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Weaver honored for work with juvenile agency

June 02, 1998|By TERRY TALBERT

by Joe Crocetta / staff photographer

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Bob Weaver

Bob Weaver, 53, has a glass trophy of sorts sitting in his office five floors above Hagerstown's Public Square, but he'd rather not talk about it.

Weaver, director of the Washington County office of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Justice, was named that agency's first Andrew Watt Field Services Manager of the Year in a recent awards ceremony.

"It feels good, but it's not something I would have sought out," he said. He said he'd rather give credit to his staff and others in the county judicial system who work with juveniles.

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Weaver and a staff of 16 work with the courts and other local agencies in cases involving juvenile delinquents, truants, and kids in need of supervision.

Weaver has been on the job for 29 years. "Normally in a career by this time you begin to flag a little bit and get tired. But it seems that now we finally have the money and the sensible leadership we need to put in place programs that will live on. The whole direction of juvenile justice is changing."

Weaver said public safety, child welfare and accountability are now the focus of the juvenile justice system. Community agencies are working together to help kids stay out of trouble, and when they do get in trouble, to make sure they know there are consequences to pay.

Weaver said juvenile justice now involves community service, at-home detention, parental involvement, and a victim program that brings juvenile delinquents and their victims face to face. "Often these kids make no connection between what they've done and how it feels when it happens to you," Weaver said.

The focus also is on getting to kids early, so they don't start down the path to trouble. Weaver said prevention wasn't considered important years ago. He's glad common sense prevails today.

"Eighty percent of the work we do is on the informal level," before a case becomes serious enough to hit the courts, Weaver said. His office is open, and there are times he finds himself temporarily babysitting for a teen while his or her parents are talking with caseworkers.

Weaver is a product of the idealism and enthusiasm of the 1960s.

Today, Weaver said although his idealism is tempered by realism, his enthusiasm stays strong. He feels the system can make positive changes in his world.

"In this job, it's impossible to stop growing," he said.

Sometimes kids who were in trouble come back years later to say hello. "We treasure those success stories," Weaver said.

A native of Washington County, Weaver graduated from South Hagerstown High School, and went to Towson University, where he got a degree in speech pathology and audiology, with a minor in psychology.

After his college graduation, Weaver joined the Peace Corps. He spent three years in Grenada, working in a mental hospital and teaching.

Weaver came home and found a job in juvenile justice in 1969. "It was the fading of the era of flower children and hippies," he said. The cases we had then were interesting. For example, long hair was an issue then. The attitude was, 'We can't bend the rules or we'll start down that slippery slope...'"

Weaver said he could relate to the hair issue. His wasn't always as short as it is now. "On my first day in court, the judge's secretary took one look at me and said, 'Those sideburns will have to go,'" he said.

Weaver lives in Braddock Heights, Md., with wife Diane. He likes to garden in his spare time. "I'm a great composter," he said.

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