It is difficult to talk about the Youth Services Institute (YSI) without first mentioning Dr. Raymond O. Sumrall, whose work and contributions to the Alabama juvenile justice system date back to 1967. Dr. Sumrall’s relationship with the Alabama Department of Youth Services (DYS) began in the early nineties, when he served as a consultant for DYS in the development of training materials, policy and procedures, and programming for contract community providers. Dr. Sumrall worked diligently to establish several programs and collaborative partnerships that were beneficial to treatment for troubled adolescents.
First was the establishment of YSI within the University of Alabama (UA), School of Social Work. Having been with UA since 1970, Dr. Sumrall was extremely knowledgeable of the benefits of a university based association. YSI not only created job and field placement opportunities for the social work students, but it also formed a unique partnership between the juvenile justice system and UA. UA’s history of research coupled with the vast array of resources enabled DYS to establish contacts in those arenas. Under the auspices of UA and DYS, YSI was able to provide additional avenues of technical assistance to DYS. This included program development, evaluation, coordination of the Request for Proposals (RFP) process, training, and other responsibilities.
In 1999, when a change in legislation impacted the number of juvenile sex offender commitments and after consultation with Dr. Sumrall, DYS determined that a more streamlined and separate program was needed on the Mt. Meigs Campus. The vision of Dr. Sumrall coupled with DYS and UA resources led to the development of the Accountability Based Sex Offender Program (ABSOP); which is a juvenile sex offender treatment program that was co-directed by Dr. Sumrall and Dr. Barry Burkhart, psychology professor at Auburn University. The combination of social work and psychology allowed ABSOP to make a large impact on juvenile sex offender treatment. The rare partnership between elephant and tiger helped to establish the Youth Management Consortium (YMC) which is an alliance between DYS, YSI, and Auburn University. The YMC provided oversight of ABSOP, created opportunities for field experience and professional training for individuals and practitioners interested in juvenile sex offender treatment.
A resource for the DYS Chalkville Campus, the Chalkville Assessment Center (CAC) was created and implemented by YSI in 2006 to provide comprehensive psychosocial and psychological assessments for adolescent females committed to the Chalkville Campus. Soon after implementation, the CAC function on campus was expanded to include the development of group curriculum, facilitating treatment groups, initiating research, and participation in treatment meetings. The 2011 Alabama tornadoes impacted the DYS Chalkville Campus and resulted in the untimely closure of the residential facility. Thus, the CAC is no longer in operation; however, its primary purpose of comprehensive assessments has been incorporated into other program concepts.
In an effort to expand the community services available to youth with sexual behavior problems, YSI established the Demonstration Aftercare Program (AC) in 2000.The AC program provided aftercare services to sex offending youth transitioning from residential care. The Children/Youth Treatment Program (CYTP), started in 2004, expanded the treatment services of the AC and provided services to sexually reactive youth whose behavior warrant treatment but their age limited court involvement. Although no longer in operation, the concepts, goals and objectives of the AC program and CYTP were incorporated into the ABSOP: Continuum of Care (COC) program that was established in 2008 through funding support from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs LETS Division and DYS. The COC provides community-based alternative sentencing and aftercare services to juvenile sex offenders and sexually reactive youth whose behavior warrants treatment but their age limits court involvement. After more than three years of planning and development, the WOW program is the most recent addition to the YSI family. By creating over nearly fifty job opportunities, numerous field education and internship placements for various departments, the WOW program is a collaborative effort between DYS, YSI, and several UA Departments and Colleges.
In 2008, Karan Singley, retired Tuscaloosa County Juvenile Court Referee, joined YSI. Mrs. Singley’s experience and knowledge was extremely beneficial in the development of new programming and the expansion of existing programs. After 40 years of dedicated service and contributions to the social work profession and juvenile justice programming, Dr. Sumrall retired in 2010 leaving a legacy of quality services and unparalleled vision for effective treatment approaches. Karan Singley transitioned into the position of YSI Director and served in this role until 2014. Mrs. Singley’s commitment to cooperative partnerships, superior consultative services, and implementing mechanisms to ensure seamless treatment services enriched YSI’s reputation throughout the state. The leadership of Dr. Raymond Sumrall and Karan Singley solidified YSI’s standing as a primary resource for juvenile justice programming, research, and educational and professional training.