In 1981, the Juvenile Court of Caddo Parish was overloaded with a significant number of youths. Initially arrested for minor offenses, they were “falling through the cracks”, only to later become repeat offenders.
During that same time period, several women from Shreveport’s First Presbyterian Church were attending a women’s conference in Montreat, North Carolina. Jim Watkins, a Presbyterian minister, taught a seminar, “Behind Closed Doors – A Workshop on Criminal and Juvenile Justice”, highlighting a program that was established in Atlanta, Georgia to address similar youth challenges.
Carolyn W. Beaird, Marjorie B. Winkler, Lea Johnson and Babs Roggero enthusiastically returned to Shreveport to share with other women from their Church, their pastor, Dr. John Rogers, and Suzette Kincer-Haley, the Church’s Director of Christian education, their hopes of establishing such a program in Shreveport.
These forward-thinking individuals recognized the need to break this destructive cycle by assisting the Juvenile Court, through the use of volunteers, to divert first-time offenders. By providing these youths with an opportunity to develop a sense of responsibility for their actions and teaching new positive behaviors, they were given a chance to begin again. Their joint efforts became the catalyst that launched Volunteers for Youth Justice (VYJ), formerly known as the Shreveport Juvenile Justice Program.
VYJ has since built on the foundation of diversion programming to include advocacy, life-skill training and mentoring experiences for abused, neglected and at-risk children throughout Northwest Louisiana. Today, VYJ has three primary programs: CASA(Court Appointed Special Advocates), YOUTH PROGRAMS: GEMS & GENTS Mentoring, JUMPSTART, Teen Court and Conflict Resolution, COURT PROGRAMS: FINS (Families in Need of Services), Truancy FINS and TASC.
VYJ has a proven track record of success. It is a story of dreams and possibilities. Through the vision of a few active and caring individuals, the unwavering support of the Judges and court staff and the groundswell of compassionate volunteers, thousands of our community’s children have been given a light of hope for a brighter tomorrow.
Join with us as we continue to build on this foundation of success and increase our efforts to meet the needs of each and every child in crisis.