Q. Are these stories about the kids really true?
A. Absolutely. All I did was change their names.
Q. Is your book relevant outside of Florida?
A. Most certainly. The amazing thing about at-risk kids is the similarity of their complicated, chaotic lives no matter where they live; regardless of the system of juvenile justice in their state.
Q. It sounds like a really depressing job, being a juvenile judge. How did you handle that?
A. Actually, although the situations are depressing and your heart aches for the kids, it’s an immensely rewarding job, mostly because kids can be so open, candid and funny, and because you get to work with wonderful people who really care about kids.
Q. You talk a lot in your book about gender-specific programs for girls. What about boys? Are you short-changing them?
A. You may be right. Initially, especially with regard to residential facilities, the programs were designed for boys, and when girls began entering the juvenile justice system at a rapid rate, those programs were just "painted pink" without regard to the special needs of girls. In the last decade, in part because of the fine work of the NCCD's Center For Girls and Young Women in Jacksonville, FL, girls programming has dramatically improved. I believe there is a need to re-focus on at-risk boys, particularly their education, and beginning in elementary and middle school.
Q. How long did it take you to write the book, and was it easy to find a publisher?
A. It took me 2 1/2 years beginning with a book proposal. I was rejected by 14 agents before I found Claire Gerus and she quickly put me together with Kaplan Publishing Co.