Juvenile Justice System Leaders and Families Agree on a Family-Driven Approach to Juvenile Justice

New Report Highlights Effective Programs, Tools for Practitioners on Family Engagement in the Juvenile Justice System

WASHINGTON, May 6, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Today the Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ), an advocacy organization dedicated to ending the practice of trying, sentencing, and incarcerating youth under 18 in the adult criminal justice system, released a new report,  Family Comes First: A Workbook to Transform the Justice System by Partnering With Families. The report is the first comprehensive analysis of current family engagement and family partnership practices in juvenile justice systems around the country and provides practical tools and resources to juvenile justice system practitioners in undertaking a family-driven approach to juvenile justice.

"This report underscores the critical importance of involving families in juvenile justice," says Liz Ryan, President and CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice.  "Family Comes First serves as a guide for juvenile justice system practitioners to implement a new, family-driven approach to juvenile justice."

The workbook was funded in large part by a generous grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

In partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), the Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) conducted listening sessions with families impacted by the juvenile and criminal justice system.  CFYJ also surveyed juvenile justice system leaders in juvenile corrections and juvenile detention and found that families and juvenile justice system leaders agree that:

  • The justice system blames parents for their children's behavior. As a result, there is a lack of trust that exists between families and system stakeholders that makes it difficult for the system to engage families;
  • Basic information about the process of the court system, families' legal rights, and the role of the various players in the system is not available to families and prevents effectively addressing any treatment needs of the child;
  • Economic and social supports necessary to meet the needs of children are not available to families and prevent the full participation of families in the existing activities offered by the justice system;
  • Justice systems and agencies are not staffed or resourced appropriately to effectively support families;
  • An opportunity to participate in decision-making at all levels should be provided to families; and
  • Family supports from other families and system staff will ensure that youth achieve positive outcomes.

The report features several family-driven approaches and programs, including:

  • The Youth Reception Center in Multnomah County, Oregon
  • Family Group Decision-making in Pennsylvania
  • Southwest Key Program (national) based in Austin, Texas
  • Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. (national) featuring programs in Atlantic City, New Jersey; South Bronx and Newburgh, New York
  • The Center for Young Women's Development in San Francisco, California

Public opinion polling commissioned by GBA Strategies shows that the public strongly supports family engagement strategies, including requiring that incarcerated youth are placed in facilities close to their families and communities, letting youth offenders see their families at least once a week, as well as designing treatment and rehabilitation plans that include a youth's family in planning and services.

Recommendations in the report include:

Federal policymakers:

  • A National Technical Assistance Center on Family Engagement should be created to provide support to state and local justice and child-serving agencies interested in starting or expanding family engagement programs;
  • A National Family Resource Center should be established to serve families in the justice system; and
  • The federal government should also fund state and regional Parental Information Resource Centers for families involved in the justice system, and these centers should be co-located and coordinated with existing parent centers already funded by other child-serving agencies.

State and local policymakers:

  • Each agency and program having contact with children and families involved in the justice system should hire or appoint a staff person, preferably a family member or former system-involved youth, to coordinate family engagement efforts and activities;
  • Every justice system agency and program with responsibility for children and youth should conduct a comprehensive assessment to develop specific strategies to implement a family-driven approach to juvenile justice; and
  • Existing federal and state funding sources should be identified to support family engagement programs and related services to families in the justice system.

For the Executive Summary of the Family Comes First Report, please visit here.

The Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) is a national organization dedicated to ending the practice of trying, sentencing and incarcerating youth under the age of 18 in the adult criminal justice system. For additional information visit us at www.campaignforyouthjustice.org.


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