Pennsylvania Teens Advocate for Effective Case Planning in the Juvenile Justice System
Juveniles for Justice, a project of Juvenile Law Center, offers youth in the Philadelphia area who have been involved with the juvenile justice system an opportunity to use their personal experiences to advocate for reform. Each fall, Juveniles for Justice recruits new members, or “Youth Advocates,” who work over the next year to develop and implement an advocacy campaign targeting a specific area of reform within the system.
The 2011-2012 class of Youth Advocates chose to focus on comprehensive case planning. Drawing upon their own experiences in the juvenile justice system, the youth advocated for juvenile probation officers to work with youth to develop a comprehensive plan to help youth succeed during and after their time in the system.
“My case was plan was non-existent,” said Jeremy, a Juveniles for Justice Youth Advocate. “I didn’t have proper support and guidance in the necessities to survive in life such as housing, therapy, and employment. I wanted support and help to get out of the situation that I was in before.”
Juvenile Law Center’s Youth Advocates believe that probation officers, youth, and their families should work together to develop a plan that will meet the youth’s specific needs such as housing, education, employment, mental health services, and family services. For case plans to be effective, Youth Advocates believe that youth must be able to provide input into their plans and understand their plan’s goals.
Crystal, another Juveniles for Justice Youth Advocate, wishes that more youth had the opportunity to have a case planning process like hers. “I felt like I had a say in what happened with things like family involvement, education, and court. People listened. I came up with goals for myself and then [my team] put out other goals to help me reach my own.”
Juveniles for Justice collaborated with the Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission to produce a video [see below] targeted to juvenile probation officers who are working to implement effective case planning. The video explains the juvenile justice system from a youth perspective, demonstrating how effective and individualized case planning can help youth achieve their goals for the future.
Juveniles for Justice has already screened this video to hundreds of juvenile justice leaders and professionals at events around Pennsylvania, including the Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission’s Annual Pennsylvania Conference on Juvenile Justice and the Pennsylvania Council of Chief Juvenile Probation Officers’ General Membership Meeting.
“The video made professionals aware of this issue in the system and that there are youth out there trying to make a difference,” Crystal said. “We want professionals to know that youth need to plan with a support system in order to travel on the road to success.
Emily C. Keller is a Staff Attorney at Juvenile Law Center, where she has represented youth in the dependency system and engaged in litigation and policy efforts aimed at improving the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, including the Luzerne County “kids-for-cash” litigation, efforts to eliminate juvenile life without parole, and efforts to ensure better outcomes for older youth in the child welfare system. Emily has also coordinated Juvenile Law Center’s youth engagement programs. Emily joined Juvenile Law Center in September 2008 as the seventh Sol and Helen Zubrow Fellow in Children's Law.