Ellis* needed stability—and accountability. He found it in the Rebound Drug Court program in DeKalb County, GA.
The Rebound Drug Court is partially funded by OJJDP through the Juvenile Drug Treatment Court program. With additional support coming from community organizations and former parent and youth participants, the court represents a true community effort to address substance use disorders and ensure that young people get the help they need.
Ellis has been a participant of the Rebound Drug Court program for a little over a year. When he initially started the program, he was having problems in school and had a troubled relationship with his parents.
"The drug court has provided me with a stable program that allows me to talk about the issues going on in my life as it relates to me being drug free," Ellis explained. "It also holds me accountable for my behaviors in the home, school, and community."
As he nears program graduation, Ellis is enrolled in school and improving his grades. He has also remained drug free, strengthened his relationship with his parents, and now has a plan in place for his life after graduation.
"I want to be an entrepreneur so I can give back to the community,” said Ellis. "The drug court helped me shape those goals by helping me get back on track with my education and become aware of opportunities in my community."
The community involvement that inspired Ellis has strengthened the entire court program. A decision by Judge Linda Haynes to encourage community members to participate in court proceedings has significantly improved outcomes for youth by adding an extra layer of support.
Judge Haynes made the change in response to complaints from youth about how they only interacted with counselors. "I began inviting agencies, pastors, and community activists to come and observe our drug court. Those who came—and there have been many over the years—saw the work we were doing and asked how they could help," she recalled.
The positive impact on the drug court participants was immediate. Involving local businesses and organizations allows the court to offer enriching activities for youth—including overnight camping, equine therapy, and theater production. The youth also receive educational support from a team of retired teachers, and participate in mindfulness and yoga classes offered by a local organization.
"The drug court…allows me to talk about the issues going on in my life as it relates to me being drug free. It also holds me accountable for my behaviors in the home, school, and community."
—Ellis, Juvenile Drug Treatment Court program participant
DeKalb County has motivated and mobilized a wide range of community participants to help local youth find positive paths. The young people feel supported and motivated to achieve more, knowing that their community is behind them.
During his time in the program, Ellis has participated in workshops on public speaking, leadership, and life skills. He also joined both group and individual counseling sessions. Targeted tutoring helped him get back on track at school.
Ellis reports that the most impactful aspect of the program for him has been the relationships he has formed—especially with positive adult role models. "My probation officers are always there if I need to talk to them,” Ellis said. “I would tell anyone who is just starting a program like this to please listen to their probation officers and the judge. It is important to participate in all the prosocial activities, stay away from the wrong crowd, and stay focused."
Ellis is certainly focused on the future. He is determined to give back to the community that has given him so much.
*Ellis is a pseudonym used to protect the identity of the youth program participant.