Volunteers for Youth Justice (VYJ) is a community-supported non-profit organization whose mission is to provide care for children, youth, and families in crisis. It began in 1981 the need to break the destructive cycle of at-risk youths was recognized and the work began to assist the Juvenile Court in diverting first-time offenders. These efforts became the catalyst that launched Volunteers for Youth Justice (VYJ), formerly known as the Shreveport Juvenile Justice Program.

VYJ has five primary programs:

  • CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates)
  • GEMS & GENTS-Youth Mentoring Programs and Leadership Academy, JUMPSTART, Teen Court, and Conflict Resolution.
  • Court Programs that consist of FINS (Families in Need of Services), Facts of Life, and Truancy.
  • TASC (Truancy Assessment Service Center) K through 5 school attendance.
  • TBRI® (Trust-Based Relational Intervention) Trauma-focused services.
  • Misdemeanor Referral Center

VYJ has a proven track record of success. It is a story of dreams and possibilities. Through the vision of a few active and caring individuals, the unwavering support of the Judges and court staff, and the groundswell of compassionate volunteers, thousands of our community’s children have been given a light of hope for a brighter tomorrow.

Clifton Tate is one of those volunteers that we are recognizing today.

1. What inspires you about Volunteers for Youth Justice and its mission?

The mission of Volunteers for Youth Justice (VYJ) is to provide a community caring for children and youth of families in crisis. I have been a volunteer for VYJ for over 30 years, and for the last 8, most of my volunteer hours have been spent in the CASA program (Court Appointed Special Advocate) where I serve in an advocate role for children who have been removed from their parents’ household due to legal concerns. 

Advocates like me (often called “CASAs”) make regular visits with a child to monitor his/her wellbeing. We also speak with the foster parents and any other involved parties that interact with the child such as teachers and counselors if the child is attending school. Based on what we learn, we write reports that family court judges consider during placement review hearings. This gives judges insight into how the child’s interim household environment seems to be working out. It inspires me whenever I think about how these children benefit from this and other programs of VYJ. 

2. How do you personally gain purpose from the work you perform for that cause? Here

Without me and the others who serve as CASAs, these children would be significantly more vulnerable. So, it gives me an incredible sense of purpose.

When I first moved to Shreveport from Boston in 1986 there were a lot of gang killings of youths and young men, and this really weighed heavy on my mind. I would ask myself sometimes what I could do to help. After some time passed, I began being more intentional about that and began doing some research and praying on the matter. I discovered an organization named Shreveport Juvenile Justice Program, which is now called Volunteers for Youth Justice. While I was a little uncertain about exactly what I might be able to offer, I came to understand that I would be valuable by merely being a good listener to what the children and youth had to say.

3. What are some shorter-term and longer-term goals of the organization that keep you passionate and motivated to continue working with them?

A constant goal for CASA is to have enough volunteers to meet the need, so I am not only passionate about continuing this work myself but also helping attract others to it.

In the short term, I also want to see VYJ continue to improve the scope of the programs we offer, and that means VYJ must continue to evaluate the needs of the community. One example of that has been The Harbor, which is a one-stop shop where many needed services are made available from one location.


As for the long term, VYJ has been very fortunate in obtaining grants and donations from different community organizations that have allowed the program to grow and expand to provide more needed services for the community. A goal I would like for VYJ to achieve is to accumulate more corporate sponsorship.