With a degree in Law Enforcement, Masters in Criminal Justice, and decades spent working in the child welfare and juvenile justice field, she is able to take readers behind the closed doors of a system the public seldom sees. She began her career as line staff in a juvenile detention center before moving to a job as a juvenile court probation officer. In her mid-twenties she landed the position of director of a private youth-serving agency which operated a group home for status (runaways/truants) and public offender youth. While in this capacity, she obtained funding and housing to open a shelter facility for public offender boys who would otherwise have been placed in secure detention. Eventually, she moved into Kentucky state government and helped develop a training curriculum for all of the state’s child welfare workers and community juvenile staff. A sought-after speaker, Vicki presented at numerous state and national conferences on juvenile justice and wrote a monthly article for the Kentucky Educational Collaborative for State Agency Children (KECSAC), dealing with behavior management of difficult youth in school settings.
In the late 1990s, after a youth died in a Kentucky juvenile treatment center the state entered into a federal consent decree. Kentucky was also one of only two states that was out of compliance with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) act because of youth housed in deplorable conditions in adult jails including a large number of status offenders. The Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) was formed and Vicki, along with other trailblazers at the time, was instrumental in helping to transform the system. She helped set up regional juvenile detention centers and hired a Detention Alternatives Coordinator (DAC), placed at each facility, to develop and access alternative placements for appropriate youth (foster care, shelter care, electronic monitoring, or home detention.) Kentucky came back into compliance with the OJJDP Act and Vicki was there when U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno signed off on removing Kentucky’s consent decree. Kentucky is now one of only eight states in the nation that does not have any child below the age of 18, including those tried as adults, in an adult jail or prison. As DJJ’s Director of Classification she helped develop risk assessment tools and championed the use of therapeutic foster care. After leaving DJJ, she worked for the NECCO private foster care agency.
Vicki is currently the executive-director of the Kentucky Juvenile Justice Initiative, an advocacy group whose goals included ended the practice of mandatory waiver to adult court (legislation passed in March 2021 returning Ky to discretionary waiver!) and banning the detention of status offenders. She serves on the local Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI). When not working on juvenile justice reform, she likes to ride her horse, garden with native plants, or hit the woods for a good hike. She volunteers regularly at the Kentucky Horse Park and serves on the board of directors for both a city and a private nature preserve.
Vicki is currently working on her follow-up novel, Sleight of Hand, as well as Paper Monsters, a non-fiction book about foster care with delinquent kids. She spends part of each summer traveling to state capitols with her history buff husband and son. (She wanted to just go to the beach but has to admit the capitol trips have been pretty fun.)