By Cheryl Massaro
Just over two years ago, I was preparing to attend my First Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice meeting in Washington, D.C., enthusiastic to be working side-by-side with proven professionals in juvenile justice, individuals throughout the country who had voluntarily adjusted their personal and professional lives to better the lives of the youth we serve.
Our First meeting took place in mid-September and included all FACJJ members whose terms were set to expire on Sept. 30, 2016. An overlap structure was developed to continue the work of each committee, allowing new FACJJ members to hit the ground running with little wasted time, resulting in a smooth efficient transition.
The meetings and conference calls that followed were productive and the work committees were doing was promising. Committee members were addressing issues including crossover youth, sexual orientation, gender identification or expression, human trafficking, disproportionate minority contact, homelessness and everything in between. Many FACJJ committees were actively engaged with state legislatures and working with staff from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to make a positive difference in the juvenile justice system.
FACJJ committee work continued throughout the presidential election, working directly with OJJDP staff, and progressed for well more than a year, until Caren Harp, the new OJJDP Administrator, was named by the Trump administration.
At that point, all communication between FACJJ officers and members with OJJDP staff ceased. All FACJJ members expected that there would be changes with a new administrator on board, similar to past transitions of power. But no one expected the actual outcome.
On Aug. 29, all FACJJ members received an email from Elizabeth Wolfe, an OJJDP staff member, on behalf of Harp. It thanked us for our service to the FACJJ and said that the group would be restructured, and that all our terms had expired and would not be renewed. Actually, my entire class of 2016’s first term expired on Sept. 30, and was up for a second-term renewal that was obviously not going to be extended by OJJDP.
Time invested in the mission has been ignored, the transition process decimated, and time and money invested in the work in progress has been lost.
All the work in progress by the current FACJJ was lost.
Even the OJJDP staff member familiar with the interests of the current FACJJ has been replaced. Personal and professional time invested in the FACJJ mission, by each and every member, has been ignored and totally disregarded. The overlap membership transition process established by previous administrators has been decimated, and time and money invested in the work in progress has been lost.
Retaining a portion of current FACJJ members was purposely designed to help maintain the continuity of the group and committee work, so every year when some members rolled off, a group of committee members remained to continue work in progress. By releasing all FACJJ members, this continuity of process was destroyed and all work in progress ended, with new appointees being forced to start from scratch.
Each current FACJJ member was invited to reapply, an invitation extended to all current SAG members through their newly appointed juvenile justice liaison. But the liaison the FACJJ had been working with for years has been reassigned and is no longer associated with the group. The reapplication process established by OJJDP was not publicly advertised anywhere, and applicants were only given one week to apply. Under those application guidelines, it is easy to stack the deck, enabling the selection of new FACJJ members to be a group of like-minded individuals instead of a cross-section of members representing our diverse population.
I personally have decided not to apply, for I fear that by the time this new FACJJ group is reorganized, identified and engaged it will be time for the United States to change administrations, then a new OJJDP administrator will be appointed, and the group will be right back where it started, with absolutely nothing accomplished.
I fully believe our current political structure is broken. Until the time when cool heads can prevail and individuals can look past their political ideology and designations and do what is right for our youth, the federal state of juvenile justice is in turmoil. The one saving grace we have is the federally mandated state advisory groups working in conjunction with the Coalition for Juvenile Justice. By working together with these groups, which get OJJDP funding, we still can make a difference and have a positive impact on the youth we serve.
Cheryl Massaro is the director of the Flagler County Youth Center and George Washington Carver Community Center, and chairs the Disproportionate Minority Contact Committee of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice State Advisory Group. She is currently helping to develop the new Florida Youth Justice Commission. Reach her by email here. This piece originally appeared in the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange.
I think she has another political motive with the current admin. I read the ideas they were worried about and didn’t see preventing kids from violating law, respecting the law and giving families resources to assist.
Knows Better says
Juvenile Justice went out the window years ago when it was taken away from state employees and privatized. You can take all the credit Jeb Bush.
Sometimes it takes less to do more.
Randy Jones says
I pleads ignorance, what is a “crossover youth”?
Trump sure has the “golden touch”, screws up everything he touches, just look at his family if you need proof.
Barbara Revels says
I have had the pleasure of working with Cheryl Massaro for years. She helped save the Carver Center and is part of a great team that gives the youth of this county a safe place to study and play after school. She is innovative and inclusive of all. We are going to have a large space to fill when she retires this year from Flagler County Schools. As a member of the local DJJ when I was a county commissioner, Cheryl earned a wide array of respect from our region for her efforts to bring together organizations and programs to serve the youth and their parents in this community. I am so sorry her voice has been deleted from the National Conversation about the state of Juvenile Justice in this country.
To Really? Cheryl never has an agenda unless it is to better the lives of the children she has spent her life educating and serving.
Reading comments from people who have no clue about the juvenile justice system is frustrating. The public is welcome at the monthly DJJ Council Meeting where all issues relating to juveniles (specifically in Flagler County) are discussed and new ideas/events/trainings are presented. Every 3rd Wed. at 9am at the EOC.
Are these meetings still held at this time and location?
We should have a Juvenile and Parents finally taking some personal responsibility Board instead. We keep looking for ways to let people blame someone else for their own mistakes and treat too many undeserving people as special.
As the current/past Chair of Flagler County’s Juvenile Justice Council and having worked with Cheryl for years, I can personally say what she has tried to do for Flagler’s youth. As previously stated, those with the negative statements, try sitting one day in our seats. If you’re not a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem. Today’s youth are living with a lot of HOPELESSNESS. Oh we can say it’s their fault, bad parenting, etc., complain about the taxes we have to pay that goes for education and so on. Ask what you can do for your County! Stop putting people down and do something helpful or else STEP! Having worked with youth in this County for over 23 years, it’s getting worse. So what do you have to offer? I have hope in the youth in this County.
Cheryl, love ya girl.