Leadership Approach Contributes to Juvenile Justice Gains

Posted February 6, 2020, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

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Jim Czarniak (far left) during a meeting with other juvenile justice leaders

Could gains for young peo­ple involved in the juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem in one New York coun­ty be repli­cat­ed through­out the region?

Since 2014, Ononda­ga Coun­ty — home to Syra­cuse — has been prac­tic­ing Results Count®, a lead­er­ship approach devel­oped by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion to improve out­comes for chil­dren, fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties. Accord­ing to local jus­tice lead­ers, an unwa­ver­ing focus on results — which includes hav­ing the right stake­hold­ers at the table, with a shared sense of what it takes to achieve spe­cif­ic, mea­sur­able change on behalf of young peo­ple — con­tributed to the gains.

Our start­ing point was to do what works best to get kids back on track so that they are bet­ter off, so that they have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn from their mis­takes and be held account­able,” says Jim Czar­ni­ak, now deputy com­mis­sion­er of child wel­fare for the Ononda­ga Coun­ty Depart­ment of Chil­dren and Fam­i­ly Ser­vices. Most impor­tant­ly, we want kids to thrive in their homes, schools and com­mu­ni­ties and suc­cess­ful­ly tran­si­tion to adulthood.”

Czar­ni­ak became pro­fi­cient with Results Count skills and tools in 2014 as part of the Foundation’s JDAI® Applied Lead­er­ship Net­work for juve­nile jus­tice prac­ti­tion­ers. At the time, Czar­ni­ak was Ononda­ga County’s juve­nile ser­vices direc­tor and led Results Count implementation.

The coun­ty set tar­gets relat­ed to juve­nile deten­tion, incar­cer­a­tion, pro­ba­tion intake and pro­ba­tion super­vi­sion. Some of the results the coun­ty achieved in 2015, its first year of Results Count imple­men­ta­tion, were:

  • reduc­ing by 40% the num­ber of young peo­ple adju­di­cat­ed delin­quent who were sent to out-of-home place­ment rather than sup­port­ed in their own com­mu­ni­ties (com­pared to a tar­get of 50%);
  • divert­ing 35% more cas­es from the for­mal jus­tice sys­tem, exceed­ing a tar­get of 30%; and
  • increas­ing the per­cent­age of young peo­ple on pro­ba­tion who earned ear­ly dis­charge through their pos­i­tive behav­ior from two to 18, against a tar­get of 25.

The ear­ly gains of 2015 have been sus­tained over time.

I’ve always had the pas­sion to sup­port young peo­ple in achiev­ing their poten­tial,” Czar­ni­ak says. Results Count gave me the con­fi­dence and tools to go beyond my indi­vid­ual role to a more sub­stan­tive one as the stew­ard of a group of won­der­ful peo­ple as pas­sion­ate as I am.”

Ononda­ga County’s jus­tice team has adopt­ed a num­ber of ele­ments from the Results Count framework:

  • Facil­i­tate pro­duc­tive meet­ings. Rather than spend meet­ings com­plain­ing about the cur­rent sys­tem, Results Count equips lead­ers like Czar­ni­ak to facil­i­tate meet­ings more effi­cient­ly — and with a keen focus on prob­lem-solv­ing. For exam­ple, when the juve­nile jus­tice team — a col­lab­o­ra­tive of juve­nile jus­tice stake­hold­ers includ­ing court per­son­nel, attor­neys, pro­ba­tion staff, com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers and reform advo­cates — met to dis­cuss ways to reduce the num­ber of out-of-home place­ments, they engaged all par­ties in the con­ver­sa­tion and asked dif­fi­cult ques­tions about risks and rewards. Fail­ure to reach a res­o­lu­tion was nev­er an option, says Czar­ni­ak. By facil­i­tat­ing dis­cus­sion and buy-in among stake­hold­ers, lead­ers take an impor­tant first step toward achiev­ing results.
     
  • Speak to col­lab­o­ra­tors in terms they under­stand. Whether it’s finance, data or case stud­ies, talk­ing to stake­hold­ers in terms they under­stand is a core prac­tice of Results Count. Under­stand­ing each collaborator’s unique pres­sures and strate­giz­ing about how to bring them into align­ment with the ini­tia­tive helps engage­ment — giv­ing voice to all participants.
     
  • Dri­ve col­lec­tive account­abil­i­ty for the collaborative’s results. As the collaborative’s leader, Czar­ni­ak con­sis­tent­ly engaged mem­bers and pushed them to take account­abil­i­ty for spe­cif­ic actions. By hold­ing every­one respon­si­ble for their con­tri­bu­tion to the results, he shared the work among the group mem­bers — and didn’t leave every meet­ing with a longer to-do list than every­one else.
     
  • Lever­age data analy­sis. Hav­ing the objec­tive tools to mea­sure results is one of the most pow­er­ful and sus­tain­able aspects of the Results Count framework.

One of the main aspi­ra­tions of Casey’s work is to give lead­ers the knowl­edge and resources they need to spread results-based approach­es into larg­er col­lec­tives across all kinds of sys­tems and in any region,” says Bar­bara Squires, direc­tor of lead­er­ship devel­op­ment at the Foun­da­tion. The Results Count frame­work can be applied to any realm beyond juve­nile jus­tice, includ­ing men­tal health ini­tia­tives, school sys­tems — it’s extreme­ly adaptable.”

Nine coun­ties in the cen­tral region of New York State are on board to adopt the Results Count approach in their juve­nile jus­tice work, with finan­cial sup­port from the state Depart­ment of Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Ser­vices. Czar­ni­ak and Bri­an Cain of the Tio­ga Coun­ty Pro­ba­tion Depart­ment are cochair­ing the effort, with a num­ber of orga­ni­za­tions inter­est­ed in pro­vid­ing train­ing and tech­ni­cal assis­tance, includ­ing the Foun­da­tion. The coun­ties have begun using estab­lished results-based lead­er­ship and facil­i­ta­tion skills and tools to home in on pow­er­ful strate­gies that ensure that youth in the jus­tice sys­tem are bet­ter off. They will be track­ing tra­di­tion­al mea­sures relat­ed to reduc­ing sys­tem involve­ment, but they have also added data points that indi­cate longer-term youth well-being, such as the num­ber of chil­dren enrolled in school or employed a year after their dis­charge from the juve­nile jus­tice system.

It’s about dis­till­ing what works best for kids,” Czar­ni­ak says.

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