Case Management.
2016 Revision of TAC 344 – Employment, Certification, & Training.

Each of these projects was very difficult and required extensive independent research as well as multiple meetings filled with debate and healthy discussion before completion was secured. If not for the dedication of a small group of juvenile justice professionals, these projects would have been impossible to undertake or complete.

The following list of individuals participated in one or more standards committee projects, either as a committee member, or as a subject matter expert. Their unselfish efforts will for many years to come provide the framework for the rules of engagement in juvenile probation as well as specify the modus operandi for how juvenile probation should operate. Finally, their work provides a seminal benchmark of excellence, for posterity’s sake, and will forever impact the scope, direction, and course of the Texas Juvenile Probation System.

Kristy Almager, Denise Askea, Josh Bauremiester, Linda Brooke, Darryl Beatty, Ed Cockrell, Jamie Coronado, Nekandra Coulter, Gerald Crain, Karol Davidson, Terri Dollar, Dr. Nicole Dorsey PhD, Kevin Dubose, Neil Edins, Lupita Fuentes, Dr. Jennifer Farnum. EdD, Scott Friedman, Richard Garza, Barry Gilbert, Carols Gonzales, Bruce Gusler, Kavita Gupta, Forrest Hanna, Darryl Harrison, Philip Hayes, Tom Hough, Bryan Jones, Susan Humphrey, Deborah James, Aris Johnson, Upendra Katrangadda, Monica Kelly, Ashley Kintzer, Diane Laffoon, David Lenington, Kathryn Lewis, Ron Lewis, Vicki Line, Sal Lopez, Virginia Martinez, Reba Moore, Jesse Murillo, Diana Norris, Susan Orendac, Dr. Delbert Price PhD, Leah Probst, Dr. Diana Quintana PhD, Steve Roman, Bryant Sears, Lou Serrano, Kaci Singer, James Smith, Chet Thomas, Laura Torres, Dr. Doug Vance PhD, Jim Vines, James Williams, Ross Worley.