Honorable Judge Kramer,

On September 4, 2014 I made the decision to have my oldest son (age 16) arrested by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department. This was the first step in getting my son, the son that I love with all my heart and soul, back. I want to thank you and the Shelby County Juvenile system, Ms. Torii Ramsey, Bradford Counseling and especially thank everyone at The Safe Harbor.

A little history about our family – wife and two sons, we have a modest background. We have always been active church members and active in our community. Our son made better than average grades in elementary and middle school, however his grades started declining in middle school. He played community sports (baseball, lacrosse, football and wrestling). He had a good circle of friends that had been established in his younger years, however those friends began to fade away. In the 9th grade he was into online gaming and that became an obsession. He skipped school for nine days and the purpose was to play video games. The video games were gone after that incident. His attitude worsened throughout the year and it seemed as though he was mad at the world. His grades really began to slide, just getting by with passing grades. He started the 10th grade year with the same bad attitude and bad grades. The second grading period he fabricated his own report card showing all A’s and B’s. I had asked him daily about his grades and he had convinced me that he was doing much better and the report card showed dramatic improvement. However, his time spent doing homework was not adding up and after some investigation on my part I discovered that his grades were just the opposite. I started seeking counseling and was looking at military schools for him.

Spring Break, 10th grade.

I discovered that he was smoking pot in MY HOUSE. He had been virtually locked down throughout most of the school year due to grades and attitude. He was restricted even more to where he was isolated from all contact with school kids other than the time he was at school. Things seemed to improve and I reduced some restrictions. School was winding down for the year and I allowed him to drive to visit a friend one Friday night. His curfew was 10:30, and at 10:15 he called to say he would be a few minutes late. I did not hear from him again until he showed up after 12:00 am. He came in and immediately I knew he was high and I sent him right to bed. The next morning I discovered a cooler of beer in the truck he was driving. Again, he is placed on restriction and remained there throughout most of the summer.

September, 11th grade.

Marijuana was discovered in his room. September 4, 2014 we called the Shelby County Sheriff to come out. His room was searched and no other drugs were found, but electronic cigarette items were discovered. Our son thought it was a big joke and showed no remorse. After discussing my options with the deputy I had him arrested and we began the legal process.

The Shelby County Juvenile Court system did an outstanding job. Our son’s Probation Officer – Ms. Torii Ramsey is fabulous, I cannot say enough good things about her. At our initial meeting she explained the process and consequences to him. She suggested that we contact Safe Harbor and get started in their program. I called Safe Harbor and discussed our situation. Their Director told me all about Safe Harbor and how their program is designed for kids with similar problems as we were facing. I was anxious to get started and we started the next week.

Safe Harbor changed our lives. Safe Harbor gave me back the son who I had lost. Safe Harbor helped me develop tools to be a much better parent. The way that Safe Harbor is structured is fabulous. They put the kids together with mentors (college age students who may have had similar issues growing up), and this immediately put our son at ease and gave him someone to talk to and look up to. His conversations with his mentor were confidential. The mentors are fabulous and they really are able to connect with the kids.

While the kids met with the mentors the parents met with counselors (parents who have had kids in the same or similar situation). This is an invaluable resource for parents. This is done in a group setting and there is great interaction between the parents and counselors. The entire discussion is heartfelt and comforting, it is never preachy. There are parents in the discussion that are finishing the program, some halfway complete and there are newbies. This mix is great as a new parent. I could see and hear that other parents had been exactly where I was with my son but they had progressed to a great place with their son or daughter. As a group member I learned of the mistakes that I made and was able to develop skills to be a much better parent. I learned that changes needed to be made within the family, not just with our son.

Our son developed a close relationship with his mentor during the process and their conversations had an impact on him. I could literally see him change during the counseling process. He looked forward to attending the meetings, as I did. We grew extremely close as father and son. We were close before, but now much much closer. Something as simple as sharing a meal together after the counseling session became very important to us. His grades improved, his entire attitude changed, he became the young man that I knew he could be.

Safe Harbor has speakers come in who have gone through and made the same mistakes the kids have made. These speakers, like the mentors, illustrate the consequences of the kids making bad decisions.

We had been attending Safe Harbor prior to our son’s court date with Judge Kramer. Going to court was good for him. He was now remorseful for his actions, but going to court really brought home the fact that his actions and decisions had to improve. His probation officer had fully informed us of the punishment he would receive from the court. He was placed on Color Code, his driver’s license was revoked, and he was instructed to attend additional counseling at Bradford.

It has now been nine months since our son was arrested and placed in handcuffs in my family room. He has made a complete turnaround. He is focused at school making great grades and wants to study Computer Science in college.

Again, I want to thank you and the Shelby County Juvenile system, Ms. Torii Ramsey, Bradford Counseling and especially thank The Safe Harbor.

Safe Harbor’s biggest fan,
Jeff Williamson
Birmingham, AL