A Port in the Storm
Special programs help children in the Fort Bend Juvenile Detention Center
"The day I fell"- this is prison slang for “The day I was arrested”
Being arrested is a very bad fall for a child between the ages of 10-17 in Fort Bend County. Once a child falls, the question remains: Can this child stand back up?
In Fort Bend County, a child who is arrested is taken to the Fort Bend County Juvenile Detention Center in Richmond, Texas. Here you will discover many people involved in our Juvenile Justice system that are paying attention to this question and working with the community to reach out and help children stand up after they fall. If detention is considered punishment, can we as a society also consider time in the “lock up” as educational, inspirational, and motivating? Juvenile Detention is not supposed to be a child’s training program for adult incarceration. In Fort Bend County, the JDC is often a fallen child’s safest place to land. Like a port in the storm, time here can be well spent.
n. pl. Port - A port where ships dock in the course of voyages to load or unload cargo, obtain supplies, or undergo repairs.
A child’s life and future can turn on a dime. If they survive the storm, they can recognize the obstacles in their path, they can change course. During the time a child is in a juvenile detention center, it is important they meet positive people, and are introduced to new opportunities to discover something great and positive about their lives and their futures. They need to be inspired to change course. How does a child learn that they have the power to create their future? How can they be shown they have control, and can blaze a trail that leads to their successful future in our society today?
The Fort Bend County JDC is bringing unique, innovative and eye opening programs to our children at highest risk of failing in our society. And the special programs at Fort Bend JDC are turning lives around and helping the children who fall, to get up - stronger and better prepared to face life’s challenges.
Juveniles in Detention
“How did they get here?” This question is not as important to Mary Gready, the Director of Special Programs at the Fort Bend JDC, as “What will they do when they get out of here - and how can we make sure they never come back here?”
Fort Bend JDC is a secure environment for youth charged with an offense and pending a court hearing. The detention center is designed to provide a safe living environment and a full range of services for the juvenile including medical, educational, psychological, and recreational services. But the Special Programs at FBJDC are the child’s opportunity to learn something new, expand their view of the world, change their perspective and discover a better road to travel. The community is greatly involved. Thanks to Fort Bend Partnership for Youth, grants for special programs, and private donations, the Fort Bend JDC offers a literacy program and mentoring programs, as well as unique and specialized ARTreach programs benefiting children at risk.
A Port in the Storm- a special ARTreach Program supporting juvenile justice
ARTreach programs supporting juvenile justice are “Mentoring through Art” programs that teach expressive painting, vocational art and life skills to reach youth at highest risk. These youth are often referred as the children in the pipeline (to prison) and at highest risk of dropping out of school, living on the streets, resorting to drugs, and ending up on welfare. This summer, ARTreach delivered a unique residency program that taught digital photography and songwriting at the Fort Bend JDC. The theme, “A Port in the Storm” challenged the children to find their safe haven, the light within the darkness, the positive within the negative - perfect analogies in the world of photography. The program commissioned professional photographer Fatima Donaldson of Katy to teach the students the tricks of the trade; lighting, composition, and perspective, to capture a striking image. Janet Buller, a singer and songwriter from Pattison, Texas was also commissioned to help the children create a song that could express in words their desire for change. Writing the verses in tandem and as a team helped the children to recognize when they felt safe, as well as the negative and positive influences impacting their decisions. ARTreach programs like this are made possible in part by grants from the Texas Commission on the Arts, private foundations and individuals that appreciate the arts’ positive impact on education and health.
The recent cuts in Texas’ funding for arts education are requiring organizations like ARTreach that offer programs supporting education, enrichment, and life skills to children at risk to turn to the private sector for more support. “ARTreach is seeking funding for innovative intervention and awareness programs supporting children at risk and in juvenile detention centers,” says Terri Bieber, Executive Director of ARTreach. “ It’s sometimes difficult to find donors interested in investing in the future of a child already in the system, but it is a valuable investment. If it were just about money, it is less than a $12 investment per week for a child, but the return is over $42,000 in tax dollars saved per year if just one child changes course and stays out of adult prison.” Bieber adds, “Often people think of detention as punishment and may view special programs as a luxury or a reward these kids do not deserve. However, the art programs are educational and life changing, and this audience is captive! ARTreach and the Fort Bend JDC will take advantage of this and work to expose the children to as many positive outlets as possible while they are in captivity. It’s worth it. These kids are worth it and deserve every chance to stand up and live a more creative and productive life.”
“It makes a difference”, says Mary Gready, “ARTreach programs and the instructors leave a lasting impression. The students are very surprised to discover they have talent they can lean on. On the outside, they are creating beautiful artwork that people respect and admire. Inside they are inspired, their self-esteem and feeling of self-worth improves, and their confidence in their own capability grows stronger. We’d like to offer ARTreach programs weekly.”
ARTreach, Fort Bend JDC and Fort Bend Partnerships for Youth will be collaborating on grant writing and fundraising to raise the $8,640 needed to cover annual program expenses. An exhibition of the photographic images captured by the youth in detention will open September 30th at FALA Creative Gallery and Studios located the Great SW Equestrian Center in Cinco Ranch, 2501 S. Mason Road Ste 263 Katy Texas 77450. Donations to support ARTreach Programs serving juveniles in detention are being requested now. Volunteers and professional artists who wish to help may contact Terri Bieber at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Mary Gready email@example.com, Director of Special Programs at Fort Bend Juvenile Detention Center to discover additional ways you can become involved.