The University of Alabama

Partnership Creates New Program and Facility for Female Juveniles

Three years ago, the Alabama Department of Youth Services (DYS) determined that traditional methods for dealing with some of their female juvenile delinquents weren‘t effective and the agency consulted The University of Alabama School of Social Work’s Youth Services Institute (YSI) regarding more successful alternative treatment approaches.

UA’s multidisciplinary collaboration efforts, headed by YSI, led to the development of a holistic treatment program for female offenders, titled the Working on Womanhood Program (WOW) located in the Girls Intensive Education and Treatment Facility.

Pictured here are Karan Singley, YSI director; Dr. Virginia Scott-Adams, WOW program director; Jennifer Patterson, WOW clinical director; J. Walter Wood Jr., DYS executive director; and Dr. Raymond Sumrall, former YSI director and DYS consultant.

The new program, housed in the former Tuscaloosa County Juvenile Detention Center, recently held a dedication ceremony and has begun treatment for female juveniles. YSI worked closely with architects and contractors on the remodeling project.

Dr. Ray Sumrall, former director of YSI and associate professor of social work, has made a major impact on the development of YSI and WOW.  DYS Executive Director J. Walter Wood Jr. also stated in a prior interview, “He quite frankly is the go-to guy. He’s considered the expert on actually operating and providing treatment in these settings.” During the dedication ceremony, Dr. Lucinda Roff, dean of the School of Social Work, spoke of the long-term collaborative relationship between the University and DYS, and pledged continued cooperation on current and future projects.

Under the leadership of Karan Singley, YSI director, Dr. Virginia Scott-Adams, WOW program director, and Jennifer Patterson, WOW clinical director, the program will provide services to a specialized population of adolescent females, generally ages 13-18 that have been committed to the DYS and meet specific admission criteria.

The purpose of the new center is to treat girls who do not benefit from the method of custody and control because they have deeper problems that need to be treated otherwise.

Issues to be addressed by the program include neglect and abuse, depression, suicidal gestures, self-harm, dysfunctional families and substance abuse.

Traditional mental health or correctional approaches are inappropriate or ineffective for these youth, so the WOW program uses gender-specific, outcome-driven interventions designed for adolescent females with a history of delinquent behavior and mental health related issues.

The WOW program aims to set a standard of treatment and model programming for delinquent girls; and this program has incredible potential to positively impact the lives of young women who often fall through the cracks of the juvenile justice system, Singley stated.