Shay Bilchik (founder and Director of the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute) is at Portland State University this afternoon to discuss the juvenile justice system. I'll be liveblogging his talk here, so tune in!
"If We Knew Then, What We Know Now: Implications for Juvenile Justice Policy in America"
4:45pm Dr. David Springer (upcoming Dean of PSU's School of Social Work): I've had the pleasure of serving with Shay on a juvenile justice panel in Austin about a year ago, and we're all in for a real treat.
4:50pm Bilchik: We're launching work with Multnomah and Marion counties' juvenile justice systems...
Oregon has demonstrated a vision that shows the possibility of serving children and families in a great way. The multi-system juvenile justice system here is the best in the country.
4:55pm Bilchik: We're primed to build a better and smarter juvenile justice system. It's no longer just the juvenile justice field, youth development field, education fields.. we're now working across systems. As Dr. Laura Nissen says, "these are boundary founders" who are working across multiple fields. To put it simply, we want to provide love, opportunity and hope to the children who come in contact with the juvenile justice system.
5:05pm Bilchik: We need to make sure that none of our children fall through the cracks and too often we don't do that. Too often these kids are without power (living in impoverished communities) and kids of color.
So what would we have done differently if we knew then what we know now?
-We need to engage families in a thoughtful way that moves the power relationship to one that is more equal. It needs to be a family partnership.
-Need to disabuse ourselves of the notion that we should remove kids from their "families" and support networks. We need to work with the kids to help them navigate families and cultivate healthy relationships.
We struggle with knowing where to place the family within our work and what we know now is that we do our best work when family is central to our work.
We need to create a national child and youth policy that each federal agency works to support in partnership with local and state agencies.
So how do we do this?
5:10 pm Bilchik: The average age at which kids take their first step toward delinquent behavior is 7 years old. Moderate delinquent behavior is at 9.5 and serious at 12. Average age of juvenile court contact is 14.5 years old.
5:15pm Bilchik: Trauma is a big factor with kids in the juvenile justice system but we also need to think about other factors that contribute to the trauma and can re-traumatize them and put them on the path to delinquency: placement instability, age at time of maltreatment, social bonding (attachment to positive adults reduces deliquency).
5:18 pm Bilchik: Special considerations of pathways to delinquency include race and gender. Higher likelihood if you are African American. Higher likelihood if you are female. Much higher if you are an African American girl.
5:20 pm Bilchik: JJ Directors needs to work with early childhood folks (including the Nurse-Family Partnership) which is an evidence based community health program that reduces abuse and neglect (and delays the 2nd birth from teen moms -- which has a direct correlation to lowering risk for prison for babies).
5:25 pm Bilchik: JJ Directors needs to work with School Referral Reduction Programs (like in GA) that reduces the number of referrals to juvenile court for minor offenses (school fights, disorderly conduct) by developing an alternative system with more in-school punishment (warning, referrals to workshop, etc). By keeping kids closer to school and in school = reduction in felonies, guns in schools and school referrals to justice system. Another example is Civil Citation Program in Miami which is a diversion program for eligible juvenile offenders who are not arrested but cited and referred to services. This led to reduction in arrests and only 3% recidivism. Program also saved $5k per child and will now be implemented statewide.
5:27 pm Bilchik: all child serving agencies should work together in an integrated court approach to interrupt the pathways youth follow into delinquency system (including juvenile justice, child welfare, education). JDAI is working.
5:30 pm Bilchik: Effective system interventions work but may need to be tailored to specific sites and that's ok.
Moving to a community-based model is important. One example is the Missouri Approach: kids are within 50 miles of family and there are residential programs with a focus on the community.
5:33 pm Bilchik: Aftercare and parole is important. Historially we have failed to adequately prepare teens for return to the community and lessons and skills learned in secure confinement are neither monitored nor reinforced outside the institution.
5:35 pm Bilchik: Like Missouri, Ohio has done some good work that was prompted by a class action lawsuit (settled 5 years ago) that mandated improved conditions of confinement, education and care. Ohio built upon the Reclaiming Futures model and built a continuum of care and a strong evaluation and outcome system to measure. They reduced recidivism.
5:38 pm Springer: Let's have the panel react to Shay's lecture:
5:40 pm Judge Nan Waller (Multnomah County Juvenile Justice): We're in an exciting time in Oregon for early prevention. We have a new program that will identify risk at an early age - perhaps at the hospital.
5:42 pm Thuy Vanderlinde (Multnomah County Juvenile Justice): We have partnerships and collaborations with schools where we do in-school discipline so that students under supervision will not be expelled or suspended. We have staff in the schools who are able to work with teachers and administrators. We partnered with the Child Welfare Agency and Oregon Youth Authority to address number of kids in the juvenile system.
5:45 pm Mark McKechnie (Executive Director, Youth, Rights and Justice): Optimistic because Oregon is moving in the right direction. The challenge is the public fear and misunderstanding about why kids break the law and what is going to turn them around. Many of the approaches favored by the public at large are the same things we now know make it worse.
5:47 pm Springer: As Shay pointed out, the purpose of the system should be to provide love, opportunity and hope. So what can Oregon and Multnomah County do to enhance efforts to provide love, hope and opportunity to troubled teens?
5:48 pm Judge Waller: It's easy to lose sight of what is actually necessary for children to succeed. Kids need stability of attachment and placement with a caring adult.
5:50 pm Vanderlinde: The basic needs of the kids are the same basic needs for all of us.
5:51 pm McKechnie: I am hopeful that we will be able to overcome the prejudices that many people have about troubled teens and the juvenile system.
5:53 pm Judge Waller: We want children in the least restrictive placement, we want families to be engaged and partners in planning, we want one plan for the family that encompasses everything the kids need. We need a plan to rule all plans and I think that we are getting there. I am hopeful that we are getting there.
5:55 pm Audience question: How do we get neighbors and faith based groups involved?
5:57 pm Judge Waller: Every system understands the need to organize the community. We need to tell the community, "You are an asset builder for children. It doesn't take much - eye contact, being a role model.." The elementary school is a natural space for creating community. We recognize the need to build community not only for the kids but for the adults, because if we don't have community then we will be poor asset builders for our children.
5:58 pm Bilchik: Historically our problem with working with communities is that we've done the top-down model. We've come up with the plan and told the communities what to do. But we need to have our own plans, look at the data to see what works and then involve the community to come up with a plan. We need the community at the table from day one to build trust and have buy-in. We also need to give the community resources to implement the plan.
6:01 Audience question: Given that the hispanic population is quickly growing, what can we do to reduce disproportionate minority contact (DMC)?
6:05 Judge Waller: In 2000, we briefly reduced DMC but since then we have had funding cuts which reduced alternatives and family supports. All the systems need to be working together and also working on larger issues of inequity and poverty and reducing economic disparities. Unless we work all the levers at one time, I fear that we will be making some progress but not enough progress.
6:08 McKechnie: We're still far away from solving DMC and we need to address racial disparities and school discipline. We have to diagnose the problem at the school and teacher level and see what the disparities are in teacher referrals. We can't make progress until we diagnose the problem at it's core - who's involved in disproportionately referring kids and what can we do to remedy?
6:09 Bilchik: We know a lot about what it takes to deal with oppressive behavior. We need to shine a light on it through the data and see where and how it is happening and how we are indivually contributing to it.
6:10 pm Judge Waller: If you (as a kid) walk down the street and people are afraid of you, then that is not a very supportive community.
Liz Wu is a Digital Accounts Manager at Prichard Communications, where she oversees digital outreach for Reclaiming Futures and edits Reclaiming Futures Every Day. Before joining the Prichard team, Liz established the West Coast communications presence for the New America Foundation, where she managed all media relations, event planning and social media outreach for their 6 domestic policy programs. Liz received a B.A. in both Peace and Conflict Studies and German from the University of California at Berkeley. She tweets from @LizSF.
Updated: February 08 2018