Family Services staff member Burney did not always aspire to help youth with DJJ issues. Why does he do it?
At Family Services of Metro Orlando, Burney Vaughn brings a smile to everyone’s face.
“I like to make people laugh,” he said. “We are usually dealing with unfortunate circumstances, so I think it’s important to connect with people and help them through it. It makes it all a little easier that way.”
As Family Services’ DJJ Support Liaison, Burney serves largely as a bridge between the Florida Department of Children and Families and the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice in Orange and Osceola counties. When a minor is arrested and processed through the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice system, his or her family must be notified of the situation. When the youth becomes eligible for release back into his parents’ custody, the parents may refuse to accept him due to anger, denial or fear. Without a parent to come pick him up from the detention facility, youth in this position may end up in the state-run foster care system because they have no place else to go.
“I believe that parents are usually able to do a better job in raising a child than the system can,” he said. “So if I can talk to the parents and provide the family with some wraparound support services – like family counseling or a mentor to come meet with the youth – that will make the parents comfortable with keeping the child in their home, I can give him a better future.”
At the start of his career, Burney served in the United States Air Force for two years. At that time, he did not know that his path would lead to a career in social services, but has always believed that life has a way of working itself out. While working as Deputy Sheriff in Lake Country, Burney began to notice that he connected most with teenagers who were struggling to find their way in the world.
“As a Senior Advisor for the Lake County Sheriff’s office, I worked with both the Explore Program and the D.A.R.E. Program and I started to notice that I was passionate about helping the kids,” he said. “After that, I worked a in number of positions including as an Intervention Assessment Coordinator for the Lake County Boy’s Ranch; a Placement Coordinator in Sumter County with the Florida Department of Children and Families; and a Family Support Supervisor and Facility Coordinator for Florida Operations and Fleet Management for Central Baptist Family Services. When Family Services was created, I was hired as a Case Assignment Unit Counselor… I’ve seen many different sides of the child welfare system.”
Because children thrive best when they are supported within their families and communities, Burney’s goal as Family Services DJJ Support Liaison is to keep families together. In the last five years, Burney has saved the state of Florida over six million dollars – money that has been reinvested into Family Preservation programs rather than foster care placements. But to Burney, his job is much more important than numbers.
“I grew up in a house with loving parents and siblings. We went to church every Sunday, we played sports – I never grew up wanting anything,” Burney explained. “So I see this job as my opportunity to give these kids the kind of love and support I had growing up… I can’t relate to everything they go through, but what I can do is give them some sort of positive outlook for their future with their families.”