The Fort Bend County Juvenile Probation Office has been awarded a $64,258 grant by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) as part of TJJD’s Prevention and Early Intervention Initiative, which is providing demonstration grant funding for programs and services across Texas that prevent or intervene in at-risk juvenile behaviors leading to delinquency, truancy, dropping out of school, or referral to the juvenile justice system.
Under the direction of Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Michael Meade, the department has implemented the “Saved by the Bell” truancy/delinquency reduction program that has been in effect as a pilot program from 2008 until 2011, serving six schools within the Fort Bend ISD. In December 2011 the department expanded Saved by the Bell to include a specialized truancy magistrate and enough juvenile probation officers to facilitate all of the Fort Bend ISD. This grant will add an additional Saved by the Bell juvenile probation officer to administer the same proactive case management strategies together with meaningful sanctions to other school districts within Fort Bend County.
In this first round of grants, TJJD awarded a total of $1.3 million to 23 county juvenile probation departments for demonstration projects addressing the needs of at-risk children, youth, and their families, decreasing the likelihood that they become involved in the juvenile justice system. Examples of services funded under these grants include school-based truancy intervention officers, counseling services, parent mentors, parenting classes, bullying prevention, afterschool programs, and a canine program in which at-risk youth will be paired with dogs from local animal shelters and taught how to train and care for them.
“The TJJD Board is committed to investing in community prevention programs that will keep our youth from ever entering the juvenile justice system,” said Cherie Townsend, executive director of the newly created Texas Juvenile Justice Department. “This grant initiative is a significant investment signaling our intent to support efforts to help youth and families across Texas gain access to community-based services, supports, and resources. I am impressed with the creative strategies for engaging communities and families that have the potential to help youth become responsible, caring, and confident citizens.”
The Texas Juvenile Justice Department was created on Dec. 1, 2011 to assume the duties and responsibilities of the former Texas Youth Commission and the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission. Those agencies were abolished in an effort to create a more streamlined and comprehensive approach to juvenile justice issues in Texas, including an emphasis on prevention and early intervention. The TJJD currently provides support to 165 juvenile probation departments statewide and operates six secure correctional facilities and nine halfway houses throughout Texas.