Family Connection Focus: Department of Juvenile Justice’s Effingham County Community Services Office

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is the first story in a weekly series about organizations in Effingham County Family Connection, part of a statewide initiative that cultivates public and private collaboration at the local level to boost at-risk children and families Georgia Family Connection is represented in each of the state’s 159 counties, making it the largest network of its kind in the nation.

Collaborative organizations are committed to improving conditions for at-risk children, families and communities. Effingham County Family Connection boasts more than 20 partners.

SPRINGFIELD — The Georgia Department of Justice’s Effingham County Community Services Office is a crucial part of the Effingham County Family Connection safety net.

The department’s mission statement is: To protect and serve the citizens of Georgia by holding young offenders accountable for their actions through the delivery of services  and sanctions in appropriate settings and by supporting youth in their communities to become productive and law-abiding citizens.

The Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) operates short- and long-term facilities for children awaiting trial or who have been committed to custody by juvenile courts. Rehabilitation programs are provided at these locations to help the young offenders make positive changes in their lives.

Effingham County Community Services Office Director Anita Powell said the Family Connection collaborative furnishes a wealth of ideas and initiatives to help the DJJ achieve its goals. She has been associated with Family Connection for the duration of her 19-year career in juvenile justice, having served on its board.

“The true connection for us is that Family Connection does a lot of focusing on drugs and a lot of the things that we deal with through the department,” Powell said. “Drug use and suicide are the types of issues we encounter with our clients, which makes the connections I make through Family Connection good for us. I get to meet a lot of collaborative partners that I probably wouldn’t meet otherwise.”

Effingham County Family Connection, led by Executive Director Elaine Spencer, meets bi-monthly at the Effingham County Recreation and Parks Department facility on Hwy 119 in Springfield. The next meeting is set for March 8 at 9:30 a.m. The pubic is welcome.

“Almost every meeting that I attend, I hear about something different that has come to the area — whether it’s counseling services or just someone who can let a child do community service. It’s been a good help to us and I think we’ve been helpful to Family Connection, too.”

Powell said the need for her department’s services have grown with Effingham County’s burgeoning population. Since 2011, about 300 Effingham County children have been under DJJ supervision annually.

“We’re seeing a lot more kids,” she said. “In my time, I’m seeing children of people that I dealt with 19 years ago. It’s definitely a 24-hour-a-day job.”

For more information about the Community Services Office, call Powell at 754-6223. Spencer can be reached at 912-429-5468 or [email protected]

Read the story on effinghamherald.net.