The COVID-19 pandemic has led us all into uncharted territory. Governor Ralph Northam has taken a number of steps to combat the spread of the virus including the closing of all schools for the remainder of the school year, closing non-essential businesses and limiting gatherings to 10 or less individuals in one space.
DJJ is pressing on. We had been preparing for the coronavirus prior to the outbreak in Virginia, and we are now responding to rapidly changing circumstances as they unfold. We continue to monitor updates from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) while maintaining close contact with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH). In addition to an earlier message we posted March 17, we created a dedicated COVID-19 resource page that can be accessed at http://www.djj.virginia.gov/pages/about-djj/covid.htm. This message, provided to all stakeholders, expands upon the earlier message making you aware of the actions the agency has taken and the issues that we are addressing.
Our priority, across the agency, is the health and well-being of our youth, families, colleagues, and communities. To date, we are happy to report that no youth or employees have been diagnosed with COVID-19; however, we are aware of community spread in many pockets of the Commonwealth and the ongoing challenges this presents.
DJJ developed a staged approach to implementing precautions for youth, families and employees. Contingency plans have been developed across operational sites. Many of our functions and units cannot be totally shut down; however, DJJ has adopted practices to implement teleworking and social distancing. Our goal is to be socially responsible by minimizing the number of people interacting in our offices as much as possible, while still accomplishing the functions of the agency. Some of the divisional highlights are noted below:
We thank all families and stakeholders who are collaborating with us during these challenging times. We appreciate all who have reached out to offer support as well as those who have sent questions and / or suggestions. Our administrators are working tirelessly around the clock to address issues as they arise. Together we can make it through this situation. I continue to wish you well and invite you to check into our resource page for updates http://www.djj.virginia.gov/pages/about-djj/covid.htm.
The COVID 19 Emergency has created challenging times for us all! DJJ has been preparing for and closely monitoring the situation for the past few weeks. Circumstances have been quite fluid with things changing rapidly across the state. This message is provided to update all stakeholders on the actions the agency has taken so far, as well as what to expect in the coming weeks. Focusing on the health and well-being of our youth, families, colleagues, and communities, is a priority and we are adapting our practices to implement social distancing. As you are aware, Governor Ralph Northam has taken a number of steps to combat the spread including the closing of all schools for two weeks and limiting gatherings to 10 or less individuals in one space. We are also monitoring updates from the Centers For Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) to inform our ongoing planning.
DJJ is taking a staged approach to implementing precautions for youth, families and staff. Contingency Plans have been developed across operational sites and are ever changing. The plans address our responses to the pandemic as it becomes increasingly more serious. Due to the nature of the work we do, some of our operations cannot be shut down. Last week, we made the difficult decision to suspend visitation at Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center in an effort to practice social distancing. This was especially disappointing news for our residents and their loved ones on whom they depend for visits, but this was deemed best by health organizations as the spread of the virus seems to be increasing rapidly. I have asked Bon Air staff to allow youth opportunities to check in with their families as often as possible via telephone.
The Yvonne B. Miller High School at Bon Air will be closed per the Governor’s directive for at least two weeks. Education staff have been in contact with the State Department of Education and they are working to develop learning opportunities that provide continuity of education. These materials will serve to enhance skill gaps and provide enrichment experiences. Youth will be maintained on their units and will be provided with individual learning packets.
The Supreme Court of Virginia has issued an “Order Declaring A Judicial Emergency Due to COVID 19 Emergency”. The order limits court actions to emergency matters. As such, DJJ’s court service unit operations will respond to Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court emergency matters per code requirements and local practices. DJJ has provided guidelines and CSUs will limit overall operations per the individual unit’s approved contingency plans. There may be times when the offices will not be open to the public; however, plans have been developed to manage critical core functions. Intake Offices have established procedures to respond to emergency situations (i.e. arrests, protective orders, etc.). Probation and parole staff will be accessible (as needed) to respond to emergency matters.
Across the agency, managers are evaluating and implementing teleworking as an option for staff. The operational needs of the agency must be considered when enacting teleworking plans. Our goal is to be socially responsible by minimizing the number of people interacting in our offices as much as possible, while still accomplishing the functions of the agency.
Thanks to all families and stakeholders for working with us during these challenging times. Together we can make it through with as little disruption as possible. I wish you well as we practice every caution and make the best decisions that we can to protect ourselves and those around us during this pandemic.
DJJ's latest official Transformation Report recently submitted to the Virginia General Assembly contains promising information that I am excited to share. Three years after launching our transformation effort, the number of youth entering Virginia’s juvenile court system in 2019 continued its steady downward trend, and the one-year rearrest rate for first-time diversions, probation placements, and direct care releases (combined) has gone down from 25.1 percent in FY 2014 to 21.2 percent in FY 2018. This means that there were 850 fewer system-involved youth being arrested.
Additional highlights from the report include the following trends from FY 2010 and FY 2019:
We have done this by safely diverting more cases at the front of the system, responding to the higher risk youth placed on probation or committed with an expanding continuum of services, and making sure that the services are evidence-based and available across the Commonwealth. We also continue to expand and improve the rigorous rehabilitative and educational programming available for youth in state custody and to do all we can to keep those youth connected to their families and other caring adults.
As these numbers decline, we are able to continue focusing our attention and resources to better match the unique needs of individual youth. We have reinvested funds toward building a continuum of services and providing our employees and service providers with new tools to use with youth at every stage of system involvement. We are proud to report that:
None of this great progress is possible without the amazing dedication of our DJJ employees and partners. As we celebrate our successes, we are mindful that our work is not done. The report provides us guidance regarding the areas needing continued attention, particularly services for our highest risk youth. The upcoming new year will provide opportunities for us to continue our pursuit of ensuring that the right youth get the right intervention at the right time!
Please click on this link to read the full Transformation Plan Report for 2019. https://rga.lis.virginia.gov/Published/2019/RD683
National Hispanic Heritage Month is the period from September 15 to October 15 in the United States, when people recognize the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the country's history, heritage and culture. Our country could not have become what it is today without the massive contributions of Americans of Hispanic descent, and DJJ would not be the agency we are today without the special skills and perspective of our Latino and Hispanic employees.
The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. The day of Sept. 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is Oct. 12, falls within this 30 day period. The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum all join in paying tribute to the generations of Hispanic Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society.
In the coming weeks, we will be spotlighting the personal experiences of some of our employees, and celebrate their cultural heritage with them as we thank them for the unique skills they bring to serve our youth. I invite you to look for them on our Facebook page (search "Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice") through mid October. There are also a number of events around the Commonwealth you may wish to attend that will offer a look -- and taste -- into this rich culture:
Click HERE to view Gov. Ralph Northam's proclamation regarding Virginia's Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month.
Words can't adequately express how humbled and honored I was when Gov. Ralph Northam appointed me to be the next director of DJJ. This opportunity is certainly not something I envisioned as I was attending a juvenile delinquency course at the University of Virginia many years ago. But that's when a light bulb went off in my head: I had finally discovered my career path of working with at-risk youth. My career has been a series of unexpected and richly rewarding turns that have provided me the opportunity to contribute in various ways, most recently as the Deputy Director of Community Programs. And now, after some soul-searching, I am ready to continue to lead DJJ on its incredible journey that began five years ago.
DJJ has become a learning organization that now knows much more about what works with court-involved youth. To improve public safety, to strengthen communities, and to help young people change their life trajectories, I always tell the people who work with me that our goal should be to ensure that the "Right Youth receive the Right Interventions at the Right Time!" While the goal sounds simple, making it happen each and every time a young person enters our system is more complicated.
We are learning that it takes evidence-based and trauma-informed strategies that are proven to work with youth in the juvenile justice system. It takes having the right services and interventions in every community across the Commonwealth. It takes staff who are both skilled and compassionate, who use their heads and their hearts. It takes community partners – the judiciary, law enforcement, service providers. Finally, it takes seeing the strengths of the children and families we serve, and looking at them as partners in the process.
The Executive Team is solid and committed to moving forward. We will continue the focus on our guiding principles of Safety, Connection, Fairness and Purpose. We also will focus on equity to ensure that our policies and practices do not unfairly disadvantage some. Working together with our partners and stakeholders, our tireless, incredibly talented staff will continue to do the work necessary to serve the people of the Commonwealth. As DJJ's new director, I will do all I can to make sure that we always keep this in mind.
Valerie Boykin, Director
Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice
Five years ago when I was appointed DJJ Director by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, our agency was in the midst of annual budget cuts and hiring freezes, and disconnection between the various work units in the agency. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of DJJ’s staff, we have made great strides. The story we are now writing about DJJ is very different than what was being written five years ago. It is a story of pride and connection, success and innovation. We are not done yet, but we have come a long way.
That is why it is with a mixture of sadness and pride that I will step down as director on April 19. I am sad to say this because I have never loved a job more, nor so enjoyed the people I get to work with. I will never have a better job, nor work with a better team of people than I do now. We have made progress, and we have made a difference.
Gov. Ralph Northam has announced that the reins of the directorship will be handed to Valerie Boykin, our current Deputy Director of Community Programs, who is someone I know will continue leading the Transformation. I personally believe that Gov. Northam could not have picked a better person to become our next director than Valerie. In addition to being a 25-year DJJ employee – someone who has quite literally risen through the ranks from being an intake officer to director – Valerie has been an architect of major aspects of our transformation. Some of her accomplishments include:
Ms. Boykin is a native Virginian who was born and raised in Suffolk. She earned her B.A. from the University of Virginia, and her master’s from Old Dominion University. She has been an intake worker, a probation counselor and officer, an intake supervisor, parole services manager, and Court Service Unit director before assuming her current role in 2015. She will work with an outstanding executive leadership team that is fully committed to our continued transformation. Among these, I want to highlight our Chief Deputy Angela Valentine, who will stay on in her current role. Angela has been an indispensable player in our transformation. Her wisdom, her problem-solving skills, and her trusted voice have all been key ingredients in the success of the last five years. I was lucky to have her as chief deputy, and Valerie will be as well.
With Gov. Northam and Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran, we are into our second term with a Governor and Secretary who have demonstrated extraordinary support for our transformation. We have leaders throughout the agency and stakeholders in every corner of the Commonwealth who are invested and bought-in, and who have been largely responsible for the work of transformation to date. It is because of them that I leave DJJ in very good hands.
In November, DJJ submitted its third Transformation Update to the General Assembly. I am pleased to say that thanks to ongoing focus and hard work of our staff, this report documents the continued progress of our transformation. Below are some of the highlights:
This report, and our progress, generated considerable positive media coverage around Virginia. Links to the key stories are below. I invite you to read them, and celebrate these successes with us. It is important to remember that we have relied solely on the funds realized from re-purposing our now-closed facilities to fund these improvements, and have not sought an operating budget increase. We have done our best to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.
While we are pleased to report the substantial progress our amazing staff has made in the first three years of our transformation, it is also prudent to remind ourselves that progress is fragile, and that, going forward, there will still be some bumps in the road. I am confident, however, that if we stay on this path, and continue to earn the support of our stakeholders, good things will happen for the children, families, and communities we serve.
Thank you for your support of our work.
Below are links to media coverage:
Click on this link to read the full report: www.djj.virginia.gov/pdf/admin/Transformation%20Update%202018%20FINAL.pdf
I’m pleased to announce that, using savings realized from the closure of the Beaumont Juvenile Correctional Center, DJJ has contracted with three Boys and Girls Clubs (B&GC) in the Richmond, Newport News, Hampton and Danville communities to provide pro-social engagement and programming for youth being diverted from the juvenile court. The B&GC will provide services for DJJ-referred youth between the ages of 10 and 18 as part of a diversion initiative in communities affected by violence. Working with our Regional Service Coordinators, Evidence-Based Associates (EBA) and AMIKids, this program will provide an option for DJJ staff to screen referrals and divert youth with low-level offenses away from the juvenile court and instead connect them to pro-social adults and activities. If DJJ becomes aware of younger siblings living in the same household, they can also include those children in the referral to the B&GC as a preventative measure.
Because of our ability to reinvest savings from closing Beaumont, we are now in a position to invest in diversion programs like this one, particularly in communities where young people are at higher risk of criminal activity or victimization. The Boys and Girls Club has a long history of being a safe haven and providing programming and pro-social activities for youth. When a youth is referred to the B&GC, staff will assess the youth’s service needs, establish academic and other goals, and develop a service plan. All DJJ youth referred will be assigned a case coordinator and will receive the B&GC’s targeted outreach services, but will also have club membership and access to the all daily club activities. They also will have the opportunity to participate in other club programming designed to teach conflict management, gang resistance strategies and problem-solving techniques. B&GC programs include Street Smart, Career Launch, Money Matters, Smart Moves, Smart Girls and Passport to Manhood.
It’s important to remember that not all young people who come to DJJ’s intake units have the same level of offending or risk to reoffend. Bringing youth with low levels of offending into the juvenile justice system can sometimes inadvertently do more harm than good. This is an opportunity for us to help youth with less serious behavioral issues get needed services in their community without bringing them unnecessarily into the juvenile justice system. These new contracts with B&GC represent another positive step in our ongoing transformation toward keeping court-involved youth engaged in their communities where they have the support of their families and those who know them best.
Family Fun Day A Milestone Event - August 28, 2017
On Sunday, August 27th, DJJ relaunched an old tradition, hosting the first Family Day at Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center in at least five years.
Governor Terry McAuliffe and First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe were on hand, along with Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran, former DJJ residents who came back to share their success stories, and more than 300 family members who traveled from as far away as Dallas, TX, to celebrate a new direction for our agency, and their futures.
Unlike typical visitation days, the Family Day provided the opportunity for the families to be outside with their kids, play games, eat together, and have a little fun. They played cornhole, watched sack races, strolled the grounds and got to know the staff members that have been working with their children.
Governor McAuliffe, whose support of our transformation effort has been so instrumental to its success, thoroughly enjoyed watching residents present musical numbers, including two songs from “Hamilton,” and sharp and evocative poetry they had written. He spoke about the outstanding work of the DJJ staff, whose professionalism and dedication through the last three years of culture change is having profound results with the young people in our system. He reminded us all that everyone makes mistakes, sometimes big ones … but that everyone deserves a second chance.
The day also featured presentations from youth who were previously confined at either Beaumont or Bon Air. Their words were particularly inspiring: JM said that the best way he could pay back all the staff who supported him during his commitment was to be successful. DB told of his plans to become a social worker, the best way he could think of to help other young people avoid what he went through.
This day would not have happened except for the hard work of all of our staff who have done so much for the last three years to get us to this moment, and who, in many cases, gave up their Sundays, or came in to work overtime, to make the day successful. The Bon Air team was out in force, with smiles on their faces, doing all they could to make sure everyone had fun and stayed safe. In addition, we had over 100 volunteers from our Court Service Units, central office, and our education team, who also came to Bon Air to lend a hand.
Chesterfield County Sheriff Department, Hanover County Sheriff Department, and Richmond Police Department, Virginia State Police and the Forest View Volunteer Rescue Squad attended with information tables and were available to help those present learn more about their work with their communities. And our friends at the Annie E. Casey Foundation helped provide food for the families as well as coolers for them to use when they travel on buses to and from future visitation days.
I suspect that this was the largest gathering of staff from across the various divisions in years, if not ever, and was certainly the largest gathering of our staff at an event where we were serving families and youth. Their time and effort were reminders of how lucky we are to have them, and how their work is as much about heart as it is about a paycheck.
Family Day was an appropriate name for the event. It represented all that we are doing to strengthen and engage the families of the youth we serve. Watching the sea of blue-shirted staff from across the agency smiling and laughing, and working together, also made it clear that we at DJJ are a family, too.
For a great story about the day from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, please click on the link below.
As many of you know, Virginia's juvenile justice system is challenged by the issue of racial and ethnic disparities and, in particular, the disparate and disproportionately high number of African-American children whose overrepresentation only grows more severe with each step deeper into the system. While black youth make up approximately 20 percent of Virginia’s youth population, they account for more than 50 percent of all intakes, and more than 70 percent of our direct care admissions.
These disparities impact real people and raise legitimate questions about the fairness of our system and whether all people are receiving equal treatment under the law. The crisis of racial and ethnic disparities in our juvenile justice system is not new, nor is it unique to Virginia or to the juvenile justice system. For example, the Virginia Department of Education’s Discipline, Crime and Violence report from 2014-15 showed that, while black students represented 23 percent of Virginia’s total student enrollment, they accounted for 53 percent of short-term suspensions, 60 percent of long-term suspensions, and 52 percent of expulsions.
This is a problem that is easier to identify than to solve, and one that defies easy solutions. The contributing factors are many, the issues challenging, and the people and agencies that must work together to take it on are numerous.
DJJ is working to address the problem of racial and ethnic disparities, and I am eager to collaborate with you as we move forward on this critical issue.
The work of our transformation, including developing a statewide continuum of services and alternative placements, focusing on the use of our data-driven structured decision making tools, modifying our Length of Stay system, and encouraging the appropriate use of diversions, will help address these issues. But we also know that an intentional and specific work plan is required.
Our agency recently partnered with the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services to hold a two-day learning opportunity focused on racial and ethnic disparities (REDs) in the justice system. Stakeholders, including social workers, law enforcement, and school officials from eight different localities across the Commonwealth, gathered with DJJ staff to talk about fairness – or the lack thereof – why it is important and, most specifically, strategies we must consider and develop to insure that our juvenile justice system in Virginia is as fair as it can possibly be.
Tiana Davis and Roxana Matiella from the Center for Children’s Law and Policy, a national organization focused on juvenile justice reform including the problems of racial and ethnic disparities, led this training and conference. The goal of the gathering was intended to:
Some of the topics they covered included how to engage constructively about the traditionally uncomfortable subject of race; implicit bias; using data strategically to drive reform efforts; and reducing disparities at intake and disposition.
The local teams then engaged in strategic planning for local RED reforms that they could bring back to their communities and implement. Action plans included providing equity training in communities, using data to drive local reform, and establishing partnerships to promote and enhance equity in all local systems. Participants stated that they valued the forum where they could “openly discuss issues of race,” adding that “the open dialogue was very helpful. It allowed us to address issues in a respectful manner, but also gather perspective.” Another pointed out that seeing the raw data on implicit biases “helped take the emotion out of the discussion,” helping instead to focus on disparities.
This conference is the first step of the work ahead. We will begin laying out a series of steps and recommendations to move us forward in the coming months.
While this work will require difficult but crucial conversations, I know you will agree that we all need to make certain that every child who comes into Virginia’s juvenile justice system needs to be treated as effectively and fairly as possible.
Thank you in advance for your support of these efforts.
As DJJ completes the second year of its transformation effort, I wanted to take a moment to look back on the significant progress we made in 2016 and to thank all of our employees, partners, and other stakeholders for their remarkable contributions toward making it happen.
A key element of our success was due to the leadership of Governor McAuliffe and the Virginia General Assembly who agreed to grant us the authority to (i) reinvest savings from the downsizing of our facilities into savings into the development of a statewide continuum of evidence-based services and alternative placements and (ii) approve a bond package that will allow us to construct a new, small, state-of-the-art juvenile correctional center to serve the many youth who are committed to DJJ from the Hampton Roads region.
Those larger structural changes were only part of the 2016 story. On a day-to-day basis, our staff worked with many partners and stakeholders to accomplish great things, including:
I have been privileged as DJJ’s Director to work with so many people from across the Commonwealth who dedicate themselves, on a daily basis, to improving outcomes for the children, families, and communities they serve. From our dedicated employees, to elected officials, to local community partners, to the families and youth themselves, you are all playing a critical role in our work and the lives of the young people in our system. Our transformation is a shared effort and we could not be doing what we are doing without this hard work, support, and collaboration. Thank you!
I am very pleased to announce that DJJ has achieved a major milestone in its transformation effort with the awarding of contracts to two experienced service coordination agencies whose job it will be to develop a statewide continuum of evidence-based treatment services and community-based alternatives to placement in a Juvenile Correctional Center (JCC).
Too often, we hear stories of youth who are unable to get the services they need simply because of where they happen to live. We also see young people come to our JCCs who might have been better served in their communities had the right blend of evidence-based programs or alternative placements been available.
The partnership we have now forged with Evidence-Based Associates (EBA) out of Washington, D.C., and AMIkids (AMI) out of Tampa, FL, will help us eliminate “justice by geography” and insure that when young people get into trouble, they will have equal access to the right kind of help when and where they need it.
The key responsibilities of EBA and AMI will be to develop a statewide continuum of placements and services by insuring, either through partnering with existing providers or bringing in new services to fill existing treatment gaps, that court involved youth in each region of Virginia have access to services such as assessments and evaluations, individual and group-based clinical services, family focused interventions (including Functional-Family Therapy or Multi-Systemic therapy), individual and group-based cognitive skills training, residential services and monitoring services (surveillance, electronic monitoring, GPS). These two regional service coordinators will centralize referrals and billing, and report on performance outcomes.
EBA, which will be responsible for the northern, central and western regions of Virginia, has deep experience in managing behavioral health care and providing technical assistance to states and local communities, especially in the implementation of evidence-based practices. AMI dedicates itself to helping troubled youth develop into responsible and productive citizens by ensuring that they receive quality services to include education, mental health, substance abuse counseling, foster care/group homes, and an array of family services. They will be responsible for Virginia’s central and eastern regions.
Nothing will happen overnight, but we are excited to get started. We expect that the remainder of this calendar year will be spent developing the infrastructure to begin the initial phase of service provision in the new year. As we harvest more and more savings from our facility downsizing we will be able to increase the availability of services.
In the meantime, please be on the lookout for meetings and focus groups as AMI and EBA come to your region to learn more about the service needs and assets in your community.
To truly support the youth, families and communities we serve, we need to make sure that each court and each community across the Commonwealth has access to the right tools and supports. The alternative placements and evidence-based services we develop through these contracts will mean fewer young people committed to state custody, and safer and stronger communities.
Click here to read Gov. McAuliffe’s press release announcing the contract awards.
All DJJ stakeholders, ranging from the youth and families we serve, Virginia taxpayers, and the DJJ employees who are making it happen can take a strong measure of pride in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s (AECF) presentation at the Juvenile Correctional Center Task Force’s recent meeting. This report detailed the significant progress our agency has made in our transformation process since the Casey Foundation completed its first assessment of it in late 2014. While we realize that there is still a great deal of work to do before our transformation could be considered complete, this report nonetheless serves as a useful tool that allows us to step back and take stock of the amazing work of our staff and the truly positive changes that we are working together to make. A few report highlights:
While we remain grateful for the ongoing partnership with the Casey Foundation, which, at our request, is not only helping us further analyze our work but continuing to provide technical assistance on various critical initiatives, as DJJ Director I know that none of these changes could have taken place without the talent and dedication of our DJJ staff who work with our youth every day, or who support those who do. I wish to once again thank them for what they have achieved for our youth, our families and our communities. To see the entire presentation please click HERE.
The transformation of our system is about more than structural change. It is also about practice change, teamwork, and collaboration.
We took a big step forward in all of these areas on June 29-30 in Portsmouth with the gathering of more than 300 DJJ staff and partners from throughout the Commonwealth for our first-ever Reentry Summit.
The summit was made possible with a large federal grant for which DJJ was one of only three recipients nationwide, and comes at a time when the agency was recently notified that it has an opportunity for a third round of funding. A range of experts and DJJ staff presented on topics such as the new reentry manual, changing our system with evidence and a focus on outcomes, successfully transitioning youth to community schools, and helping youth develop personal action plans for when they return to their communities. There also was a plenary panel featuring youth from Community Treatment Model units at Beaumont and Bon Air, and another panel featuring two formerly committed youth who talked about their experiences, thanked the DJJ staff members who helped them, and offered suggestions for how to better serve other court-involved youth.
Reentry is a key component of DJJ’s transformation. The presentations and workshops concentrated on ways we could strengthen the reentry of court-involved youth to the community through increased use of evidence-based practices, family engagement, and local programs designed to keep youth on the right track and away from further offending. But this summit was much more than that. By bringing together employees from all disciplines in our agency, it also was about strengthening our relationships across the Department. The staff who work at our Court Service Units all around Virginia had the valuable opportunity to work alongside their colleagues who work with our youth in the juvenile correctional centers (JCCs) and share and formulate common ideas and goals. Witnessing, through the presentations of the residents from the JCCs, the great work that our staff are doing only reinforced opportunities for positive outcomes that we have when we all work together.
While I want to take a moment to congratulate Reentry Program Manager Ashaki McNeil for putting together the first of what will be an annual event that will help keep us moving forward toward ever-better outcomes for the youth, families and communities we serve, I also want to thank our procurement and budget teams along with other DJJ Support Staff for helping Ashaki pull together a great event in a very short period of time. Thanks to everyone!
As DJJ continues its journey toward increasing family engagement, we constantly look for ways to support families while their child is committed to one of DJJ’s facilities. We have heard from the youth in the Juvenile Correctional Centers (JCCs) and their families how frustrating it can be to want to visit your child but can’t due to distance and lack of resources.
I am excited to announce that this is no longer a barrier. On May 22, DJJ’s Transportation Program began transporting families from various points throughout the state to Beaumont and Bon Air JCCs at no cost to families. DJJ has partnered with Assisting Families of Inmates and James River and VanGo transportation companies to provide clean, modern transportation operated by professional, courteous drivers every other Sunday.
James River and VanGo will pick up from the following Court Service Units (CSUs): Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, Richmond, Chesterfield, Henrico, Roanoke, Danville, Manassas and Woodbridge. You do not have to live in one of these areas, however: This opportunity is available for all families. To find out how to participate, families can contact their child’s probation officer. Click HERE for information on transportation serving your region.
Continued support and involvement from a family member is one of the most critical elements to ensuring successful treatment and reentry of a youth. As we continue our transformation, we will find more ways to build meaningful partnerships with families and provide support throughout this stressful and difficult time.
Thank you to the CSU staff who will be working additional hours to ensure our families board safely and the JCC staff who will be on site to greet our families as they arrive. They are dedicated to improving the lives of youth committed to DJJ.
For the first time in many years, the leadership of all 34 of DJJ’s Court Service Units (CSU) from every corner of the Commonwealth were gathered in one place April 21-22 to participate in an exciting two-day session entitled “CSU Leadership Transformation Summit.” As our transformation progresses, it is becoming increasingly important that team members at all levels of our organization are engaged in consistent, evidence-based, data-driven methods and decision-making. This summit provided tools and strategies to CSU leadership to bring back to their staffs.
The key theme we concentrated on was “The right youth, the right interventions at the right time equals success.” An outstanding slate of presenters, including DJJ staff members and special invited guests, provided powerful information on topics that included effective intake practices, reentry system reform, the significance of cultural competence and culturally responsive practices, and a look at how the Community Treatment Model is progressing at DJJ’s juvenile correctional centers. Special guests included Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran, Tracey Wells-Huggins of Justice For Families, and Mike Collins of Justice System Partners, who introduced attendees to the Justice Transformation Institute (JTI). The Institute prepares supervisors to effectively and efficiently implement and sustain organizational change.
We thank the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Court Service Unit Directors Association, Justice for Families and Justice System Partners, not to mention our outstanding DJJ staff, for making the summit a memorable one. Click HERE to see a gallery of photos from the event.
We have redesigned our website to ensure that whether you work for the Department, are the parent of a young person in our system, or an interested community member, you are able to find what you need. Your feedback is welcome as we continue to make improvements.
Some of the new features you will find include:
We also want you to know more about the exciting transformation within the Department of Juvenile Justice where we are taking steps across our system to use data and research to get the best outcomes for the youth, families and communities we serve. While providing accountability and rigorous rehabilitation at appropriate and individualized levels to each young person in our system, we also want to make sure that we are providing them with the building blocks to positively develop as young adults and law- abiding citizens.
The cornerstones of positive youth development are a sense of safety (whether in the community, in a facility, or at home); connection to family, a positive community, and adults who care; engagement in activities and services that add purpose to life and future; and a sense of fairness in the system – that is that similarly situated youth get treated in similar fashion by us, by law enforcement, and by the judicial system.
We encourage you to check back regularly to get an update on our transformation efforts. We are converting from what has been a more traditional juvenile corrections model to what we are calling the Community Treatment Model in which interdisciplinary teams of DJJ staff are dedicated to providing smaller, consistent groups of JCC residents with treatment, accountability, and support throughout their time with us.
Thank you for your interest in the work of the Department.