As a probation officer for juveniles, Kari Poss tried to keep children on the right track.
She’s leaving Columbia County Juvenile Court after 12 years to help them even more.
Poss will become the director of the Family Resource and Evening Reporting Center in Harlem.
“She’s been here for many years and done so many good things,” Juvenile Court Judge Doug Flanagan said. “I don’t want her to go … I’m going to miss Mrs. Poss.
“I’ve told her that if it doesn’t work out, we expect her back here.”
Poss is a probation and intake officer, truancy officer, oversees the court’s Web site and the site for the Juvenile Court Association of Georgia and is the court’s Terminal Agency Coordinator for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
As vice chairwoman of the Columbia County Community Connections executive board, Poss helped establish the center. When she and Community Connections Executive Director Julie Miller opened the center in January, it was a dream come true for Poss.
“I’m excited,” Poss said. “I’m scared.”
The center will provide a third option for juveniles who are considered unruly or have committed a misdemeanor offense.
Typically, when the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office responds to one of these complaints, deputies have two options: detain the juveniles at the Regional Youth Detention Center or release them to their parents.
If the juveniles are immediately released to their parents, bad situations can often escalate.
The center provides a place for nonviolent juvenile offenders to cool off, tell their side of the story and receive services to help them avoid more encounters with law enforcement.
“As a probation officer, you get to see your kids 15 minutes a month,” Poss said. “I can’t do anything in 15 minutes.
“These kids (at the center), I will see five hours, twice a week. I just feel I can do more with it.”
Poss used her years of experience to establish the center, the only one in the state. Officials from Clayton County, near Atlanta, asked her to set up a similar center there.
But leaving juvenile court is going to be hard, Poss said. She tears up just talking about it.
“It’s easy (to leave) when you hate your job,” Poss said. “But when you absolutely love your job and absolutely love the people you work with, it makes it very hard.”
Poss’s last day with her Juvenile Court family is Friday. She’ll start Aug. 6 at the center, which will move to the former Euchee Creek health department building next year.
Poss called her boss, Juvenile Court Manager and Chief Probation Officer Margaret Tutt-Adams, her mentor.
“We’re definitely going to miss her,” Tutt-Adams said. “She’s very passionate about making a difference in a child’s life … She’s committed to put something on the table to empower young people to hopefully make better decisions.”
Poss started her career as a probation officer in Richmond County for adult sex offenders and those charged with domestic violence. But she realized that children have a much better chance of rehabilitation.
Poss found her niche in juvenile court.
“This is not a job,” Poss said. “This is a career.”
“You have to have the passion. It’s not a number. It’s not a file. These kids, first of all, they are our future. That’s our biggest thing. These kids are our future … If I can fix a handful of them at a time, maybe that handful will rub off on the next handful.”
Working in juvenile court, Poss saw needs and started new programs to fill them.
After seeing so many juveniles repeatedly charged with traffic offenses and so many dying in wrecks, Poss started the court’s traffic program. Only two repeat offenders came through the court last year, she said.
Leaving juvenile court is bittersweet, Poss said, and her last week will be hard.
“I’m real excited about going out there,” she said. “I’m really sad to be leaving some of my kids here.
“I’m glad to be helping all the new ones. I just feel I can do more.”