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Tallahassee Democrat op-ed supports Roadmap

Alan Abramowitz
Alan Abramowitz

As executive director of the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program — the agency that represents children who have been abused, neglected or abandoned — I am honored to support and endorse the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Roadmap to System Excellence.

Since many older children represented by Guardian Ad Litem enter the juvenile justice system, I have a keen interest in what happens at DJJ. The Roadmap guides the agency’s comprehensive reforms, which will make our state a national leader in humane and effective juvenile justice administration.

DJJ’s reforms are designed to redirect children away from the juvenile justice system, focus on rehabilitation and reduce juvenile delinquency.

Data and research drive DJJ’s reforms, which are already having a positive effect statewide. (Did you know that juvenile delinquency in Florida has declined 35 percent in the past five years?)

I was volunteer guardian for a young man, “John,” who is a perfect example.

He was diverted from DJJ into a civil citation program that addressed his misbehavior and offered him tools for positive change. This opportunity gave John the chance to make up for his offense. Because he avoided a criminal record, he is now in college and on track for a respectable career.

Helping children and families in their home communities strengthens their rehabilitation and reunification, and DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters is realigning resources to emphasize front-end, community-based programs that offer children the right help at the right time. Front-end help can prevent children from developing patterns of delinquency, better positioning child advocates to stabilize kids’ lives.

We can all help pave a path to a child’s future of hope and emotional security. I encourage you to participate in DJJ’s Roadmap Town Hall meetings, the first of which is in Tallahassee on Thursday, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Ghazvini Center for Healthcare Education, 1528 Surgeons Drive.

The Roadmap to System Excellence is an effective, comprehensive and collaborative approach to guide at-risk and troubled children to better choices and brighter futures.

Alan Abramowitz, executive director of the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program, was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to the DJJ State Advisory Group and is former chair of The Florida Bar’s Legal Needs of Children Committee. For more information on DJJ’s Roadmap to System Excellence, go to http://www.djj.state.fl.us/roadmap-to-system-excellence or email roadmap@djj.state.fl.us