Juvenile Work 'Rewarding, Challenging'

Charles KehoeLongtime corrections leader and social worker Charles Kehoe is the new superintendent of the Richmond, Va., Juvenile Detention Center.

"I'm excited about it," Kehoe said just before taking his new position in August. "It's a wonderful opportunity. Working with kids is something I enjoy doing. It's a rewarding and challenging career."

Doris D. Moseley, interim director of Richmond's Department of Justice Services, said Kehoe is highly regarded in the field of adult and juvenile corrections.

"We are very fortunate to have him join our team," Moseley said in a statement.

Kehoe, 65, said he wants to make a difference at the center, a 60-bed juvenile detention facility that provides temporary care for youth who require secure custody pending disposition or placement, or who are placed in the facility by the court.

Juvenile detention is at the front end of the justice system and it can be a traumatic experience for the youth and their families, Kehoe said. But he wants to make sure the youth have a positive stay at the center.

"I want to work with experts in the field of trauma, assessment and treatment and collaborate with partners in health care and behavioral health," he said. "All these things are an opportunity in the making - it's a great and exciting time to be in this field."

Collaboration will be an important part of his job, Kehoe added. "I am committed to building a strong partnership with the court and the Department of Justice here," he said. "This will be an opportunity to work with police and law enforcement - even the fire service to the health department."

The director noted he plans to connect with the School of Social Work at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond to encourage internships and other areas of mutual interest.

The corrections field is moving in a new direction, thanks to the passage of the Second Chance Act in 2008. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is releasing solicitation grants for re-entry demonstration projects for adults and youth. The grants can be awarded to state and local governments and Indian tribes.

Other grants are available for non-government and faith-based organizations that focus on successful re-entry.

NASW supported passage of the Second Chance Act in 2008 and its subsequent funding.

Kehoe agreed the Second Chance Act will help reduce recidivism rates. There is already good news to report at the juvenile detention center. He noted that admissions to the facility appear to be on a downward trend. In fiscal year 2008, detention admissions totaled 765, lower than the previous five-year average of 821. He said he credits the inception of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and its Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative as part of the reason for the decline.

Kehoe's experience in adult and juvenile corrections spans 45 years. He most recently served as the vice president of marketing and communication for G4S Youth Services. He noted that his social work education serves him to this day.

"I still find my social work skills useful and I try to stay grounded on the principles of social work," he said. "I believe our mission on earth is to leave it better than when we found it and social work has helped me do that."