Blog: Positive Youth Development

2010 Grants for Mentoring Children of Prisoners

teen-mentoring-children-of-prisoners_Smarties-with-dollar-signsI'm pleased to be able to pass on the news that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) is offering an expected 80 grants worth between $200,000 and $1 million per year for up to three years to provide one-to-one mentoring for children of incarcerated parents. I'm especially pleased that the grant solicitation explicitly expects a positive youth development focus in programming provided to the young people. 
FYSB also plans to make eight awards for similar statewide projects. Eligible states include the 15 states with the highest number of incarcerated prisoners: California, Texas, Florida, New York, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Arizona, North Carolina, Louisiana, Virginia, Alabama and Missouri. Native American tribes and tribal entities in these states are also eligible, and applications from tribal entities not in these states but with high numbers of incarcerated Native Americans, will also be considered. Annual awards will range between $1.5 million and $2 million for up to three years.
Application deadline for both is July 30, 2010.

Good for You!

[The following post is reprinted with permission from the blog at the Pongo Teen Writing website. The author has recently posted "Writing from Kids in the Juvenile Justice System: In My Blood to Be a Drunk" and "Poetry as Treatment for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System" on this blog.  Photo by hojusaram. -Ed.]
juvenile-justice-system-writing_99-blue-balloonsThough Pongo is completely focused on the youth in the program, there have been a few surprising times when the teens have taken care of me. I appreciate it, but I also think it shows a talent in them.

I remember working with a young man in juvenile detention who was gang involved. He wrote about feeling forced to be a man, in the gang way, by carrying a gun on the streets and dealing drugs. He wrote about not knowing any other life. On a deeper level, he wrote about not having a dad, about struggles with loneliness.  He had been suspicious of the writing at first, and we talked for a long time before we began. But when we were done, as he was leaving, he turned to me and said, “It’s very nice of you, sir, to take your time to help young people.”

Once I was leading a poetry workshop with a large group of youth at the state psychiatric hospital. After a nice beginning, they wanted to move on from the writing activities that I had brought. They wanted to write on their own, about issues that were very much on their minds. They worked quietly. And as they finished I would call individuals forward to read. While each person read, the other youth would pause, listen, and applaud, and then continue with their own work. Though I rarely become emotional while working with kids, the writing in this session was so poignant, dealing with suicidal feelings, that I started to cry. The group was calm and quiet, and one teen walked to the back of the room to get me a box of tissues. And we carried on.

Juvenile Justice System Funding - More from OJJDP for 2010

juvenile-justice-system-funding_smarties-with-dollar-signsThe good folks at the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) simply don't quit -- and for that, we should be glad. Once again, they've announced more funding opportunities: 


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juvenile-justice-system-adolescent-substance-abuse_old-TVJuvenile Justice System News

Mr. Aalund’s Opus: A Second Chance

[The following post, on the rewards and challenges of teaching teens in recovery from alcohol and drug abuse, is reposted with permission of the author, Scott Aalund, and its original publisher, Phoenix House. Mr. Aalund is pictured below, in the classroom at Phoenix Academy (click on the photo for a larger image). --Ed.]

adolescent-substance-abuse-recovery_Mr.-Aalund-in-the-classroom-at-Phoenix-HouseOn my first visit to Phoenix Academy twelve years ago, I remember the school’s secretary laughing after I asked what kind of private school it was. I wasn’t familiar with the program and, with its pleasant entrance and unusually peaceful atmosphere, it didn’t look or sound anything like the large public schools where I’d taught in the past.
We started playing a guessing game, until she finally explained that the school served students who were recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. It wasn’t a private school, she told me, but they were fully accredited and the class sizes were small—a maximum 17-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio. Wow, I thought, this would be a challenge.

Starting and Maintaining a CLTL Juvenile Program: An Interview with Michael Habib

[The following post is about the Changing Lives Through Literature (CLTL) program. It originally appeared in different form on the CLTL Blog, Changing Lives, Changing Minds, and is reposted here with the permission of the author and the publisher. You can learn more about Bristol County, Massachusetts’ experience with the program here. -Ed.]
positive-youth-development_teens-readingRecently, I had the chance to interview Michael Habib, who facilitates the Changing Lives Through Literature (CLTL) program for teens in Fall River, MA. Because I volunteer with young offenders in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, I wanted his advice on a few questions:

  • What tips do you have for other juvenile reading programs?
  • How do you get kids to open up?
  • What do you do when they don’t do their assigned work?

Positive Youth Justice Report and the CJJ Youth Manual

Positive Youth Justice Report

juvenile-justice-reform_Positive-youth-justice-report-coverAccording to a new report that my organization, the Coalition for Juvenile Justice (CJJ), just published, the future for youth involved with the justice system could be dramatically improved by applying the principles of positive youth development (PYD) practice to the juvenile justice system and its services.
The report -- Positive Youth Justice: Framing Justice Interventions Using the Concepts of Positive Youth Development, written by Jeffrey A. Butts, Gordon Bazemore and Aundra Saa Meroe -- explores the tremendous potential of helping court-involved youth develop their pro-social strengths and attributes, and increase their abilities to contribute to healthy, safe family and community life.

Still More 2010 Juvenile Justice Funding Opportunities from OJJDP

juvenile-justice-system-funding_Money-grab-photoThere's plenty of chances to apply for funding for juvenile justice system work coming out of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) these days. Recently, OJJDP has announced monies for juvenile reentry, as well as grants to support existing juvenile mentoring programs at the community level; national-level support for mentoring for underserved populations; and support for multi-state regional mentoring programs.
Now, here's five (count 'em, five) more grants from OJJDP (and yes, two of them have to do with mentoring):

Positive Youth Development: The World of Learning, Imagination, and Entertainment

juvenile-justice-system_book-artwork[The following post is by an attorney who works with the Changing Lives Through Literature (CLTL) program at the Reclaiming Futures site in Bristol County, MA. It's reposted with permission of the author and publisher from the CLTL Blog, Changing Lives, Changing Minds. You can learn more about Bristol County's experience with the program here. -Ed.]
A former colleague (an assistant district attorney) recently asked me if I was still involved with Judge Kane’s “bleeding heart book club.” We both laughed. In a more serious vein, he went on to ask whether I thought he might enjoy it, because he was approaching retirement and might have some time to – and it sounds like a cliché but really isn’t – “give back to the community.”

Writing from Kids in the Juvenile Justice System: In My Blood to Be a Drunk

[The following post is reprinted with permission from the blog at the Pongo Teen Writing website. The author has recently posted "Poetry as Treatment for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System" and "I Feel Like Weights Have Been Lifted" on this blog. Photo by Olivander. -Ed.]
juvenile-justice-system-youth-writing_colored-drinksAt 10 years old, the girl was always home alone while her parents were out doing drugs. I asked if she was scared at the time. No, not for herself. She was worried about her parents. Now, at age 13 and in juvenile detention, the girl has been smoking bud and doing things she isn’t supposed to do. She wants her parents to worry about her for a change. She writes about her parents: “They’re the only people who will be there.” But her poem is titled “When Nobody Was There.”

Pongo’s teen authors will often write about drug and alcohol abuse. They give multiple and contradictory reasons for their involvement. For me, as a poet working with the youth, one of the toughest knots to unravel is the role of family. Substance abuse often seems like a response to emptiness at home and also a confirmation of family connection, however flawed. Teens seem to be filling an emotional void with drugs and alcohol, but also emulating someone they love. And parents sometimes give their children drugs and alcohol, playing an active role in both distancing and dependence. Family is very important.

Here are three teen poems from this year’s Pongo project in juvenile detention, that describe substance abuse in the context of family.

2010 Mentoring Grants from OJJDP

juvenile-justice-system-youth-mentoring_youth-activityHave a youth mentoring program that's been up and running for at least a year?
You might consider applying for new mentoring grants from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). To "reduce juvenile delinquency, drug abuse, truancy, and other problem and high-risk behaviors," OJJDP wants to

enhance the capacity and effectiveness of established mentoring programs by: (1) augmenting the involvement of and services for the mentoring participants' parents; (2) expanding structured activities and opportunities for the mentors and mentoring participant(s); and (3) increasing the availability of ongoing mentor training and support.

Programs can use the grant to accomplish one or more of those three things.  Awards will fall between $200,000 and $500,000 for 18 to 36 months. Application deadline is April 14, 2010.
Photo by Alaska Youth for Environmental Action.

My Natural Helper

[The author is a young person (pictured below) who benefited from the Reclaiming Futures initiative at our site in Montgomery County, Ohio. The site has recruited over 190 "natural helpers" from the community for teens in the juvenile justice system. - Ed.]
juvenile-justice-system-natural-helpers_LakieshaBeing in the natural helper program saved my life! I never imagined that when I was placed on probation that I would be linked to people who truly cared about me, let alone my future. 
My first probation officer suggested that I participate in the drug court program because I had a problem with smoking weed. I used to get high all of the time, and I started to mess up. You know like, getting in trouble with the police, getting into it with family, and skipping school. Headed for destruction, so to say. 
So when I got into the drug court program, they told me about a mentoring program called natural helpers. I had never had a mentor before, and honestly I didn’t know what to expect. Would this be another person to tell me what to do or how to do it? I decided to sign up, thinking, "What do I have to lose? If I don't like it, I'll just blow it off. Easy." Boy was I wrong. 

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Juvenile Justice Reform and Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment News

I Feel Like Weights Have Been Lifted

[The following post is reprinted with permission from the Pongo Teen Writing website. The author published "Poetry as Treatment for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System" on this blog in December. -Ed.]
positive-youth-development-Pongo-writing_journal-with-penFor the past four years, Pongo has surveyed its writers. I want to share the latest results because of what they reveal about distressed teens – their enthusiasm for art and for change, and also their insight into their own lives and their appreciation for those who care. (And I want to share the latest results because I believe in the Pongo method, and I want you to try it! Please read our web site and get in touch.)

Let me explain right away that every teen who works with Pongo in a one-on-one session completes a survey, unless we run out of time. The survey-takers are not a self-selected group. Also, when we choose youth to participate in a one-on-one session we give priority to teens who have never written before and who may be having a difficult time that day. (About one-third of Pongo writers are pretty new to writing, about one-third write a lot.)

As you probably know, the teens currently participating in Pongo are either in juvenile detention or the state psychiatric hospital for children. Many have suffered greatly in their childhoods. They have good reason to be angry, withholding, and mistrustful.

Here are the results of surveys collected last year from 100 different individuals:

National Mentoring Month, Plus a Positive Youth Development Policy Platform

juvenile-court-mentors_mentor-plus-youth-photoNational Mentoring Month in Reclaiming Futures Hocking County

Last Thursday was Thank Your Mentor Day, and the Reclaiming Futures site in Hocking County, OH was featured in the Logan Daily News for promoting it. Their goal is to promote mentoring for youth involved with juvenile court who have alcohol and drug issues.
Like many other juvneile courts, Hocking County has found a lack of local mentors and mentoring programs serving court-involved youth. So they've allocated $10,000 in grant money to promote one-on-one mentoring with teens in the justice system. The grant is from the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
But if you missed Thank Your Mentor Day -- I'm afraid I did -- it's not too late. The whole month of January is National Mentoring Month. Check out the website for ideas and information. 

Poetry as Treatment for Youth In the Juvenile Justice System

Poetry can heal traumatized youth. It also creates a community of openness, connectedness, and strength, which helps treatment providers. Poetry particularly serves teens who have a hard time expressing themselves. Here is a poem by Payton (pseudonym), a first-time writer in juvenile detention:
I am 15 and I am lost don't know
what to do.  lost because I get no love.
lost because I messed up my life.
lost because my dad left for some
women.  lost because I got caught
up in gangs.  lost because I lost
real friends my family.  lost
because I screwed my life
up.  lost because I lost
respect and trust.  lost
because I am a kleptomaniac.
lost because I don't show enough
love or respect to peers or elders.
lost because I am always in detention.
lost because I got nowhere to hide.
lost because I got no guardians.

Positive Youth Development: Pongo Teen Writing Website

juvenile-justice-system-Pongo-teen-writing-logoTeens in the juvenile justice system need opportunities to express themselves as much as -- and probably more than -- other teens.
Their struggles with family, friends, drugs, alcohol as they mature and try to figure out who they want to be can make for moving fiction, poetry, and essays. Even if they've never written before.
Here's a chance to connect teens in your jurisdiction with online writing activities that make it easy to be creative, explore painful topics, and share their work with others: check out the Pongo Teen Writing website.

11 Things to Do with Teens in the Justice System

juvenile-justice-reform-positive-youth-development-11-activities-teens-jumpingLast week, I featured our top 10 stories on juvenile justice and adolescent substance abuse treatment and 8 great resources to improve adolescent substance abuse treatment.
This week, I'm highlighting posts from our first year to help you focus on creative ways to help teens in the justice system and in recovery learn skills that will help them live crime-free and drug-free lives.
Here's 11 things you can do with teens in your justice system:

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How Juvenile Court Turned Tim's Life Around

Tim, a youth on probation in Multnomah County, Oregon, testifies to County commissioners about how the juvenile justice system helped him get off alcohol and drugs, learn job skills, and begin giving back to kids in the community. (His testimony begins at 8:08.)
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