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CFS Looks at Programs for Girls of Pinellas County

During the early 1990's, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) began to notice that things were changing within their system. A growing number of females were being admitted to detention facilities, placed on community control, and committed to the DJJ throughout Florida. As departmental policy, programs and funding had traditionally focused on the issues and needs of delinquent males, very few programs were in existence for females. It became necessary for the DJJ to focus on the needs of girls within their system, and in 1997 they received federal funding through an Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) Challenge Grant to launch the Girls Initiative statewide.

The mission of the Girls Initiative was to promote gender-specific programming in the DJJ and implement policies and practices that prohibit gender bias in placement, treatment and services rendered. According to OJJDP, gender-specific programming should provide support that recognizes specific needs of girls ages 10-17. Those needs include: space that is physically and emotionally safe, away from situations where they focus on male attention; time to have comforting, challenging, and nurturing conversations; education about women's health issues and female development, and opportunities to make positive changes within their relationships and within their community.

Locally, within Pinellas and Pasco Counties, the Girls Initiative was developed and named Listen to Girls. A Girls Steering Committee was also established in Pinellas County, including 48 members who represent various departments and agencies who serve girls and/or who are specifically interested in their needs.

In January 2000, a subgroup of the Girls Steering Committee began the Pinellas Girls Data Quest Initiative, and under the leadership of CFS's Mary Ann Kershaw, they compiled existing data and resources to help determine what life is really like for girls in Pinellas County (see box for girls nationally). Volume I has just been printed and focuses on girls who have already been identified as being in need of services/intervention and are likely at risk of deeper involvement with the system. Data relating to child safety, education, health, juvenile justice, mental health, substance abuse and teen pregnancy is presented, as well as profiles of many programs serving girls in Pinellas County.

"The ultimate goal of the Data Quest is to prevent girls from further penetrating the system," said Mary Ann Kershaw, "and to help ensure that every girl has the opportunity to reach her highest potential."

Additional CFS staff contributing to the report are Rick Brown, Lodi Lipien and Marianne Fink, who provided data and resources, and Bill Leader, who was responsible for the layout and design of the report. For additional information, contact Mary Ann Kershaw at (813) 974-6419.

A National Look At Girls Aged 10-17

What is life really like for girls?, (2000). Pinellas Steering Committee. Pinellas County, FL: author

The Department of Child and Family Studies (CFS) is a department of the Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, University of South Florida. The faculty and staff of CFS are committed to enhancing the development, mental health and well-being of children and families through leadership in integrating research, theory & practice.

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