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Inspiration and Appreciation: Celebrating Juvenile Justice Staff, Youth at CJCA and PbS Awards Night

The night’s refrain of support and appreciation for the work juvenile justice professionals do every day continued in a funny and touching way with the PbS Kids Got Talent Group Performance winning video, created by eight youths from Snowden Cottage in Delaware. They produced a news team complete with green screen and intro jingle to give advice from youths to both youths and staff. Some wise advice for the staff in particular struck home and cracked up those attending the awards night: ‘Don’t let kids tell you how to do your job, and if you don’t know what you’re doing ask another staff for help!’

Among the many awards given out and announced was the PbS Employment Matching Award for youths, which reflects PbS’ belief that stable and fulfilling employment serves as a bridge back to community and adult life when youths leave facility care. PbS matched the hard work nine winning youths from four agencies will do over the summer in everything from forestry and landscaping to teaching and camp counseling. Additionally, PbS announced the winners of the Reentry Award and the Scholarship Award which further recognize the effort youths put in to stay on track as well as the great work done by the exceptional staff and leaders who support them in their journeys.

Before dinner was served, the first of three PbS Barbara-Allen Hagen Award winners was announced. Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex West Female from the Kansas Department of Corrections, Juvenile Services was the winner in the Correction category. The other two winners were announced throughout the night: White’s Residential and Family Services from the Indiana Department of Corrections, Division of Youth Services was the Community Residential winner, and Sacramento County Youth Detention Facility from the Sacramento County Probation Department was the winner in the Detention/Assessment category. As PbS has done for the past three years, a video was shown for each winner showcasing their facility and improvements and it was amazing to see the emotions and sense of accomplishment all around the room as staff accepted their awards.

Later in the night, CJCA presented the President’s Award and the Edward J. ‘Ned’ Loughran Outstanding Administrator Award. Chris Blessinger, Executive Director for the Indiana Division of Youth Services received the 2018 CJCA President’s Award, reflecting her energy, commitment and dedication to all juvenile justice systems and to the youth entrusted to her care. The 2018 Edward J. Loughran Outstanding Administrator Award this year was presented to Lisa Bjergaard, Director of the North Dakota Division of Youth Services, President on the CJCA Board of Directors and Vice President on the PbS Board of Directors. Lisa truly embodies Ned’s advocacy and compassion for youths, staff and families across the country, championing the Developmental Approach for youths and supporting CJCA in its mission and vision.

The night’s energy swelled with the debut of the 2018 Kids Got Talent Finalist Montage, and then peaked as this year’s Kids Got Talent Live Performer took to the stage. Kaitlyn C. from Echo Glen Children’s Center arrived on stage with her guitar and her voice to cheers and applause, and performed an incredible original song. All attendees knew she was talented from her multi-instrumental Kids Got Talent submission video, but it was another thing entirely to see her perform in person and hear her powerful voice. Kaitlyn received a standing ovation, not least of which from her Residential Counselor Jacob, who she thanked on stage for his help and support the entire time she has been at Echo Glen. That moment truly captured the essence of the night – showing appreciation for the superstar juvenile justice staff and the youth whose lives they make a positive difference in every single day.

CJCA and PbS extend warm congratulations to all finalists and award winners, and thanks to all who came together in celebrating the wonderful and inspirational work done by youths and staff in the juvenile justice field!

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PbS measures and monitors facility practices by collecting and reporting data from administrative records and survey responses from youths, staff and families to provide a holistic picture of the conditions and quality of life in residential facilities, highlights the practices that are effective in promoting youths’ healthy maturation and identifies those that are not. PbS data is reported every April and October.  PbS trains staff to use the information to change practices and support reforms implementing the adolescent development approach.

PbS has been a partner in assisting this facility to become a dynamic work environment that is not satisfied with maintaining the status quo.