In 2006, the Alabama Department of Youth Services (DYS), under the leadership of Mr. J. Walter Wood, Jr., identified a need to enhance the quality and effectiveness of treatment programming for female juvenile offenders in Alabama. In response to this need, Dr. Raymond O. Sumrall, Director of the Youth Services Institute (YSI) and Associate Professor in the University of Alabama (UA) School of Social Work during this period, initiated collaborations with various colleges at the University of Alabama. The departments were chosen based on the needs of the proposed population and the clinical expertise of the selected partners. In November 2007, DYS, YSI, and UA partners met to brainstorm ideas regarding the types of holistic services needed for this population. The multidisciplinary collaboration efforts led to the development of a holistic treatment program for female offenders, entitled the Working on Womanhood (WOW) program located in the Girls Intensive Education and Treatment Facility.
The WOW program provides services to a specialized population of adolescent females, generally ages 13-18 that have been committed to the DYS and meet specific admission criteria. The program utilizes gender specific, outcome driven interventions designed for adolescent females with a history of delinquent behavior and mental health related issues. The WOW program aims to set a standard of treatment and model programming for delinquent girls; and this program has incredible potential to positively impact the lives of young women.
WOW is an intervention based program for youth that are currently stable but have a history of psychiatric hospitalization and/or treatment including areas such as suicidal ideation or attempts, self-injurious or self-harm behaviors, homicidal behaviors or ideation, neglect or abuse, depression, familial discord, substance abuse, risk taking, school or academic problems, substance abuse, and anger. As students work through the program, they build coping skills and become more aware and in control of their emotions and behaviors. Treatment regime is individualized and based on the Wheel of Wellness model, which addresses wellness, spirituality, work and leisure, love and belonging, friendship, and relationships. Services include, but are not limited to the following: assessment, ISP/IEP development, individual counseling, family counseling, family visitation, skills group, treatment group, life skills training, personal hygiene education, physical education, and assistance with community transition.