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Orlando Sentinel, My Word: Giving youth a needed second chance

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/opinion/os-ed-myword-lucas-boyce-120212-20121130,0,1831394.story

By Lucas Boyce

As chair of the Juvenile Justice State Advisory Group, which administers federal funding to combat juvenile delinquency, I am proud to stand with my fellow group members to unanimously endorse the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice's Roadmap to System Excellence.

The Roadmap builds on reforms already underway at DJJ and will guide Florida on the path to become a national leader in compassionate and efficient juvenile justice administration. It is an effective, comprehensive and collaborative approach to deliver the right services to the right youth at the right time. Our mission is to put children first and this bold plan does just that.

I understand full well the importance of this vital priority. While I am blessed to work for one of the most socially responsible organizations in Central Florida, and had the honor of serving as an aide to President George W. Bush, my start in life as the orphaned, illegitimate child of a teen addict left me as a ward of the state.

Were it not for my adoptive mother and others who invested the resources needed for strong development, my life could have turned out much differently.

The reforms led by DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters are critical investments that have the potential to propel more young people on the path to become living proof of a better life. These reforms are designed to redirect children away from the juvenile justice system, focus on rehabilitation and reduce juvenile delinquency.

Data and research drive these reforms, which are already having a positive effect in our community. Juvenile delinquency in Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties has declined 25 percent in the past five years, and statewide it has dropped 35 percent.

DJJ's Roadmap emphasizes the importance of helping children where they live and learn, which strengthens their rehabilitation. Front-end help can prevent children from developing patterns of delinquency, giving them more hope for a brighter future.

But it won't happen without help and support from the community. DJJ is inviting the public to town hall meetings throughout the state, including Central Florida, to discuss the Roadmap. These forums represent your opportunity to shape Florida's juvenile justice system and positively impact the lives of children for generations to come.

Lucas Boyce is Director of Community Relations, Multicultural Insights and Government Affairs for the Orlando Magic.