Monday, December 3, 2012

Re-Forming Probation: New Perspectives on Old Practices

Having witnessed the juvenile justice system firsthand over the past 17 years, the faces of parents and youth flash through my memory each time I walk into the waiting room.  I cannot help reflecting on whether or not my efforts as a therapist had any impact on their lives while they were assigned to the Probation Department.  Making clear and meaningful connections between the lives we are entrusted with and the daily work we perform answers this vital question. 

At the 7thAnnual Models for Change National Working Conference today in Washington, D.C., Dr. John Ryals, Jr. and Matthew Villio highlighted a Models for Change probation reform initiative in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana.  Moderated by John Tuell, participants performed an exercise designed to stimulate their ability to link probation officer activities to client outcomes.  The activity mirrored processes used in Jefferson Parish during the Implementation Phase and created connections between daily work of probation officers with changes in youths’ behaviors.  Dr. Ryals and Mr. Villio presented work products from the four-year-long Probation Review process.  Following the presentation, participants engaged in a discussion with the presenters regarding challenges and processes.  Significant milestones in the Probation Review process include a thorough assessment process, documented results and recommendations, development and implementation of a comprehensive work plan, and creation of a Probation Review Guidebook and implementation report.  The Models for Change Probation Review Guidebook can be found online and the implementation report, entitled “Performing a Probation Review: How Best Practices Meet Everyday Practices” can be obtained by e-mailing Dr. Ryals at JRyals(at)jeffparish(dot)net. 

Among the significant achievements were revised management practices, linking client outcomes to probation officer activities, improved screening and assessment procedures, development of a Parent Accountability policy, creation of a dedicated pre-disposition investigation unit, and shaping of an innovative process to effectively handle status offender cases.  The Probation Review was undertaken by National Resource Bank consultants John Tuell and Janet Wiig, Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps and National Resource Bank consultants, through the Models for Change initiative.

Updates for this and other Models for Change Conference sessions can be followed @Models4Change using #Models4Change on Twitter.

Dr. John S. Ryals, Jr. is the Evaluation/Treatment Supervisor for the Jefferson Parish Department of Juvenile Services and Matthew Villio is the Jefferson Parish Models for Change Coordinator. 

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