Department of Juvenile Justice partners with the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center to prevent girls from juvenile justice involvement
JACKSONVILLE, FL – July 29, 2014-The Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center and the Department of Juvenile Justice announce a partnership to prevent girls from involvement in the juvenile justice system.
The Department of Juvenile Justice has awarded a grant to continue Girl Matters®: It’s Elementary, an in-school suspension intervention program for girls in grades K-5 piloted at George Washington Carver Elementary and North Shore Elementary.
“The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice places emphasis on reaching youth before they become involved in the juvenile justice system. This program is so important because school failure is a major factor in girls entering the system, and I applaud the tremendous work being done by the Delores Bar Weaver Policy Center. In Duval County, 11% of juvenile arrests occur at school, and of all girls coming in contact with the juvenile justice system, 69% had a suspension history. By intervening at an early age, we are able to improve the school experience and reduce girls’ likelihood of entering the juvenile justice system,” said Christy Daly, interim secretary of the Department of Juvenile Justice.
The preliminary results of the pilot indicate that the number and rate of suspensions for girls decreased at the schools. More significantly, suspensions continued to decrease year to year. The Policy Center will release the results of the pilot at the beginning of August.
“The success and continuation of this program is an example of deep community collaboration with the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Duval County Public School Board, elementary schools, teachers, principals and funders,” said President and CEO of the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center, Dr. Lawanda Ravoira. “The reality is that girls have a lot happening in their lives but don’t always have the skills to process their emotions, causing them to act out. But Girl Matters®: It’s Elementary also focuses on the school environment by helping create spaces and opportunities for girls to be treated differently. Providing girls with a safe space allows them to explore and discuss the things that matter to them. We want to encourage teachers and service providers to see the girl, not just the behavior.”
As for the difference it is making for school administrators, “The impact that the program has had on the girls at North Shore Elementary is unbelievable. The girls now initiate conflict resolution among themselves; they are self-motivated, and have a more positive outlook on life and their future success. I never want it to leave North Shore,” said Principal Felicia Hardaway.
When girls were asked if the program was helpful, a 4th grader at George Washington Carver Elementary said, “I trust everybody in Girl Matters® because they’re not harming me. They’re helping me learn. And sometimes we don’t just learn, we play.”
The schools selected for the pilot were originally chosen because they had the highest elementary school suspension rates in Duval County. The pilot program provided prevention services for more than 400 girls and provided intensive intervention services for an additional 293 girls in K-5.
The demonstration project was initially funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and community partners in 2008. The Department of Juvenile Justice grant will enable care managers to train community volunteers providing long-term sustainability within each school.
As a national model for a girl-centered, community-specific approach to juvenile justice reform, the Policy Center advocates for policies and practices that best support the complex needs of girls in the juvenile justice and child protection systems. The Policy Center is a resource for research, training/technical assistance, model programming and advocacy. Learn more at www.seethegirl.org.
Blythe Duckworth, Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center, 904-598-0901, email@example.com
Heather DeGiacomo, Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, (850) 717-2710, Heather.DiGiacomo@djj.state.fl.us