Tag Archives: Balanced and Restorative Justice

Restorative Justice Volunteer Marilyn Buhlmann inducted into Hall of Fame

A glance around Marilyn Buhlmann’s Brattleboro home tells you without a doubt two things that drive her passion: creativity and commitment to her adopted community.

Marilyn Buhlmann joins other illustrious volunteers on Youth Services’ Hall of Fame wall.

She will be leaving Brattleboro in October, splitting her time between Florida and Colorado to be closer to family. Boxes are packed with paintings, her ceramic bowls and the ‘Wise Ones”, shamanic two-foot tall ceramic figures she hand-built.

Piles of file folders must be gone through before her move; they represent the many community organizations she has impacted as a volunteer leader; three years of organizing the River Gallery School auctions while a board member; serving over 10 years on the Board of the Women’s Crisis Center (4 years as chair), where she coordinated the Women’s Film Festival for 3 years, and volunteering as a bereavement counselor for Brattleboro Area Hospice for 13 years.

“I love the act of giving, being able to share myself and my resources with this wonderful community that I have made my home for the past 50 years,” Buhlmann said.

Her longest commitment, serving as a restorative justice volunteer on a Youth Services’ Diversion Board, concluded last month after 22 years, culminating with her induction into Youth Services’ Hall of Fame, the organization’s top award for its volunteers.

Buhlmann’s monthly meeting as a panelist focused on repairing the harm caused by the community member. “Diversion holds those who violated the law accountable in a manner that promotes responsibility to individuals, community and relationships,” she explained. “Also, when appropriate, we addressed underlying needs or issues that led to the offense.”

In her family of origin, not unlike many Youth Services clients, Buhlmann experienced trauma and violence and extreme poverty.  “My life experiences have given me a lot of insight in all of the volunteer work I have done,” she explained.

She knows from her own childhood that often young people just need nurturing and guidance to help them succeed and realize their full potential. “I had a couple of teachers who told me I could go far in the world, despite my limitations.  Their belief in me stayed deep inside me like a candle flame even in my darkest times,” Buhlmann testified.

In her 30’s Buhlmann was finally able to go to college, propelled by the tiny flame sparked years before. “As a Diversion board member I try to light the same flame in others,” she explained. “It is rewarding to have a part in what is often a transformation,” Buhlmann said.

Like many transplants, Buhlmann first came to Vermont in 1972 to ski, discovering instantly that “she belonged here” and made it her home over the next five decades. Buhlmann worked many years as a waitress, running a hotel desk and performing other administrative jobs before she was finally able to go to college in her ‘30s to study to be a dietician.

Marilyn Buhlmann will leave big shoes to fill, according to Patrick Fleming, the Youth Services Diversion Case Manager who coordinates six restorative justice panels of community members each week. He described Buhlmann as “a natural” at this work, unusually compassionate and someone who could instinctually alleviate the defensiveness of the most challenging clients.

Before the term became widely used, Buhlmann’s approach was trauma-informed, according to Fleming. “We could trust her with the most complex cases and know she would understand on a cellular-level what was important and what wasn’t. She also inspired our clients to look at and address the issues that led to their offense,” explained Fleming.

Buhlmann is being inducted into Youth Services’ Hall of Fame as the agency’s first-ever recipient of the Restorative Justice Advocate Award.  Her portrait will join Liz Richards and Ben Underhill, two other champions of Youth Services who devoted decades to the young people of Windham County, in the hallway of Youth Services.

The Hall of Fame is a way for Youth Services’ board to recognize community members like Buhlmann who make outstanding and sustained contributions to youth development and the agency’s outreach. “Marilyn went out of her way to champion Youth Services and restorative justice at every opportunity,” Fleming recalled.

Like the “Wise Ones” figurines that Buhlmann fashioned from a lump of clay into something with meaning, Buhlmann’s decades of empathic listening and questioning on Youth Services’ Diversion Board has helped close to 3000 Windham County community members transform their mistakes into life lessons that help them choose a better path going forward.

To find out how to join in this important work with our community members, please call Youth Services at (802) 257-0361 or visit www.youthservicesinc.org.

Youth Services tackles truancy in Windham County schools

Jocelyn York, BARJ Coordinator at Youth Services

Brattleboro—Youth Services has officially hired Jocelyn York as its Balanced and Restorative Justice (BARJ) Coordinator for the organization, a position she has fulfilled on a temporary basis since last year.  In this program, Youth Services works with youth ages 13 through 22 who have been adjudicated in Family Court, are on probation, are at risk of a truancy filing, have Youthful Offender Status, or require additional support.

According to Youth Services’ Executive Director, Russell Bradbury-Carlin, the agency’s BARJ program recognizes that many young people entering the criminal justice system have underlying factors that might lead to the criminal misconduct.

“Early intervention is key to addressing the reasons that kids aren’t showing up for school or have started to get in trouble with the law.  With early intervention we can reduce the likelihood of future involvement in the justice system.  Sometimes, by offering individual or group coaching in conflict resolution, anger management, and other skills, we can help the young person and their parents turn around the situation,” Bradbury-Carlin explained.

York is an integral part of the School Success Program, a collaboration between Youth Services and Windham Southeast Supervisory Union. The program focuses on truancy intervention for students age 13-18. The program works primarily one-on-one with students, but also includes work with families and other involved community providers.

“Jocelyn works from a different stance that the traditional “Truancy Officer”, Bradbury-Carlin stressed, “acting instead as a supportive helper with a positive, proactive and less punitive approach that builds the necessary skills and understanding needed for student and families to make a long-term commitment to education. She looks at all areas of a student and family’s life that contribute to or can help solve the problem.”

York’s supportive case management focuses on reducing stresses at home that might be related to money or work problems, housing issues, health needs, and/or transportation. She works to identify and develop the skills and interests of the young person.

York explains, “We link youth and their families with other community providers that can meet their needs. By getting my clients involved with other established community supports and activities outside of the school, I can help them reduce their life stressors and focus more clearly on what they need to do to get through school. When necessary, I also may help a student switch to another school or academic program that may better fit their needs than the traditional K-12 system.”

According to Bradbury-Carlin, the outcomes of this collaboration are increased school attendance, improved relationships in family and school, improved life satisfaction and self-esteem, increased parent involvement, and improved access and use of resources.

Before joining Youth Services, York had been a mental health worker on the Brattleboro Retreat’s Adolescent Inpatient Unit, a behavioral interventionist in Barre, Vermont for Washington County Mental Health’s early childhood autism program, and a pre-school teacher in Windsor County. York has bachelor’s degrees in Women’s Studies and Liberal Studies from Sonoma State University in California.

To find out more about Youth Services Restorative Justice programs, call Youth Services at (802) 257-0361 or visit www.youthservicesinc.org