Like many other Courts in Georgia, the DeKalb County Juvenile Court has adjusted its methods of reaching the youth and families that we serve during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thinking outside the box has allowed our Accountability Courts to move forward in rehabilitating and educating youth on the dangers of the pandemic and celebrate our youth who are ready to graduate.
The Journey and Rebound teams are holding virtual orientations, meetings for staffing, court hearings, parent groups, and prosocials. Journey Mental Health Court and Rebound Drug Court has continued their great work in helping the youth and their families with additional resources and support during these uncertain times. Partnering agencies and the court’s non-profit, DeKalb County Juvenile Justice Council, has stepped in to provide resources including tablets to ensure youth have the technology available to participate in virtual mental health sessions, programming, and school. They’ve delivered food and supplies to clients and provided assistance with rent and electric bills. We have banned together to ensure our youth and their parents maintain stability in the home, school, and community. Below is a small sample of the great work from each of the Accountability Courts.
JOURNEY MENTAL HEALTH COURT
During the pandemic, Journey has had three graduates. The mental health court for girls has seen an increase in compliance from participants with virtual therapy, obeying home and program rules, and using the skills they’ve learned including effective communication and conflict management. One of the most notable graduates, completed her school sessions virtually and will matriculate to the twelfth grade and was recently hired for her first part time job. She continues to be in compliance with treatment and services and will be presenting her journey to the team this upcoming week during the virtual court session.
Over the next month, Journey participants will take part in an innovative eight-week girls’ group via Zoom. One of our partners will present topics to engage our young ladies on establishing and maintaining healthy relationships and boundaries; positive and productive communication with friends and family; identifying and dealing with emotions; coping skills and life stressors; self-esteem and forming words of affirmations for yourselves; peer pressure; and drug prevention. Each session will allow the participant to express themselves with the use of arts and crafts.
REBOUND DRUG COURT
DeKalb County Juvenile Court’s Rebound Drug Court is working very differently, but still efficiently despite the challenges of the pandemic. Although things look and feel different for them as a team, they are doing their best to diligently work towards maintaining a level of consistency and excellence that is expected of them from our community.
During a virtual hearing, the Rebound team discovered that one youth had transferred to a new school during the pandemic and was having trouble connecting with his teachers to take his final tests. He was frustrated and concerned about his grades transferring and being able to pass his classes. Rebound’s education advocate was on the virtual hearing and advised the youth and his mother that she would step in and connect him with his new teachers so he could take his tests. As a result, he was able to successfully complete all required assignments, exams and ended the school year with an “A” average. With school being completely virtual, our youth rely even more on the education advocate at times when there are gaps and breakdowns in communication between families and teachers.
The Rebound Drug Court of DeKalb County Juvenile Court held a virtual graduation in June celebrating the accomplishments of this year’s program graduates. This momentous occasion with over one hundred attendees highlighted the successes of the youth in their home, school, and community. Special gift bags with certificates, awards, and medals were delivered to graduates prior to graduation and opened during the ceremony. Their successful completion of the program marks a significant milestone in their journey. Graduates commemorated the celebration with festive graduation hats and decorations with the support of the Rebound team, court, community partners, family, and friends. To celebrate their creativity, a prize was given to the graduate with the most festive display. Among those in attendance, special guest Wendy Schiller of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges shared that we are a model court!
One thing that the COVID-19 pandemic has taught all of us is that, regardless of the circumstances, a committed team with an involved community can still bring about positive outcomes for our youth.