We engage communities, organizations and individuals through quality research, community organizing, advocacy, training and model programming to advance the rights of girls and young women, especially those in the justice system.
Established in January 2013, the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center is the outgrowth of the girls’ reform movement that began more than 15 years ago.
Starting in the late 1990s, statewide programming for girls in the juvenile justice system faced repeated threats of elimination in the Florida state budget. A public awareness counter-offensive to stop these proposed devastating budget cuts was led by Dr. Lawanda Ravoira, current president & CEO of the Policy Center, and Roy Miller, president and founder The Children’s Campaign Inc. They launched a focused reform initiative for justice-involved girls and young women throughout Florida.
This reform initiative led to the publication of two of the largest research studies specific to girls ever conducted in the country. Funded by the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, Educate or Incarcerate (2000) and Rallying Cry for Change (2006) documented girls’ pathways into the Florida system and provided specific recommendations for reform.
In 2004, Ravoira and Miller spearheaded a legislative effort resulting in Florida becoming the second state in the country to pass legislation (HB1989/SB2727) requiring gender-specific services in the juvenile justice system.
In 2007, Ravoira and Miller, along with Linda Alexionok, were catalysts in the creation of the Juvenile Justice Blueprint Commission. Simultaneously, the Florida Bar Foundation funded a statewide reform initiative led by Ravoira and Miller to address the disparate treatment of girls and young women in the justice system. This resulted in publication of The Florida Justice for Girls: Blueprint for Action co-authored by Ravoira and Miller, which chronicled the girls’ reform movement in Florida and provided a detailed call to action grounded in research and best practices.
Shortly after, the Women’s Giving Alliance underwrote the Justice for Girls: Duval County Initiative, staffed by Ravoira and Miller, to help transform Duval County and Northeast Florida into a national model for effectively addressing the multiplicity of girls’ needs in the justice system. Led by the citizen-driven Justice for Girls: Duval County Initiative Leadership Council, a comprehensive strategic plan was adopted that focused on the creation of model programming and advocacy initiatives specific to the local community.
In 2008, through a partnership with the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD), Ravoira sought private funding from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund to open a national Center for Girls and Young Women. This partnership with NCCD provided an extraordinary opportunity for creating a Center for Girls and Young Women in Jacksonville, Florida.
The NCCD Center for Girls and Young Women opened in 2009 and had remarkable success in the development of cutting edge, research-based curricula, providing training and technical assistance throughout the country, establishing the National Girls Institute for the federal government, and developing and implementing researched-based direct service programs for girls in detention and elementary schools. However, a different structure was necessary to expand the work in the direction needed to bring about systemic lasting reform that could transform how Duval County and Northeast Florida responded to girls.
In 2012, a proposal was developed for Delores Barr Weaver that married social science and political science with the goal of creating a national model for lasting reform that would focus on the disparate policies and practices in Duval and the surrounding counties.
A longtime advocate for girls and women and a member of the Justice for Girls: Duval County Initiative Leadership Council since its inception in 2007, Mrs. Weaver supported the request to open the Policy Center and graciously agreed to have the center named in her honor.
Opened in 2013, the Policy Center uses political science strategies that integrate the lived experiences of girls in the juvenile justice and child protection systems. The advocacy platform addresses the policies, processes and practices that result in disparate treatment of girls. The core services of the Policy Center are grounded in rigorous research initiatives to inform the advocacy platform, training and technical assistance, and the development and implementation of direct service model programming along the continuum to provide prevention, court diversion, treatment, and residential and re-entry services for girls in the juvenile justice system.
Our mission statement is to “Engage communities, organizations and individuals through quality research, community organizing, advocacy, training and model programming to advance the rights of girls and young women, especially those in the justice system.” Our mission is guided by girl-centered principles:
Developed with Barbara Guthrie, R.N., Ph.D., F.A.A.N.
Delores Barr Weaver is a lifelong advocate for girls and young women and among the leading philanthropists in Jacksonville and the Southeast. Her philanthropy has transformed Jacksonville. Her generous support led to the establishment of the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center, providing a permanent resource supporting girls in the juvenile justice system, and girls whose circumstances are likely to lead them into that system.
In 2007, the Children’s Campaign, Inc. partnered with Dr. Lawanda Ravoira to engage the community in developing a comprehensive reform agenda developed by citizens and key stakeholders in Duval County to address girls’ pathways into the local juvenile justice system. Through a grant from the Women’s Giving Alliance, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund and private donors, they launched the Justice for Girls: Duval County Initiative. The goal of this initiative was to identify and examine policies, procedures and practices that shepherd girls from Duval County into the juvenile justice system and determine points in the process where girls could be prevented from entering, diverted or appropriately referred to services based on individual needs and public safety risks.
Reform recommendations are advised by research and the lessons learned by the Children’s Campaign’s 5 Promises to Florida’s Children, the Justice for Girls: State of Florida Blueprint for Action and, most importantly, by the recommendations of girls and their families.
The Leadership Council’s specific responsibilities include:
The Justice for Girls: Leadership Council’s work culminated in the opening of the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center. Today, the Leadership Council serves as an advisory council to the Policy Center and VOICES for Florida Girls.
The Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center is a 501(c) 3 not-for-profit organization that is partially funded from a multi-year grant from the Delores Barr Weaver Fund through The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida. Mrs. Weaver is our greatest supporter and champion in advancing the rights of girls and young women, especially those in the juvenile justice and child protection systems. For more information about the Policy Center’s mission and story, visit “About Us.”
Our work is focused in the following counties in Northeast Florida: Duval, St. Johns, Nassau, Baker and Clay. Our goal is to create a national model by engaging individuals, organizations and local communities in advancing the rights of girls and young women, especially those in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems.
The Policy Center offers a variety of services for girls and young women in the community, including:
For more information, please email email@example.com
Visit “Get Involved” for more information about the multiple ways to further the Policy Center’s mission.
We agree that advocacy is needed for all children. Research shows that boys also have risk factors that demand attention, including: trauma, violence, family conflict, substance abuse and more. Programming to meet boys’ needs should also be available, and as we make progress from our focus and expertise in highlighting and addressing the gendered experiences of girls, we believe these efforts can serve as a catalyst for others to consider practices with boys. For example, preliminary evidence from working with girls and school administration to reduce suspensions at our target elementary schools suggests that suspensions have decreased throughout the school, for both boys and girls.
Though we welcome opportunities for collaboration, we do not directly fund organizations or projects independently.
Staff members of the Policy Center are available for speaking engagements and presentations. If you are interested in learning more, please contact Tayloe McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org
All girls pictured are volunteers and are not receiving services at the Policy Center. Photography by Tiffany Manning.