Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center (COJC) Awarded as a Winner of the 2024 Center for Improving Youth Justice Barbara Allen-Hagen Award

Ponca City Now - June 24, 2024 6:10 am

TECUMSEH, JUNE 21, 2024 — The Center for Improving Youth Justice (CIYJ)
recently announced Oklahoma’s Office of Juvenile Affairs’ (OJA) Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center (COJC) has been honored with the esteemed 2024 Barbara Allen-Hagen Award. This award, established in 2007 and formerly presented by the PbS Learning Institute, celebrates facilities and programs demonstrating exceptional commitment to improving the lives of young people in youth justice settings through evidence-based practices and a dedication to continuous improvement.

Several years ago, OJA embarked on the challenging task of demolishing and rebuilding significant portions of COJC while it remained operational. This effort involved consolidating all youth from across the state into a single secure care facility, initially leading to an increase in the number of assaults and injuries on campus. During the ongoing construction, the campus also faced challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic such as low staff morale and staffing shortages. COJC was facing unprecedented challenges.

Identifying the need for improvement, COJC developed a Facility Improvement Plan (FIP) focused on reducing violence and fostering positive staff relationships. Staff and youth climate surveys revealed the necessity for comprehensive policy and practice changes, leading to the integration of evidence-based programs across COJC’s treatment continuum and the creation of a more supportive, trauma-informed environment.

As they set out to implement their FIP, COJC staff kept reminding themselves of former CIYJ Coach Russ Jennings’ words, “It’s one thing to turn the ship, now we have to steer the ship to sustain continuous improvement.”

Superintendent Fields and his team took significant steps to promote sustainability and secure buy-in through intentional conversations with staff, young people, stakeholders, and partners. Together, they established a vision and mission statement centered on hope, structure, and accountability. Under the direction of OJA’s Director of Behavioral Health, licensed clinicians were recruited to implement evidence-based treatment programs and COJC’s Intake Process was revamped to be more welcoming and supportive.

A Leadership Academy for COJC staff was introduced to instill core values of relationship-building, role modeling, respect, and recognizing one another for a job well done. A staff wellness program was implemented to support mental health and reduce turnover, resulting in a 36% increase in new hires from 2022 to 2023. The adoption of a restorative justice approach and implementing Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) led to significant improvements in safety as well as improvements in the relationships between staff and young people.

“Congratulations to the Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center for their transformative efforts to create a safer, more supportive environment for the young people in their care,” said Kim Godfrey Lovett, CIYJ Executive Director. “Their commitment to addressing the root causes of violence and promoting positive staff relationships has made a significant impact on the well-being and future success of their young people.”

COJC’s achievements also include a 29% decrease in the use of physical force from 2022 to 2023 and an overall decline in staff injuries. The facility has embraced a new culture, demonstrating the power of positive role modeling and early intervention.

Looking forward, COJC is committed to sustaining these improvements. Anticipating
challenges such as changes in funding, leadership, and population served, COJC is
prepared to successfully overcome any challenge they face through continuous training and support. Ongoing initiatives include training through the Oklahoma Autism Foundation and Trauma- Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) for all clinicians.

About OJA:

The Office of Juvenile Affairs collaborates with youth, families, and community partners to create pathways for success through prevention and treatment for all Oklahoma youth.

About the Center for Improving Youth Justice (CIYJ):

The Center for Improving Youth Justice is dedicated to promoting excellence in youth
justice services. Through the Barbara Allen-Hagen Award, CIYJ honors facilities and
programs that exemplify a commitment to improving the lives of young people through
evidence-based practices and continuous improvement. For more information on all the work they do, visit Center for Improving Youth Justice.



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