Odom, director of the D.C. Family Court Social Services Division, helped open the Southwest Balanced and Restorative Justice, or BARJ, Drop-in Center on Thursday. The center is an alternative to detention for youth living in the Southwest quadrant of the city who are awaiting trial and need a higher level of supervision and for youth at risk of having their probation revoked.
What is the BARJ? The drop-in center houses juvenile probation officers, a learning lab and an alternative to detention. The center offers an opportunity to rehabilitate youth in a less restrictive environment with an eye toward restoring communities impacted by juvenile crime.
Why are the centers needed? They offer us the ability to work with youth in a safe, therapeutic and constructive environment. Public and private agencies can provide mental health, substance abuse, tutoring and a host of other services in one place. This also reduces the likelihood of kids getting into "turf conflicts" with those who live in other neighborhoods, because they will not have to travel across town to access services.
Why do some kids need more than standard probation? Unsupervised or unengaged youth are far more likely to get into trouble. Through structured activities [such as tutoring, prevention education, mentoring, etc.], youth in general are less likely to get into trouble or break the law.
What's the most challenging thing about your job? Remembering that we can't be all things to all youth. While we'd certainly like to do more in the area of prevention, our resources and our legal authority are limited to court-involved youth.
What's the most rewarding thing about your job? The youth and families whose lives we impact and the wonderful staff and colleagues I am fortunate to be able to work with every day. Throughout our court system and across our great city, I am fortunate to be able to work with so many folks who are committed to public service. This makes all the difference in the world.