Bronco Spotlight: Valerie Leith

Valerie Leith

Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice, 2012; Master of Social Work, 2019

Current Job Title:

Women’s Drug Treatment Court Case Manager

Current Employer:

9th Circuit Court Kalamazoo County 

Describe your current job:

I supervise on average 50 female offenders who are struggling with addiction through an intense structured court program. While supervising them, I conduct and review biopsychosocial assessments to develop treatment plans assessing for risks and needs. I make community referrals based on the needs of the participants. I maintain face to face contact with participants to determine program compliance and make appropriate recommendations to the Drug Treatment Court team. I also supervise and monitor substance use through drug testing as well as other screening methods. Since Drug Treatment Court operates as a team, bi-weekly I facilitate treatment team meetings before court to engage all providers in coming together to identify and coordinate responses to problematic domains of participant’s lives. 

What is the most rewarding and the most challenging part of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is watching women transform into sober, successful individuals. I love seeing reunification of families when children were removed due to their substance use. It warms my heart when I can be part of that process and see the progress the women have made throughout their time in the treatment court program. 

The most challenging part of my job is seeing women who have tremendous potential avoid addressing underlying issues that have contributed to their substance use and ultimately fail out of the program. It is hard watching individuals struggle with addiction as well as recidivate which ultimately creates a revolving door of them being involved in the criminal justice system. 

What activities, resources, or people helped you prepare for your career?

For my undergrad it was extremely helpful to pursue an internship! From there I obtained a job while still in college working at the Kalamazoo County Juvenile Home, where I was able to obtain more hands on experience as well as gain a better understanding of the challenges the youth involved with the justice system faced. While at my internship I was able to network with other court employee’s which helped me when pursuing future opportunities for employment. Another aspect that helped me prepare for my career was getting in tune with the community. Knowing the population, resources and dynamics were extremely helpful as I advanced in my career path. 

What advice do you have for students?

Always take the internship! This is where you gain the most hands on experience for your proposed career. Get out in the community where you go to school or live in to see what is happening around you. Get involved in the community outside of WMU so you can expand your networking skills as well as learn more about the community as a whole. Also, apply, apply, apply! Even if you don’t think you qualify for a job, still apply. You are your best marketing agent, interviews no matter if you get the job or not are a way to get your name established as well as continued practice for future opportunities. Talk to your professors and advisors to get other perspectives on decisions you are trying to make or are thinking about making. Chances are some of them know professionals in that area that can help shed some insight. 

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