Program in King County, Wash., Offers Respite for Youth Involved in Domestic Violence Crises

Posted July 26, 2017
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog respitecenterprogramdesign 2017

The Fam­i­ly Inter­ven­tion and Restora­tive Ser­vices (FIRS) pro­gram in King Coun­ty, Wash­ing­ton offers respite care and ser­vices for youth and fam­i­lies involved in domes­tic vio­lence crises. It launched in 2016 thanks to lead­er­ship from the coun­ty prosecutor’s office and a col­lab­o­ra­tion among city and coun­ty agencies.

FIRS pri­or­i­tizes fam­i­ly engage­ment and sup­port, main­tain­ing a flex­i­ble and equi­table approach. Juve­nile Court Ser­vices Man­ag­er Paul Daniels answers some key ques­tions about FIRS’ design:

  • Which youth are eli­gi­ble for FIRS? Tech­ni­cal­ly, the only youth who can par­tic­i­pate are those referred for a mis­de­meanor domes­tic vio­lence case in which a fam­i­ly mem­ber is a vic­tim. How­ev­er, the prosecutor’s office wants to avoid putting fam­i­lies in cri­sis through an unnec­es­sary and harm­ful adver­sar­i­al process. So, pros­e­cu­tors con­sid­er how each referred case might be charged; even cas­es that are referred by police at a high­er lev­el may be eli­gi­ble for FIRS if pros­e­cu­tors deter­mine the facts don’t sup­port the high­er lev­el of charging.
  • How long can youth stay at the respite cen­ter? As long as they need to. There are no time lim­its that force youth out before they have a safe place to go. Youth usu­al­ly stay three to four days, but some stay a week or two if that’s what they need.
  • What if a youth wants to leave the respite cen­ter? He or she can leave — the cen­ter has no locks. But since the cen­ter opened in July 2016, only one youth has left pri­or to offi­cial discharge.
  • What hap­pens if the fam­i­ly doesn’t ful­fill its FIRS ser­vice agree­ment with­in the six months allot­ted? FIRS staff aim to keep fam­i­lies intact and give them resources to han­dle their prob­lems out­side of the jus­tice sys­tem; because pros­e­cu­tion doesn’t serve that goal, it is dis­card­ed as an option and does not hov­er over fam­i­lies as a threat.

FIRS has been up and run­ning for just a year and a half, and ear­ly results are pos­i­tive. The FIRS team has received a total of 519 refer­rals from law enforce­ment, includ­ing youth who have been arrest­ed and brought to deten­tion as well as those who are referred direct­ly to the prosecutor’s office by police. While some fam­i­lies have cho­sen to opt out, 265 fam­i­lies have entered into a ser­vice agree­ment with FIRS. The major­i­ty have active­ly engaged in ser­vices, in stark con­trast to the only 3% of youth who were suc­cess­ful­ly linked to evi­dence-based ser­vices pri­or to FIRS. Ear­ly sta­tis­tics also reveal racial equi­ty in imple­men­ta­tion of FIRS, both with regard to youth who are referred to the pro­gram and those who ulti­mate­ly agree to participate.

Con­tact Paul Daniels to learn more about King Coun­ty and con­sid­er whether a sim­i­lar pro­gram might be appro­pri­ate for youth and fam­i­lies in your jurisdiction.

Read about the ori­gins of King County’s domes­tic vio­lence deten­tion alternative 

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