Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tools and Best Practices in Representing Indigent Youth

The National Juvenile Defender Center just finished a presentation on the role of counsel, from the newly released Juvenile Training Immersion Program (JTIP) and companion National Juvenile Defense Standards (Standards), at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Seventh Annual Models for Change Working Conference. This workshop was particularly exciting because it was the first time many juvenile justice stakeholders had the opportunity to see a part of these newly developed tools, which were over three years in the making.

Our audience was very interested in the hypothetical fact-pattern of a juvenile defender representing a 15-year-old boy charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine who admitted he hadn’t been totally “upfront” about the facts. A lively debate ensued about the defender’s ethical obligations, the attorney-client privilege, and confidentiality.

What made this session so unique was our threading the companion standard throughout the JTIP lesson, which in turn provided support for the practice skills learned in the lesson. In addition, the interactive and dynamic components through exercises, the hypothetical scenario, and other training tools were a big hit!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Effectively Addressing Mental Health Needs in the Juvenile Justice System

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.

Changing Dynamics: Cops and Kids of Color

“As much as you don’t want me to stereotype you, I don’t want you to stereotype me and tell me I come running up and beat you upside the head because I don’t do that” Officer 2004 Youth-Law Enforcement Forum
“My mom told me to respect the cops, but you’ve got to give respect to get respect.”  Youth 2004 Youth-Law Enforcement Forum
“You might see a black person on the corner and you automatically assume he’s dealing but he might be an A student but you’ll never know and you will use the same way to handle the situation that you would use with someone who gave you lip. I just want to know why you all stereotype us" Youth, School Youth- Law Enforcement Forum 2006
The Philadelphia Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) Working Group was formed  by the statewide DMC Subcommittee  in 2003 to address DMC in Philadelphia.  The Working Group included leaders from five branches of law enforcement, public defenders, prosecutors, community members and youth who shared a commitment to reduce the number of kids of color coming into the delinquent system.  Data showed that the greatest disparities occurred at the point of arrest, which became the initial focus of the group.

The first Minority Youth- Law Enforcement Forum was held in 2003.  The Forums bring youth from the community together with law enforcement for frank discussions about their experiences.  The Forums include a facilitated panel discussion between youth and officers, small groups that allow officers and youth to talk more informally and a shared lunch.  Both youth and officers who were part of the forums said that they changed their opinions about each other after the conversations.  Both groups recommended additional training for police about how to work with youth.

The Philadelphia DMC Youth-Law Enforcement Curriculum was created in 2009 and incorporates the Forums’ panel discussions, breakout groups and shared lunch.  The Curriculum also includes training on adolescent brain development, the effects of trauma, and role-play exercises to help officers and youth practice effective ways to interact with each other on the street.

The Forums and the Curriculum aim to improve the relationship between officers and youth thereby  reducing both volatile interactions on the street and the number of arrests of minority youth.  Over 700 police recruits have been trained with the curriculum in Philadelphia and the program has been used in Pittsburgh and Lancaster, PA.

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.

Involving Families in the Juvenile Justice System

We hope you join us at our workshop on Family Involvement in Juvenile Justice at the 7th Annual Model for Change Conference.  Susi Blackburn, and myself, Wendy Luckenbill, are offering participants the chance to catch up on the latest from Pennsylvania’s ground breaking family involvement (FI) work.  We are proud to share that Pennsylvania has emerged as a national leader in this area, under our Models for Change grant initiatives, and forward now under our PA Juvenile Justice System Enhancement Strategy.  We will bring for conference participants’ review Pennsylvania’s most pragmatic FI contributions to date, a training curriculum for juvenile probation officers, and a A Family Guide to Pennsylvania's Juvenile Justice System. Both tools promote enhanced collaborative partnership between families and juvenile justice practitioners.   
These tools were developed by family advocacy leaders and juvenile justice practitioners, and are aligned with both the 2009 monograph, Family Involvement in Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Justice System, and the growing body of evidence based on probation practices, which are shifting to less intrusive, punitive practices, and which rely on family and community involvement for their optimum implementation.  

Participants will leave the workshop with samples of these tools, firsthand experience of the attitude shifting experiences the team has developed, and the opportunity to share innovative family involvement approaches they are supporting in their work. Presenters Susi Blackburn and Wendy Luckenbill have teamed with others on the  Family Involvement Committee  of the PA Council of Chief Juvenile Probation Officers since 2007.  We hope our products and the practitioner/family advocate teaming we (Susi and Wendy) bring to these efforts will inspire others to enhance their own family engagement and involvement efforts.