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This Week’s LION: Way to Go JPO

When someone visits the Lycoming County Court of Common Pleas, it is generally a visit that they would rather not be having. That was not the case on Tuesday, October 5th, when Judge Joy Reynolds McCoy, along with President Judge Nancy Butts, Judge Eric Linhardt, and Judge Ryan Tira, came together to recognize the work of the JPO, the Juvenile Probation Office of Lycoming County to celebrate Juvenile Justice Week. Further recognition was given to the Lycoming County’s JPO a week later at the County Commissioners Meeting on Tuesday, October 12th.

They deserve all the appreciation they can get. Few people know how difficult it is to work with troubled youth. There are hundreds of cases that the county is monitoring at any one time. Obviously, parents are the most important to integrate into the process. But, when these individuals also have issues they are dealing with, it is necessary to partner with other agencies. The Juvenile Probation Department may get involved with the county’s Children and Youth Services and even volunteer agencies such as the Salvation Army or other local churches.

A chief and deputy chief do this work with three clerical staff and eleven officers. For 24 years, the department was headed up by Ed Robbins. His leadership was so exemplary that he was recognized last year with the highest award given by the Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission of Pennsylvania. Ed retired in July of last year and was succeeded by Dave Goodwin.

The good news about Director Goodwin is that the department has not skipped a beat. He has continued the solid evidence-based practices that are part of the DNA of the department and has let his exceptional staff do their job, which they do so well.

And they really are an exceptional staff. Of the eleven officers, seven have over 20 years of experience. There are officers with master’s degrees in education; three are military veterans, two of which served in combat abroad. There are officers who engage in community activity with churches, coaching, and other community involvement. In short, they are engaged beyond their job — but that is what makes them so good at their job.

Juvenile Probation is an unpleasant task. These are boys and girls from ages 10-17 who are brought before the Juvenile Court and are given court-ordered dispositions. Depending on the severity of the offense, it might require a period at a residential institution but more often involves community probation, accountability and victim restoration, and also developing youth competencies. The overall goal is that the youth will leave the program better than when they entered.

Each of these youths has a specific plan designed just for them by their JPO officer. The officers develop a case plan that outlines the court directives, monitoring and responding requirements, victim-related responsibilities, specific programming and interventions, community service obligations, and an educational development plan. All of this is designed around evidence-based practices that also involve the family and engagement with the community. The end result makes it all worth it, as statistics show a reduced recidivism among those who have gone through the Juvenile Probation Department.

So, here is a big Webb Weekly Leaders in Our Neighborhood (LION) Tribute to an incredible group of people that help us all through their commitment to troubled youth.

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