Juvenile Justice Systems Find New Ways to Engage Families

Posted February 6, 2017
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog juvenilejusticesystemsfindnewwaystoengagefamilies 2017

Fam­i­lies are a young person’s pri­ma­ry emo­tion­al, social, cul­tur­al and spir­i­tu­al resource. Yet when a young per­son gets in trou­ble with the law, fam­i­ly mem­bers often are left on the side­lines instead of being engaged by offi­cials to help.

Across the coun­try, the Casey Foun­da­tion is work­ing with juve­nile jus­tice sys­tems that have found promis­ing ways to incor­po­rate fam­i­ly engage­ment and part­ner­ship strate­gies to boost out­comes for kids.

For exam­ple, Virginia’s Depart­ment of Juve­nile Jus­tice (DJJ) is offer­ing trans­porta­tion to fam­i­lies to encour­age vis­its to their youth in state-run facil­i­ties, lis­ten­ing to fam­i­lies through a series of focus groups and estab­lish­ing a fam­i­ly coun­cil and fam­i­ly bill of rights. It sees a larg­er role for fam­i­lies in inform­ing and enhanc­ing its process for help­ing kids return to the com­mu­ni­ty. DJJ has pilot­ed train­ing for pro­ba­tion and parole staff about part­ner­ing with fam­i­lies in their communities.

On the oth­er coast, the Juve­nile Court in Pierce Coun­ty, Washington,has formed a fam­i­ly coun­cil made up of young peo­ple— now age 18 and old­er— and fam­i­lies that have been affect­ed by the juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem. Pierce Coun­ty also offers fam­i­ly-led meet­ings for young African-Amer­i­can men on high-risk probation.

In Ohio, the Lucas Coun­ty Juve­nile Court has launched a fam­i­ly nav­i­ga­tor pro­gram, based in part on a pro­gram in the Bronx, New York, devel­oped by Com­mu­ni­ty Con­nec­tions for Youth. The goal is for fam­i­lies new to the court process to ben­e­fit from guid­ance and sup­port from more expe­ri­enced peers.

The St. Louis City Juve­nile Court in Mis­souri is iden­ti­fy­ing and includ­ing every­one in a youth’s sup­port net­work as part of a team approach to help­ing young peo­ple on pro­ba­tion. And the Juve­nile Court is host­ing month­ly fam­i­ly dinners.

The Cam­den Coun­ty, New Jer­sey Supe­ri­or Court, along with four com­mu­ni­ty-based part­ner orga­ni­za­tions, has con­duct­ed mul­ti­ple focus groups with fam­i­lies and pre­sent­ed the find­ings and rec­om­men­da­tions to key sys­tem stakeholders.

The Foun­da­tion is work­ing with experts — such as those at the Vera Insti­tute of Jus­tice and Jus­tice for Fam­i­lies, a tech­ni­cal assis­tance provider, whose lead­ers have them­selves had fam­i­ly mem­bers in the juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem — to broad­en aware­ness of fam­i­ly engage­ment and part­ner­ship strategies.

No one cares more about the suc­cess of indi­vid­ual kids in the sys­tem than their fam­i­lies,” says Nate Balis, direc­tor of the Foundation’s Juve­nile Jus­tice Strat­e­gy Group. Fam­i­lies have too much to offer to be ignored or cast aside as vil­lains [by sys­tems]. In fact,it is often nec­es­sary for a par­ent or rel­a­tive to buy into a treat­ment plan before a young per­son takes his or her pro­gram to heart.”

Edi­tor’s note: This post was updat­ed to clar­i­fy efforts under­way in Mis­souri and New Jersey.

This post is related to:

Popular Posts

View all blog posts   |   Browse Topics

Youth with curly hair in pink shirt

blog   |   June 3, 2021

Defining LGBTQ Terms and Concepts

A mother and her child are standing outdoors, each with one arm wrapped around the other. They are looking at each other and smiling. The child has a basketball in hand.

blog   |   August 1, 2022

Child Well-Being in Single-Parent Families