The Juvenile Court of Gordon County has successfully completed the first quarter of the new ADJUST (“Alternative to Detention of Juveniles Using Supervision and Treatment”) program. According to Laura Worley, Gordon County juvenile probation officer and Director of the ADJUST program, they have successfully kept five local juveniles out of lock-up through the first three months, with no new offenses.
ADJUST is an after-school diversion program which works with high-risk youth. It is based in the Cordon County Social Services Building (formerly the Tallatoona building), which is shared with other community-support programs. Director Worley and Assistant Director Brittany Dobson spend three afternoons and early evenings each week at the center, and supervising the children on Saturday doing community service.
Each day the group starts off with completing their school assignments, homework and tutoring. They then discuss a current interest or skill, and hear from a speaker on that topic. Guest speakers have included Josh Tinsley (Loss Prevention), Debbie Vance (E-911). Paramedics Leslie Greeson and Cynthia Norrell, Richard Cooper (EMA), Dottie Payne (Fire Prevention, and Greg Hasty (firefighting). “Although we do spend time on teaching the youth what they should not be doing, in areas of crime, alcohol or drug abuse, the goal of the program is to teach seventy percent (70%) pro-social skills”, said Worley.
The juveniles then join the speaker for a small meal at the center, and then watch a relevant documentary or movie, and discuss how what they have learned can help them and their families. “The kids are really invested in these programs,” said Worley. Speakers have actively engaged the juveniles – for example, one had our kids draw escape plans, another gave out smoke detectors and educated them on where to place them and how to maintain them. They have allowed them to tour the Emergency Management Mobile Unit, and they even held class in an ambulance. “The volunteer speakers have been wonderful,” said the Director, “most of our juvenile have had the opportunity to meet with professionals who are interested in sharing with them.”
The juveniles are also required to do community service. Recent projects have included sorting and storing donated foods for the Volunteer Action Center, and work with rescue horses at the Raising Cain Ranch & Rehabilitation in Ranger. “Jackie and Clay Cain have been a great resource,” said Worley, “these kids learn a lot from working with abused and neglected animals, and what care and affection is needed to bring them back.”
And the program is significantly cheaper than keeping the juveniles locked up. According to the Governor’s office, these savings would already translate to nearly $150,000.00 in costs to the State and local governments ($96,000 per juvenile per year in custody).
Signs throughout the building have drawings showing a sailboat and rough oceans and reflect the program’s slogan, “You can’t change the wind, but you can ADJUST your sails.” The motto for the program is not an original, said Worley, but it seems to fit. “When they are at the point of either facing lock-up in a juvenile facility or successfully completing this program, they learn that they can’t always control what is going on around them, but they can learn to cope and learn how to control themselves, no matter how bad the situation,” she said.
If you would like to share information about your profession/hobby with ADJUST youth, or work with a local merchant that can help provide a free meal or snacks once a month, please contact Laura Worley, of Brittany Dobson at (706) 625-6587.