For Immediate Release: March 26, 2019
Contacts: Office of the Governor: Alena Yarmosky, Alena.Yarmosky@governor.virginia.gov

Governor Northam Announces Leadership Transitions at Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice

DJJ Director Andrew Block to step down after major progress achieved; Deputy Director Valerie Boykin appointed new agency leader

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Andrew Block, the director of the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), who has devoted his career to improving the lives and protecting the rights of court-involved youth, will step down effective April 19 after leading the agency for five years. Governor Northam also announced the appointment of Valerie Boykin, who has served as DJJ’s Deputy Director for Community Programs since 2015, as the agency’s new director.

“During Andy’s tenure as director, the men and women of the Department of Juvenile Justice have fully invested themselves into transforming both the agency and our juvenile justice system, and have set the course to continue this progress,” said Governor Northam. “I am grateful for his leadership, for the time he spent serving this administration and the Commonwealth, and for the passion and dedication he brought to serving children, families, and communities across Virginia.”

In appointing Boykin to lead the agency, Governor Northam underscored her central role in leading the community side of the Department’s transformation. Her accomplishments include building a statewide system of evidence-based services, and transforming probation practices so that low-risk youth are successfully diverted out of the juvenile justice system.

“As our Department of Juvenile Justice moves to serve more youth in their communities, there is no better person to replace Andy than Valerie Boykin,” Governor Northam continued. “Valerie is right leader to take the helm at DJJ and will provide the continuity and consistency needed to carry on the transformation that began under Andy’s leadership.”

“I am incredibly proud of the work that DJJ has done that began under Governor McAuliffe and continued under Governor Northam,” said Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “Under Andy’s leadership and with our partners in the legislature, his team has transformed its system quickly, effectively, and comprehensively.”

“I have been very fortunate to serve in both the McAuliffe and Northam administrations, which have made the well-being of all children a priority,” Block said. “But most of all, I want to thank the amazing men and women of DJJ. They have some of the hardest jobs in state government, and yet every day I see them bringing their hearts, talents, and passions to the work of helping children and families get their lives back on track.”  

“The agency is lucky to have Valerie in this role as she has been a key leader in our transformation,” Block added. “She knows our people, knows this work, and cares passionately about the children and families we serve. She will do an amazing job as our new director.”

Boykin, who was born and raised in Suffolk, earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Virginia and a master’s degree in public administration from Old Dominion University. She first joined DJJ in 1980 as a probation officer and has devoted 25 years of her professional career to the Department serving in various capacities. She most recently served as the Court Service Unit director for the Fourth Judicial District from 2011 until she assumed the role of Deputy Director of Community Programs in 2015.

“When I started my career as a probation officer in Rocky Mount, Virginia, in 1980, I would never have imagined that one day I could become the director,” Boykin said. “I am so grateful for this opportunity, and fully prepared to continue the great work of our transformation. We have made a lot of progress toward ensuring the right youth get the right interventions and services at the right time, but we are not done yet.”

Based on the results of a system-wide assessment by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, in 2015 DJJ embarked on a comprehensive transformation of the Virginia juvenile justice system, safely reducing the number of youth placed in state custody, dramatically reforming correctional practices to focus on more rigorous treatment and education, and closing two juvenile correctional centers, reinvesting the savings into building out a statewide continuum of community-based services and supports.

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