‘Justice for girls’ center celebrates five years making a difference

The Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center celebrated its fifth birthday Jan. 31 with a celebration at the Jessie Ball duPont Center, where the Policy Center has offices, but the story really began nearly 20 years ago.

When statewide programming for girls in Florida’s juvenile justice system faced threat of elimination from the state budget in the late 1990s, Dr. Lawanda Ravoira partnered with Roy Miller, president and founder of The Children’s Campaign, to launch a focused reform initiative for justice-involved girls and young women.

Several early key efforts by Ravoira and Miller included the publication of two of the largest research studies specific to girls ever conducted in the country, funded by the Jessie Ball duPont Fund; Florida becoming the second state in the country to pass legislation requiring gender-specific services in the juvenile justice system the creation of the Juvenile Justice Blueprint Commission; the Women’s Giving Alliance underwrote an initiative to help transform Duval County and Northeast Florida into a national model for effectively addressing the multiplicity of girls’ needs in the justice system; private funding from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund to open a National Center for Girls and Young Women, and then in 2012, Delores Barr Weaver supported a request to open the Policy Center.

“With all the accomplishments, what matters the most is that our community has truly opened its heart to make a difference for girls and young women who are impacted by the justice system,” said Ravoira, president and CEO of the Policy Center.

“The Policy Center has gained unbelievable credibility in the community and is participating in Tallahassee on policy issues, but we’re also helping individuals,” said John Taylor, board member.

“As I reflect over the past five years, what I’m most proud of is that we have served eighteen hundred girls and young women, and we’ve seen a very different future for them, thanks to the incredible support of the people who are here at this celebration today,” Ravoira said. “Of course, it wouldn’t be possible without Delores Barr Weaver, who was the first to believe in the idea of having a policy center that would focus on girls in the justice system. It is her incredible generosity that’s really made this possible.”

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