New Guide: Family-Engaged Case Planning for Youth on Probation

Posted February 7, 2022
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
a group of poeple hugging in a circle in what appears to be a family member's backyard

To improve the odds of young peo­ple suc­ceed­ing on juve­nile pro­ba­tion and beyond, the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion has released a prac­tice guide that helps juve­nile jus­tice agen­cies insti­tute fam­i­ly-engaged case planning.

Go to the prac­tice guide on fam­i­ly-engaged case planning

Under this new mod­el, pro­ba­tion offi­cers for­mu­late case plans through a col­lab­o­ra­tive process with young peo­ple and their fam­i­lies. Fam­i­ly-engaged case plan­ning and the Foundation’s larg­er vision for trans­form­ing juve­nile pro­ba­tion are both nec­es­sary to align pro­ba­tion with pow­er­ful evi­dence on ado­les­cent brain devel­op­ment, ado­les­cent behav­ior and what works in address­ing delin­quent conduct.

Fam­i­ly-Engaged Case Planning

Fam­i­ly-engaged case plan­ning is a new mod­el for the ini­tial stage of the juve­nile pro­ba­tion process. Under the mod­el, a pro­ba­tion offi­cer con­ducts ear­ly and inten­sive activ­i­ties to build rela­tion­ships with the young per­son on pro­ba­tion and the fam­i­ly mem­bers and oth­er sup­port­ive adults in that youth’s life. When agen­cies suc­cess­ful­ly imple­ment the mod­el, pro­ba­tion offi­cers shift from oper­at­ing as fix­ers” of delin­quent youth to experts on youth devel­op­ment. In this new role, the offi­cers work in part­ner­ship with young peo­ple, fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties to help the youth succeed.

Fam­i­ly-engaged case plan­ning is a major depar­ture from the sta­tus quo in pro­ba­tion prac­tice. Most juris­dic­tions lean on court-ordered con­di­tions reit­er­at­ed in a case plan­ning doc­u­ment and many over­look both the inter­ests and strengths of youth and the wish­es of families.

Of all the ele­ments in the Casey Foundation’s vision for pro­ba­tion trans­for­ma­tion, the fam­i­ly-engaged case plan­ning mod­el offers per­haps the great­est oppor­tu­ni­ty for near-term improve­ments,” says Steve Bish­op, asso­ciate direc­tor for pro­ba­tion and sys­tem trans­for­ma­tion at the Foun­da­tion. When adopt­ed effec­tive­ly, it ensures that pro­ba­tion offi­cers’ focus will be on rela­tion­ship build­ing, fam­i­ly engage­ment and youth devel­op­ment — things that strength­en the cir­cles of care that are nec­es­sary to hold youth account­able and sup­port their long-term success.”

Why Is Fam­i­ly Engage­ment So Important?

A wide vari­ety of fam­i­ly-focused inter­ven­tion strate­gies have proven effec­tive in stem­ming delin­quent con­duct. Strength­en­ing probation’s role in part­ner­ing with par­ents and oth­er fam­i­ly mem­bers is crit­i­cal since these indi­vid­u­als have a sub­stan­tial and last­ing influ­ence on a young person’s life.

View the Foundation’s fam­i­ly engage­ment guid­ance framework

Jus­tice for Fam­i­lies, an orga­ni­za­tion made up of and led by fam­i­ly mem­bers of youth involved in the jus­tice sys­tem, describes fam­i­ly engage­ment as a mean­ing­ful part­ner­ship with fam­i­lies and youth at every lev­el of the agency and system…[where] fam­i­lies are tru­ly val­ued, and when they are appre­ci­at­ed as experts and crit­i­cal stake­hold­ers in the shap­ing of pos­i­tive outcomes.”

Prac­tice Guide Contents

The new guide, which is based on the ear­ly adop­tion of fam­i­ly-engaged case plan­ning by New York City and oth­er juris­dic­tions, has four main sections.

It opens with a sum­ma­ry of the Foundation’s vision for trans­form­ing juve­nile pro­ba­tion and high­lights the rela­tion­ship between case plan­ning reforms and oth­er ele­ments of the pro­ba­tion trans­for­ma­tion agen­da. Sec­tion two explains the impor­tance of sup­port­ing pro­ba­tion agen­cies in part­ner­ing with fam­i­lies. Sec­tion three presents the core ele­ments of the fam­i­ly-engaged case plan­ning mod­el. And the fourth and final sec­tion iden­ti­fies how to adapt the mod­el to the unique cul­ture and cus­toms of a local jurisdiction.

Imple­ment­ing fam­i­ly-engaged case plan­ning and pur­su­ing the larg­er pro­ba­tion trans­for­ma­tion agen­da requires hard work and a deep com­mit­ment to inclu­sive and cul­tur­al­ly respon­sive prac­tices,” Bish­op says. These changes are nec­es­sary for any juris­dic­tion seek­ing to fol­low the evi­dence and achieve the best out­comes for young peo­ple, their fam­i­lies and communities.”

Read more about Casey’s vision for trans­form­ing juve­nile probation

Learn about a tool for juris­dic­tions to assess readi­ness for pro­ba­tion transformation

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