Adolescents can be impulsive and difficult to work with. Most child-serving systems can agree as to the problematic behaviors but may take very different approaches in dealing with the youth. At the 7th Annual Models for Change conference in Washington DC on December 3rd, 2012 (conference updates can be followed on Twitter using #Models4Change) we describe the Mental Health Training Curriculum for Juvenile Justice, a new training tool developed and tested by the Models for Change Mental Health/Juvenile Justice Action Network and the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice (NCMHJJ).
The MHTC-JJ provides juvenile justice staff with basic information about adolescent development, mental health disorders common among youth in the juvenile justice system, child trauma and practical strategies for supervising and engaging these youth. Rather than a traditional punishment model, the MHTC-JJ curriculum emphasizes developmentally-sensitive interactions and de-escalation techniques that can result in more appropriate responses from youth and in safer and more satisfying work conditions for staff.
After training all the participating Mental Health/Juvenile Justice Action Network states on the curriculum, the NCMHJJ, operated by Policy Research Inc., selected 10 additional sites to participate in a new training initiative designed to create sustainable mental health training capacity within state and local juvenile justice systems. This effort, sponsored by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, uses a Train the Trainer model to train juvenile detention and correctional trainers on this curriculum.
Over 40 applications for this new training initiative were received from states and jurisdictions across the country, underscoring the critical need that exists within the juvenile justice field for mental health training and resources.
Gene Griffin is an assistant professor at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University and the lead developer of the MHTC-JJ.
Kathleen Skowyra is the Associate Director of the NCMHJJ and oversees implementation of the MHTC-JJ training initiative.
Jennifer Romelien is the Executive Director of Program Services within the NYC Administration for Children’s Services, one of the ten new sites selected for this initiative.