The last couple of years have been rather rocky for Brazos County's Juvenile Services Department. In 2004 dozens of employees claimed they were wrongfully terminated and forced to resign by then director, Rhonda Gilchrist. 2 investigations into the department found no wrong doing by administrators, but an employee survey blamed Gilchrist for low morale and poor communication. Gilchrist was fired in January 2005. Now there's a new director and he's made some changes.
Doug Vance, the new director for Brazos County juvenile services is revamping the department. Hoping to avoid some of the controversy past directors faced, he's implemented new policies, procedures and programs.
"Hopefully it increases expectations and understanding the expectations. Hopefully it increases the staff's ability to communicate and understand what they need to do and how the need to do it, said Vance.
Since so many issues were raised by former employees, changes have been made to employee discipline procedures. Guidelines have been rewritten in an effort to make them more clear and concise and to give employees a better understanding of grounds for termination.
Another new feature is an employee committee which was created to come up with ideas to recognize staff for good work and to keep them motivated.
There are also programs in the works for the kids in the juvenile detention center and on probation.
"We're looking at everything from diverting at risk youth from the juvenile services system all the way to after care," said Vance.
Since Vance took over last August many administrators say employee morale has gone up and the reputation of juvenile services is improving.
"I think Dr Vance has really come in and had a positive attitude about moving forward from the point that we were at when he got here. We've been talking about programs, empowerment of staff and really helping the kids," said Artis Whetstone, Probation Manager and a 14 year employee.
"My stance has always been to focus on the future and on being positive and in doing that I think we'll be o.k.," said Vance.
The department is also hoping to start a juvenile mentoring programming.
The staff is seeking volunteers from the community to talk and work with at risk youth.