Blog: Positive Youth Development

Social Inclusion for People in Recovery: Innovative Community Programs (Teleconference)

adolescent-mental-health_two-people-separated-by-chasmMost people need to feel included -- for young people in recovery from alcohol and drug use or living with mental health issues, it's critical for them to feel that they can contribute to their communities. 
But how can your community promote this? Check out this free teleconference from SAMHSA's Resource Center to Promote Acceptance, Dignity and Social Inclusion Associated with Mental Health (ADS Center).  It will be held May 9, 2011, from 12pm-1:30pm PST / 3pm-4:30pm EST.
In the spotlight will be three innovative programs "that are improving lives, changing communities, and transforming systems through social inclusion practices." Here are the details, quoted from the press release:

Delinquent Youths' Attitudes Toward Crime - Surprising Findings

positive-youth-development_drifting-between-worlds-coverDo delinquent teens see criminal activity as something positive? 
Many adults assume that they do. However, research by Rachel Swaner and Elise White, published in 2010 by the Center for Court Innovation, suggests that for some youth at least, their attitudes and values are not anti-social at all. Though the youth outcomes in their study were not terribly positive, it underscores the need to provide youth with opportunities to do positive activities that reinforce their positive values. 
The study, titled, "Drifting Between Worlds: Delinquency and Positive Engagement among Red Hook Youth,"  involved a small sample of 44 youth in a housing project in Red Hook, Brooklyn. About half participated in Youth ECHO, a positive youth development program that enlisted the youth themselves in choosing community problems to tackle, and creating guerrilla marketing campaigns to address them. 
A few highlights from the study:

Webinar Reminder - Youth Have Stories

Last fall, youth in the Juvenile Recovery Court in Clark County, WA, got a chance to tell their stories on film. Six participants received training in "digital storytelling" and, with the help of court staff and a prevention specialist, they turned their 250-word personal stories into powerful video presentations. Check out the video above for an example.
You'll notice that the youth, "Mitchell," didn't choose to talk about recovery, but chose to explore instead a religious split in his family, and what it means to him. To learn more about how youth chose topics or the strategy the staff used in helping youth with their stories, check out my interview with them.
And don't forget, we have a webinar next week on this topic:

Juvenile Justice Youth in "3D" (Interview and Webinar)

juvenile-drug-courts_Bradley-Finegoodjuvenile-drug-courts_Anna-Lookingbill-and-Angela-ZahasLast fall, youth in the Juvenile Recovery Court in Clark County, WA, got a chance to tell their stories on film. Six participants received training in "digital storytelling" and, with the help of court staff, and a prevention specialist, they turned their 250-word personal stories into powerful video presentations. Their efforts were given great coverage in the Dec. 27, 2010 issue of The Columbian. 
Below is a joint interview with the three people who made this amazing project happen for these youth: Bradley Finegood, LMHC (at left, above), who coordinates Clark County's Superior Court therapeutic specialty courts; Angela Zahas, a county prevention specialist (far right, above); and Anna Lookingbill, the Juvenile Recovery Court's resource coordinator (see middle, above). 
Q: What is digital storytelling? How is it different from making a video?
Anna:  There's two layers to digital storytelling. The first is the technical component, such as learning the software. (We used low-cost or free software, such as a free audio program called Audacity, and Microsoft's photo editing program.)
But there's also a pretty significant component around, "What's the story you want to tell?" How do you tell it in a way that has emotional impact on people? 
So when you teach it, it’s a layered thing – there's a technical piece, plus storytelling.
Brad: It was a small initial investment that will continue to pay dividends. Once Angela was trained on digital storytelling, it could be replicated. We could train others at a low cost – outside of human capital – for what could be an extremely powerful project. There's no fees we have to pay, no manuals we have to buy – so it just made a lot of sense. It's a long-term buy-in to people’s recovery.
On a side note, the kids who went through this started out extremely closed, but they opened up, smiled, they shared – so that’s something priceless when you talk about youth from the juvenile justice side of it. 

Apply Now for the 2011 Summer Institute on Youth Mentoring

juvenile-justice-youth_happy-teensApplications to attend the fifth annual Summer Institute on Youth Mentoring July 18 – 22 on the campus of Portland State University in Portland, Oregon, are now available. As a general theme, the 2011 Summer Institute will focus on mentoring youth who have contact with child welfare or juvenile justice systems.
What is the Summer Institute on Youth Mentoring?
The institute offers a distinctive educational opportunity for experienced mentoring professionals, with intensive presentations and interactive discussions on the latest developments in theory and research on youth mentoring led by prominent, internationally recognized research fellows.

Georgia: April Forum Aims To Provide Tools To Help Young Black Males Prosper

[The following post describes an inspiring, Georgia-based effort to address health and justice disparities for young black male teens. Got something similar going on in your community? Let us know! --Ed.]
juvenile-justice-system_Ayo-TinubuPrevalent media portrayals of young African-American males as violent and angry make Ayo Tinubu cringe, but he can relate. At the age of 16, some guys at school had been bullying him. Finally fed up with the harassment and threats, he and some friends planned to retaliate. They skipped school at North Atlanta High School that day in 1996 then showed up that afternoon with brass knuckles and knives in tow, ready for battle. A quick-thinking school bus driver anticipated trouble and alerted the school principal before any violence erupted.
juvenile-justice-system_Derrick-BoazmanThe good news is that Tinubu (see photo at left) never got to use the baseball bat he’d brought to campus (nor did his friends use their weapons). The not so good news, however, is that he was promptly suspended. Derrick Boazman (see photo at right), then an Atlanta Councilman who had worked for Tinubu’s mother, rushed to his aid. Boazman lobbied the principal to allow Tinubu back in school with the assurance that he’d make sure that Tinubu would never do anything like that again.
“I could have made a poor temporary decision that could have affected the rest of my life,” recalls Tinubu, now 31. “It was really the grace of God that saved me from making such a big mistake. Unfortunately too many of my fellow young black brothers aren’t getting that second chance like I did. They don’t have the support that I did at that time.”

Why Juvenile Justice Reform Appeals to Conservatives, and More: Roundup

  • adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment_mural-in-Forsyth-CountyYouth in Recovery Paint the Town - with a Mural Celebrating Healthy Living - Youth in recovery are eager to contribute to the community, and share their experiences and their creativity. So Reclaiming Futures Forsyth County, in North Carolina, worked with a local artist to help them paint a huge mural about recovery and healthy living on the side of a building (see before-and-during photos at right) that was formerly an eyesore. >>Full story here.
  • Juvenile Court Supervisor, Coach -- and Institution - You might not know Lawrence Bass, but you should. He's been a steadying force in the lives of teens on the basketball court and in juvenile court in Guilford County, NC (a Reclaiming Futures site) for 40 years now. The News & Record in Greensboro, NC -- where he works as a juvenile court supervisor -- recently profiled him; check it out!
  • Private Juvenile/Adult Prison in Mississippi Source of Profits -- and Abuse - The Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU National Prison Project have filed a class-action lawsuit over Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Mississippi. "If there's mistreatment going on at Walnut Grove and the Justice Department finds that it is, they ought to sue the hell out of somebody," says state representative John Mayo. "I can't understand why we have to be sued to do what's right."
  • Where Did the Jobs for Teens Go? - Youth Today has the story on a new study from the Center for Labor Market Studies showing that the number of employed teens aged 16-19 with jobs has dropped significantly. Also: teens who work in high school are more likely to graduate; low-income teens without jobs are more likely to engage in crime.
  • Why Juvenile Justice Reform Makes Sense to Conservatives - Juvenile justice reform -- traditionally a liberal cause -- aligns very well with conservative political principles, Marc Levin, of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, explains in this PowerPoint. This is a great resource to draw upon when you're advocating for juvenile justice reform in your own community -- reform can be a uniter, not a divider. (Hat tip to John Kelly at Youth Today.) 

FY 2011 Funding Opportunities from OJJDP

juvenile-justice-system-money-close-upThe Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has announced the following funding opportunities:
1. Community-Based Violence Prevention Demonstration Program - deadline May 23, 2011
2. Mentoring for Youth with Disabilities Initiative -- deadline May 16, 2011
3. State Juvenile Justice Formula and Block Grants Training and Technical Assistance Program -- deadline May 16, 2011
To obtain further information about the above and other current OJJDP solicitations, including eligibility criteria and application deadlines, visit

Positive Youth Development: Achieving Recovery Through Creativity (A.R.T.C.)

positive-youth-development_sun-and-moonGive teens a microphone or a paintbrush, and they'll often tell you they want to be a music star, become the next Picasso, or produce multi-platinum records.
Maybe they'll achieve that dream and maybe they won't, but I find that giving kids the chance to be creative helps them achieve something even more powerful: healing. And it's lasting, too. 
That's why I think one of the most powerful ways to help youth be successful in (and after) substance abuse treatment is to help them express themselves creatively. 
That's the goal of A.R.T.C., "Achieving Recovery Through Creativity,” a program of Preferred Family Healthcare (PFH), a nonprofit treatment agency based in Missouri. 
A.R.T.C. is a therapeutic creative arts program integrated into our substance abuse and behavioral health programs. It identifies and incorporates the strengths, needs, abilities and preferences of our young clients into their individualized treatment plans.

White House May Rethink its Juvenile Justice Spending Plan

  • juvenile-justice-system_old-TVWhite House May Rethink its Juvenile Justice Spending Plan
    In mid-February, Youth Today reported that President Obama's budget contained a proposal to radically change federal juvenile justice funding for the states. Now, Youth Today's John Kelly reports that it may be reconsidering, after strongly negative reactions from juvenile justice advocates.
  • VIDEO: Mississippi County Sued After Video Reveals "Hogtied" Youth and Other Abuse
    The Southern Poverty Law Center has sued Forrest County, Missisissippi, over revelations of numerous instances of juvenile detention center personnel physically abusing youth in their care (many documented on surveillance video cameras) and force them to allow youth access to lawyers and civil rights advocates, in accord with federal law. Follow the link to see the video coverage. (Hat tip to sparkaction.)

Webinar: Achieving Success in Both Education and Recovery

adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment_kevin-jenningsKevin Jennings, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Safe and Drug-Free Schools at the Department of Education
March 17, 2010 at 10am PT / 1pm ET

Mr. Jennings will reprise his plenary presentation from the 2010 Joint Meeting on Adolescent Treatment Effectiveness (JMATE)on the efforts by the Department of Education and the federal government to reach out to youth currently in recovery.
As part of this work Mr. Jennings will discuss how the Department of Education is hoping to increase the number of recovery schools, including programs designed for students and families committed to achieving success in both education and recovery.
To learn more about Mr. Jennings you can read his bio.

Register now »

Is the Juvenile Justice System "Improving Lives or Devastating Them?" and More: a Roundup

  • juvenile-justice-system_old-TVIs the Juvenile Justice System "Improving Lives or Devastating Them?" U.S. Attorney General Asks
    Attorney General Eric Holder wants to see the juvenile justice system shift from prosecution and punishment to prevention and intervention, as he made clear in a March 7th speech to the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference. Among other things, he pointed to the evidence showing that "scared straight programs" are ineffective, and the high rate of sexual victimization of detained youth. 
  • States Try Fewer Youth in Adult Court  
    Only a few states -- New York and North Carolina among them -- continue to treat 16-year-olds as adults when it comes to the justice system. Money's an issue, because it's more expensive to try them in the juvenile justice system. However, a new analysis from the Vera Institute of Justice finds that the fiscal benefits outweigh the costs.
  • States Back Away From Punitive Drug Laws
    The high cost of imprisoning low-level drug offenders is adding momentum to efforts to reform punitive drug laws that incarcerate people without addressing their underlying treatment problem.

OJJDP Funding: Mentoring for Juveniles Leaving Secure Confinement

juvenile-justice-system_funding-smartiesThe Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) is offering grants to support mentoring for youth  leaving secure facilities. One-time awards of up to $625,000 will be made for a project period of up to three years. (Hat tip to Mark Fulop.) 
From the call for proposals: "The purpose of this initiative is to support the successful and safe transition of juvenile offenders from correctional facilities to their communities. To this end, OJJDP will provide funding to develop, implement, and expand mentoring programs and transitional services. OJJDP expects successful applicants to integrate best practices and proven principles into mentoring service models, develop strategies to recruit and maintain mentors, and assess and develop services to respond to the needs of youth offenders reentering their communities. Local community collaboratives should lead such programs, design them to address local needs, and use local resources. If local resources are not available, the program should obtain resources outside of the community through partnerships and other collaborative efforts.
Application deadline: May 2, 2011. 
[UPDATE March 11, 2011:  Got questions?  Check the FAQ.]

National Mentoring Month and More - a Roundup

positive-youth-development_old-TV-that-says-newsJanuary is National Mentoring Month

Approaching the Trauma, Not the Crime

[The following post is reprinted with permission from the Pongo Teen Writing website. The Pongo Publishing Teen Writing Project is "a volunteer, nonprofit effort with Seattle teens who are in jail, on the streets, or in other ways leading difficult lives." -Ed.]

positive-youth-development_detail-of-painted-handwritingThis year, while volunteering with Pongo in King County Juvenile Detention in Seattle, it seemed like every other night on the news there were stories about kids doing terrible things. Some boys attacked a bus driver at night when she wouldn’t let them off through the back door. A group of girls made national headlines when a video showed them beating another girl in a downtown transit station. When I sat down with a kid to write poems, I hoped he or she wasn’t involved with anything I’d seen on the news the night before.

As Pongo volunteers, we are there to serve kids, not to judge them. Even so, the habit of judging is persistent and reflexive. I was a victim of violent crime in 1998. I was 19 at the time, shot in the neck by a guy who couldn’t have been much older than I was. I thought the experience gave me a window into the lives of those who had also experienced extreme violence. It also predisposed me to judging kids who had committed violence against others. I volunteered with Pongo to help kids no matter where they came from, no matter what they had done. I didn’t think I had to worry about my own judgments.

One Youth Breaks Free of Drugs, Alcohol, and Crime: Olivia's Story

You may remember Olivia from our our national Reclaiming Futures video, made several years ago: she'd just graduated from juvenile drug court in King County, WA, where she benefited from the Reclaiming Futures initiative in Seattle-King County. She also  had a great mentor in Hazel Cameron, who directs The 4C Coalition in Seattle, which provides mentors to youth in the juvenile justice system. 
How's Olivia doing these days? Take a look at the video above, in which Olivia, now 22, gives a speech to a packed room at the Joint Meeting on Adolescent Treatment Effectiveness (JMATE) in Baltimore, MD, on December 14, 2010.
Olivia's story is just under 20 minutes long, but it seems to fly by -- she tells her story with poise, humility, humor, and gratitude. Check it out! 
Update January 12, 2011 - I forgot to mention it, but this post is just in time for National Mentoring Month!

Roundup: From Teen Carjacker to Poetry Prof

  • juvenile-justice-system_old-TV-newsFrom Teen Carjacker to Poetry Professor - R. Dwayne Betts was imprisoned for nine years at age 16 for participating in a carjacking. Now 30 -- and a free man -- he's published a memoir, is working on a nonfiction book on the effects of incarceration, and is a professor of poetry at the University of Maryland. He's also a spokesman for the Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ). Follow the link for a fascinating interview with him conducted by a blogger at The New Yorker magazine, and see this related post for information about how poetry can be therapeutic to teens in the juvenile justice system.

Youth Mentoring Has Lifelong Benefits -- for the Mentor, Too

"Every day, mentors in communities across our Nation provide crucial support and guidance to young people. Whether a day is spent helping with homework, playing catch, or just listening, these moments can have an enormous, lasting effect on a child's life." - President Barack Obama, Presidential Proclamation, National Mentoring Month.
positive-youth-development_Mentor-posterShortly after I graduated from high school, I became involved with a local dance group. It was organized to expose girls in low socio-economic environments to dance. To become one of their dance instructors was one of the toughest and best decisions I ever made.
I accepted the role with misgivings. As an avid dancer and lover of music, introducing high school females to the art of dance was the ultimate opportunity, and these ladies were the top performers chosen in yearly tryouts. But some were intimidating because of their history with the group. The young ladies had a bad reputation of individualism. Everyone had to have a solo. Working as a team was not on their agenda.

Job Coaching At-Risk Teens

positive-youth-development_teen-job-fair-sign As a follow-up to yesterday's guest post, "The Power of Second Chances: Employment After Treatment," I thought it would be great to share with you a fantastic post from 2007 by Barbara Dwyer called "Job Coaching," for mentors, professionals, and caregivers working with at-risk youth to prepare them for getting a job. (Hat tip to Paul Savery for calling it to my attention.) 
The article appeared in Children's Voice, a publication of the Child Welfare League of America's (CWLA). Here's some of the highlights: 

The Power of Second Chances: Employment After Treatment

[The following is reposted with permission of the author and its original publisher, Phoenix House. While not specifically about youth, its conclusions apply to older teens.
Do you run a vocational program for youth in treatment and/or in the justice system? Have thoughts about the role of employment for youth in recovery?  Let us know - leave a comment or drop me an email. --Ed.]
adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment_young-man-shop-classI recently came across “Help Wanted: One Second-Chance Job,” by Jim Arkedis, which appeared in the Washington Post, November 12, 2010. 
In the article, Jim tells the story of his mentee, Tim Cofield. Tim is 55 years old, bipolar-schizophrenic, battling substance abuse, rotating in and out of jail, and unable to acquire what Jim deems the most important stepping stone in Tim’s recovery: a job.