Philadelphia News & Search
La’Tonya Bey-Gore started her career as a corrections officer, tasked with protecting teenagers locked up, sometimes for very minor charges.
Now, 17 years later and a police officer, Bey-Gore works to keep youth accused of minor crimes out of the criminal justice system as part of the police department’s youth diversionary program, which provides counseling and social services in lieu of charges.
Bey-Gore was honored Tuesday along with four Department of Human Services employees at the annual Crusader Awards.
“There are lots of success stories that have come from this program,” Bey-Gore said. “It has really changed the lens of how we see youth and their families and the struggles that they actually go through.”
The awards honor unsung DHS staff and community partners to highlight their work on behalf of children in the city. Awardees are nominated by peers and receive a $100 giftcard and award.
“This is a 24/7 hour job,” DHS Commissioner Cynthia Figueroa said at the ceremony. “When the rest of the city is asleep, DHS and (Community Umbrella Agency) staff are answering the hotline, meeting the needs of family, finding a foster home for kids and ensuring the safety of youth that reside in our juvenile justice facility.”
The awards coincided with child abuse awareness month and Mayor Kenney, in introducing the awardees, implored all Philadelphians to keep an eye out of the city’s most vulnerable.
“You’re always trained and raised to mind your own business but we can’t mind our own business anymore,” Kenney said. “Be a busy body, be a pain in the neck, be vigilant for our kids.”
Bey-Gore, who worked in the 12th Police District in Southwest Philadelphia and then worked inside district schools, has been a part of the diversionary program since it started in 2014. So far, more than 1,300 students have been diverted from criminal charges.
Another awardee, Jeffrey Thompson, helps the 16- and 17-year-old males whose crimes landed them in the city’s Juvenile Justice Services Center. Thompson, a counselor for four years at the center, said his job is a mix of reminding the young men to stay positive, keep active, keep reading, and to be there to listen if they get bad news from home.
Thompson started a Juvenile Justice Shark Tank for participants to pitch product ideas and a rap/poetry contest, to encourage creative expression.
“They face a lot of issues, problems at home, going back and forth to court, bad phone calls,” Thompson said. “They could lose a loved one while they’re in our custody – they’re just not hearing the best stories while they’re inside and there’s not much they can do about it while they’re incarcerated. I try to give them some type of plan when they get out and make sure they don’t’ come back.”
Also honored was Diane Burden, a longtime clerk in the Human Resources department, Debora Brown, a case management supervisor at Turning Points for Children and Derrick Butts, a case manager at Bethanna.
Philadelphia News & Search