Complicated times… In so many ways, youth advocates have access to more helpful information, inspiration, role models and heroes than ever before. We have movements, evidence-based practices, champions and momentum for a variety of important reforms and improvements across a range of youth-serving systems.
At the exact same time, we watch disparities grow, budgets strain under pressure, poverty persist among too many. Within Reclaiming Futures communities, even those who have been the most successful implementing the model feel they must rigorously defend each and every aspect of their programs in these budget-trimming times.
Yet now more than ever before, it's essential to focus on our key components:
- We need more adolescent substance abuse treatment -- failure to provide it results in higher costs on a number of fronts.
- We need to improve the teen substance abuse treatment that is already in place, which is especially challenging when extra dollars for training, improved supervision and critical continuing care are scarce. But comparing the cost of providing those services to the cost of untreated substance abuse problems must be a constant part of our message. And it is possible to improve treatment “on a budget.” Not every improvement need be a major transformation; even gradual adjustments in programming for teens can make a difference.
- We need to move beyond treatment and engage communities like never before in terms of partnering to build bridges for youth to take them out of “systems” and back to healthy lives and futures. Even though jobs for youth may be scarce, developing youth leadership and meaningful service opportunities can build enormous community capital and cement vital relationships that can nurture a more positive future. Expanding the menu of community partners must be a dynamic part of every site’s work.
Each of our Reclaiming Futures sites has made an enormous commitment to reinvent the way that substance abuse problems are understood and dealt with in their juvenile justice systems. “Veteran” sites are showing how to sustain and institutionalize changes that were once only in a “pilot” category. New sites are actively experimenting with a variety of strategies to improve their processes, activate leadership in new ways, and expanding and invigorating their range of community partners.
All of them are experiencing uncertainties as they focus their tenacity, courage and skill on the tasks they juggle. We believe Reclaiming Futures has demonstrated its value and its timeliness for these complicated times –- and we intend to stay our course to offer this model as the emerging standard of care for young people in the juvenile justice system.
The optimism and commitment of our community is among our most valued assets –- and we look forward to our ongoing work together!
- See this post for information from the Reclaiming Futures Fellowships about what they've learned along the way about teens and the juvenile justice system.
Updated: February 23 2009