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Posted: December 16, 2009 12:01 a.m.

Newton County juvenile court receives grant from Promoting Safe and Stable Families program

Newton County Juvenile Court received a grant award in the amount of $36,562.50 from the Department of Human Services Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program. The court will use these funds to launch its first program targeted specifically to girls. Girl STEPS, Sisters Teaching Empowering Parenting Sisters, will help adolescent girls redirect disruptive behavior and improve family relationships. The Juvenile Court in Newton County was one of only six Georgia agencies to receive funding for new programs through the Promoting Safe and Stable Families program this year.

"Though we have seen an overall decrease in juvenile crime in recent years, we are seeing a higher percentage of girls being charged," said Diana Summers, Research Analyst for Newton County Juvenile Court. "Research shows that many girls without strong family relationships or bonds with other positive role models will seek out connections with others who may not have a positive influence. These teens are the ones who usually end up making connections that involve risky behaviors."

Developing and reinforcing positive relationships will be a key focus of Girl STEPS. The Newton County Juvenile Court will partner with Pathways Transitional Programs, Prevent Child Abuse Newton and the Delta Sigma Theta sorority to provide program components that work together to achieve this goal. Girls will attend classes with their parents to improve their communication skills and to help them resolve family conflicts. A group counseling and intervention program designed specifically for unruly girls will help them gain self-esteem and learn to make healthy choices for themselves and their relationships. A mentoring program will match strong, successful women from our community with the girls and their mothers, providing motivation to set and pursue personal goals, while establishing a positive female support system.

"We are so excited about this program," said Sherri Washington, a local attorney and member of Delta Sigma Theta, a sorority of women dedicated to service in their communities. "This is a wonderful opportunity for our members to make a real difference in the lives of these girls." Members of Delta Sigma Theta will serve as mentors for the Girl STEPS program, committing at least an hour each week to a troubled teen or her mother.

The Court will monitor the girls’ progress through the program and enforce a sense of accountability through monthly court appearances. Girl STEPS is expected to serve about 30 girls and their families during the first year.

"We expect to increase safety and family well-being for this population of girls and their families," said Juvenile Court Judge Sheri Roberts. "These services will reduce the risk of detention and create a more stable family situation, giving our girls the best possible chance to grow into self-reliant, successful young women."

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