[This article on the juvenile drug court in the Reclaiming Futures site in Nassau County, NY originally appeared, in a longer form in the Spring 2009 issue of the Nassau News, the newsletter of the 10th Judicial District, Nassau County.]
On March 4, 2009, Nassau County, NY held its first Juvenile Drug Treatment Court (JTC) graduation. Three teenagers successfully completed the program.
It was a little overwhelming to think we already had three graduates. When we first talked about creating the program, it had seemed like a logistical impossibility.
And after we got our first participant, there were immediate doubts: What were we thinking? How do we expect to help this kid get off drugs? We’re not equipped. This is never going to work.
But we hunkered down and soon realized there was something special about each of the kids in the program – and now we have three graduates.
In 2007, Nassau County became one of ten counties nationwide to receive a grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) to implement Reclaiming Futures. The focus of the initiative is systems change, and bringing in evidence-based practices to treatment agencies.
However, our team also had a goal in mind for the teens we served. We wanted to reclaim their childhoods. We thought sports and plays and proms and homework should be consuming these kids’ time, not courts and judges and prosecutors and social workers. We’ve accomplished that goal with three kids so far: Tim, Gavin, and Anna.
All three worked very hard, but I want to single out Anna, who didn’t navigate the JTC as smoothly as the other two. She struggled with us and fought with the judge and never hid her distaste for anyone who was going to prevent her from doing things her own way. Her progress through the program was rocky at best, and there were times when we feared she’d give up.
But she did start to follow the rules and attend treatment, and something weird started happening. She started to smile and laugh every now and then. Suddenly, Anna was part of the group, and then she was one of the stars. It’s amazing to think that this young lady who tried hard to flunk out of high school just made the Dean’s List during her first semester at St. John’s University, with a 3.74 GPA.
During a recent court appearance, Anna and her mother hugged, and Anna had that smile, once dormant, on her face. It was one of the most heartwarming and satisfying moments of the last year.
Making our JTC a success has been a truly collaborative effort, with contributions from many agencies. Judge John G. Marks is the presiding judge (shown in photo at right with Amanda - click on image for larger view), and his guidance, experience and empathy changed our juvenile drug treatment court from just some program to a ringing success.
Geralyn Lecesse is Resource Coordinator for the Juvenile Drug Treatment Court at the Reclaiming Futures site in Nassau County, NY. Ms. Lecesse is shown at right in the photo at the top of the post, with Warren Graham, who directs the juvenile treatment court and co-directs the local Reclaiming Futures initiatve.
Updated: February 08 2018