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"If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way" ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Valerie Ketter named Supervisor of the Year for Allegheny County Juvenile Probation!
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Valerie and her supervisor, Mary Hatheway on 12-13-11
 after receiving Allegheny County Supervisor of the Year!

Some would say this is long overdue. Parents who attend PSST regularly would be some of the ones saying it! I'm sure that those of us that work for Valerie and work with her are the other ones.

Without Valerie's commitment to PSST there would be no PSST. She did more than set this parent support/ education program as a priority in her unit, she rolled up her sleeves and jumped in to help. She not only attends almost every meeting but she works tirelessly with any desperate parents who wander through the PSST doors hoping against hope that finally someone somewhere can do something to put the brakes on their teenager's slide to destruction.

When Valerie first became a Supervisor and transferred to the Drug and Alcohol Unit of Eastern District Probation PSST was in it's infancy stage. In fact, PSST was more of an idea than a reality. We had started monthly meetings and we had a handful of parents interested, but they didn't all show up all at the same time. Back then, (about eight years ago) three parents and two Probation Officers was a big meeting.

You might even say that PSST was born prematurely. We didn't have any funding. We had only a handful of parents interested. And most importantly we didn't have any time to really make this idea a reality. Lloyd Woodward was about to pull the life supports on baby PSST and admit that it was a good idea, but one whose time had not yet come.

Valerie changed all that. She thought this baby was more than worth the time. She thought it could be a critical never-before offered service for Allegheny County and by making PSST a priority project, it could end up saving lives. She never doubted that PSST was well worth the time and effort. Her enthusiasm was contagious right from the start!

I recall having this conversation with my new supervisor:

Lloyd: I don't think we can keep PSST going.

Val: Why not?

Lloyd: Well, for one thing I just don't have the time this project deserves. I'm trying to put all my extra time into it now, but I just don't seem to have much extra time.

Val: Well, that's what we need to change.

Lloyd: Excuse me?

Val: I just don't think we do this on "extra time" because obviously you don't have any extra time, do you?

Lloyd: Ah, no, I don't.

Val: Well then.

Lloyd: Well then what?

Val: Well then, we have to make this kind of project a higher priority and maybe some other things have to wait while this gets done.

Lloyd: Oh.

There was kind of a pause here and I must have had a troubled look on my face.

Val: Something else bothering you?

Lloyd: Well, yes.

Val: What?

Lloyd: I never planed on being the only group facilitator. I wanted to share it with another Probation Officer, preferably a female officer. I think it is ideal to offer both a man and a women as group facillitators since we'll be having both mothers and fathers attending. Anyway, I just lost my partner. You know, she transferred out leaving me in the lurch.

Val: That's no problem.

Lloyd: It's not?

Val: Not at all! I'll be happy to do it.

Lloyd: You?

Val: Yes, me of course.

Lloyd: A Supervisor?

Val: Do you have a problem with that?

Lloyd: Well, no not as far as it goes.

Val: What do you mean by that? [looking straight hard at me as if I might have offended her.]

Lloyd: Well, it's just that the meetings are on Saturday Mornings, and I don't think Supervisors work on Saturdays do they?

Val: I do.

Lloyd: You do?

Val: Yes, I would happy to come in on the weekend for a cause like this.

Lloyd: Well.

Val: Well what?

Lloyd: Well it's settled then.

And boy was it settled. My initial skepticism evaporated as Valerie Ketter became a working Saturday Morning Supervisor and, in fact, since then she has rarely missed a meeting.

I could not have predicted the impact that having a supervisor at our meetings would make. It spoke volumes to the parents about how important this project was to Juvenile Probation.

Soon it became apparent that part of PSST'S growing success was not just because we had "a supervisor" at our meetings but because the supervisor was Valerie Ketter. She not only brought with her an impressive background, having worked for years as a Counselor at Cornell Abraxas Center for Adolescent Females (an inpatient drug treatment facility) but she had also been a School-based Probation Officer at Shaler Area High School. As such she was no stranger to teenagers with drug problems. Valerie was a big hit with Shaler Area High because she routinely loaded up a van with probationers and transported them from the school to the local Police Department for drug tests.

Another big plus was that Valerie Ketter understood our Juvenile Court system. No doubt her commanding encyclopedic knowledge of Juvenile Probation made her a good selection for Probation Supervisor. Now, it made her the perfect coach for PSST parents. Of course, Valerie could do more than just coach. She could move things along for parents "in between" meetings, especially if the parents were frustrated with the pace or the direction of their teenager's case.

Empowerment of parents has from the beginning has been a primary goal of PSST. It soon became apparent that nothing empowered parents like knowing that they had Supervisor Valerie Ketter on their side and that she would do everything she could to see that PSST parents had the best chance to save their drug-addicted teenager's life.

It seems like these last seven years have gone by so fast. We have grown to where not three parents, but 24 parents, two Juvenile Probation staff and one or two Wesley-Spectrum In-home therapists make up a big meeting. Now our partnership with Wesley-Spectrum in the Drug and Alcohol Treatment Unit is taken-for-granted because it's such a brilliant match. But back in the day, it was my supervisor who was always clamoring:

Valerie: Have you referred that case to Wesley-Spectrum yet?

Lloyd: Not yet.

Valerie: You're not going to wait until you're ready to close it are you?"

But back before we even had this blog we had something else. Valerie Ketter was determined that we would send a letter out before each meeting to PSST and to prospective PSST parents. These letters NEVER would have gotten sent out without Valerie Ketter reminding me, "Lloyd, we have to print and get that letter out today! C'mon! I'll help you fold and seal the envelopes. Now make sure it doesn't go over two pages!"

Many of those early letters were typed into this blog by Ken Sutton, the parent who started this blog and who apparently saved every letter. Later, when the blog started taking off the old two-page letters fell by the wayside (can you imagine me keeping something I write to two pages!).

In summary, without the driving force and enthusiasm of Supervisor Ketter, baby PSST would never have gotten off of life-support.

Well, our baby outgrew the life-supports and as you readers know, we are no longer the best kept secret in Allegheny County. People we run into all over the state are envious of PSST and are always asking "How the heck can we start something like this?" I always answer that question with another question: "Do you have any supervisors that will work Saturday mornings?"

Finally, Valerie Ketter's contributions and skills will no longer be one of Allegheny Counties best kept secrets either! I wish to congratulate Supervisor Valerie Ketter for her much deserved Supervisor of the Year Award and on behalf of PSST parents and teenagers everywhere whose lives you have helped save, THANK YOU SUPERVISOR KETTER!



Wilma said...

CONGRATULATIONS!!!! You and PSST, Lloyd, Kathie T have been a lifesaver for our family.
Thanks for all you have done to get this group going and growing!!


Anonymous said...


When I spoke at the last meeting about the angels that I met at Shuman--meaning Lloyd and another PSST parent, I absent-mindedly forgot to mention you. However, I will never forget speaking at my first PSST meeting about what we had been through with our daughter and how it seemed as if no one was willing to help. I remember looking over at one point and seeing you frantically texting on your blackberry. Although I don't know exactly what you did, I believe that you are the silent, behind the scenes angel for us parents. Thank you for all that you do and congrats on your award. It is certainly well-deserved!

Rocco said...


We can't thank you enough for all that you have done for Sally, Cisco and me as well as all of our friends at PSST. We are so blessed to live in a special place like Allegheny County where someone goes way beyond her job description to support and participate in an effort to reach out and help families. You have made a big difference in our lives and we will always be grateful. Congratulations, Rocco

Anonymous said...


BRAVO! and Congratulations.

I echo Lloyd and the other parents in their tributes.
Your "behind the scenes" navigation put us in contact with the RIGHT people, places, and things - Act 53, rehab, and the always stylish house-arrest ankle bracelet - to name just a few.
My daughter would not be where she is today without your help and dedication. You are the best, VAL.
Barb K

Sally said...

Dear Val,

As Rocco stated in his comment, you made a very big difference in our lives and the lives of many families. For the last two years Rocco and I have seen you almost every Saturday and we have witnessed you 'put things into action' for a lot of distraught parents. Your knowledge of the Juvenile Probation System and your willingness to help PSST parents has been a lifesaver. We will always be grateful. Congratulations on being named Supervisor of the Year for Allegheny County Juvenile Probation.


Max said...

Congratulations on a well deserved honor - PSST and Allegheny County are so fortunate to have such a dedicated and compassionate person "in the system". My family has benefited from your intervention, your willingness to go over and above what your job description entails, and we will never forget that. To be so attentive with our troubled teens, while trying to raise 2 of your own, makes you amazing in our eyes!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Val. You do an amazing job. At the last meeting, I said "Having PSST feels like we have the US Marines behind us." It's true. You all do a terrific job and we marvel at the passion and dedication you provide at each and every meeting.
Brigitte and Pierre

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Val, and thank you.

Reading these accolades - and recalling all that you have done for us - brings tears to my eyes.

Your commitment is inspiring, and so very valuable. Do not ever doubt how much we appreciate it.



Anonymous said...

Congratulation! This award is so overdue.
When we came to our first PSST meeting we felt lost in the whirl of drug adicted sons and unsure of how to handle the legal maze. You helped us get the information/education we needed to save ourselves and our sons lives. We are so glad that you fought to make PSST possible for all of us. Thank you Alice

Beth, Erv and Joe said...

Kudos to you!! You certainly are so deserving of this. The help that you gave us in the darkest time of our lives will never be forgotten. Without PSST I don't think that our family would have made it through. You are a true gem!! Thank you for your tireless efforts! Beth, Erv and Joe

Anonymous said...

Val, Congratulations-you have worked so hard for this much deserved award! Thanks for being there down this bumpy road and sharing the journey with us as we were working hard to save our son's life! Enjoy the honor and that cake looks delicious! Debby and Greg

Anonymous said...

Val, Congratulaions on your much deserved award! Your quiet strength is appreciated more than you will ever know. My son's life changed after my first PSST meeting. You have been a GPS that has directed my course of despair into a journey of hope. Words can not express my gratitude for your time, support, knowledge, and concern. Congratulations!

Daisy said...

Val: I too want to congratulate you on your award. You are an amazing person and you deserve this award more than you know. I could not have made it through the past year without all of your help. I will be forever grateful for all you did for me and my son. Each Saturday at PSST, I would sit so amazed watching, as new parents came in sharing their story and their pain, how you immediately started working behind the scenes without saying a word. You are one of the most dedicated and sincere people I have ever met. And as difficult as this last year has been, knowing you (and Lloyd and Kathie) were there made it so much more bearable. Again, thank you so much for everything. You are so deserving of this award!!!!!


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