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Judge seeks grant for girls' court

Newton County Juvenile Court could soon have a separate girls' court, focusing on at-risk teenagers.

Juvenile Court Judge Sheri Roberts recently got approval from the Newton County Board of Commissioners to apply for a $56,250 Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program Grant through the Georgia Department of Human Services.

Roberts intends to use the money to develop a program targeting girls ages 12 to 16, with hopes of preventing future appearances in court. The purpose of the program would be to strengthen family relationships and prevent the girls from becoming victims of violence or abuse, Roberts said. Topics of focus during the 16- to 18-week program would include self-esteem, personal protection, relationship choices and vocational goals.

The program will also include counseling, tutoring and pairing girls and their mothers with strong female role models, Roberts said.

The program would be an alternative to placing girls in juvenile detention or foster care, she said.

The grant would require a 25 percent match, totaling $18,750, for a total program budget of $75,000.

The match will require no county funds but will be made through in-kind services and community partnerships.

The initial grant would be seed money to get the program started. Additional grants would be applied for annually, Roberts said.

Commissioner Nancy Schulz, an employee at Newton County Health Center, urged Roberts to partner with the health department on the program and said the program should be in force during holidays and the summertime, when girls are at highest risk for aberrant behavior.

Roberts agreed, and noted that physical and sexual health will be part of the program, as well. She said the court also recently received a $55,000 grant to continue its abstinence education program.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.