Blog: Reclaiming Futures

Using art at a juvenile detention facility to teach teens about starting over

I am teaching writing and art in a six-week program at Denney Juvenile Justice Center. The workshop is a part of the National Reclaiming Futures Program. Reclaiming Futures helps young people in trouble with drugs, alcohol, and crime. The six-step model unites juvenile courts, probation, treatment and the community to reclaim youth.
The program being implemented by community members and artists in my community is PAIR–Promising Artists in Recovery. Our final week will be a trip to the new Schack Art Center where the kids will have an opportunity to blow glass in the hot glass shop.
This week, we taught a lesson called, “Clean Slate.” We began by handing out half-sheets of paper, and asked the kids to think of a time when they were “criticized or felt not good enough.” I used the example of how I always felt like I wasn’t smart in high school. High school was a bit of a challenge for me. I’d always done well in middle school, but when I got to high school, the rules seemed to change. In English class, I worked hard on my papers. My journalist Mom edited for me, and I typed–sometimes many times–before I turned them in. But, I’d still, receive low grades on those dreaded five-paragraph essays. It took until I was a teacher myself to understand all the dynamics of learning, and to see that some learning styles are different than others. Not bad or good–just different.
We also spent time talking to the kids about how constructive feedback is helpful to an artist, and it’s important to know how to find and receive that constructive feedback on a work in progress. I shared with the kids my recently edited manuscript, STAINED GLASS SUMMER (December 2011). I talked about how my editor helped me to find the inconsistencies in the story, and how she is helping me to clean up the wording so the sentences read smoothly. The whole process reminds me of my class in stained glass when we cleaned, polished, and shined our glass projects.
After our discussion, the kids wrote down words, images and phrases on their half sheet of paper about a time they felt “not good enough” or “criticized.”

New issue of Children and Youth Services Review focuses on Reclaiming Futures

PORTLAND, OREGON - The Children and Youth Services Review released its online issue featuring Reclaiming Futures, a national organization that improves drug and alcohol treatment for teens in juvenile courts. The issue includes 12 articles by 19 experts and is available here.

"Reclaiming Futures is a tested and proven approach that has set a new national standard of care and is making a difference in the lives of teens and families in communities across the country," said Laura Burney Nissen, Ph.D., founder of Reclaiming Futures and associate professor at Portland State University's School of Social Work. "This issue of Children and Youth Services Review documents the ideas, principles and practices of the Reclaiming Futures model."

Edited by Dr. Nissen of the School of Social Work at Portland State University, Dan Merrigan, Ph.D., associate professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, and Kristin Schubert, MPH, program officer of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the issue delves deep into the Reclaiming Futures model, how it works, why it's successful and lessons learned over the past decade.

"This edition of Children and Youth Services Review gets to the heart of the national Reclaiming Futures model," said Dr. Merrigan. "We take an honest look at the juvenile justice field and share proven strategies for practitioners and community leaders to help teens caught in the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime."
The issue covers the following areas:

Loss of John Berry (October 17, 1968 - November 1, 2011)

"John was an ardent supporter of Reclaiming Futures as well as a vocal advocate for social justice involving all youth. He had a strong passion for his work and the communities impacted by his efforts. As the Justice Fellow, he was a leader and innovator in the Forsyth area in Reclaiming Futures, and worked very hard to cultivate the model as well as natural supports for young folk involved in their care across Forsyth County. We hope that you join with us in expressing our deepest condolences to his wife Valerie and his three children."
- Robin Jenkins, Chief Operating Officer, North Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

Our Heavenly Father has called home our beloved, John M. Berry Jr., 43; our hearts are made sad but yet we rejoice in his homegoing. He made his transition on Tuesday, November 1, 2011 at his residence.
Born in Burke County on October 17, 1968, he was the son of the late Johnny and Buena Pauline Berry.
He graduated from East Burke High School and went on to get his bachelor’s degree at North Carolina A&T State University. He received his Master’s degree in Organizational Management from the University of Phoenix. John served as the Chief Court Counselor for Forsyth County and was an active member of New Birth Worship Center. He was a proud member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.
He leaves to cherish his memories, wife Valerie M. Berry; three daughters, Brianna, Alexandria and Jordan Berry; sisters Jennifer Berry of Kernersville, NC and Melanie (Lamont) Scales of Winston-Salem, NC; and a host of aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, other relatives and friends.

Juvenile Justice Reform - Tell the Right Story & Keep Going!

What a Long Way We've Come
Almost exactly three years ago, I was asked if I would be interested in launching, writing, and editing a blog for Reclaiming Futures, focused on juvenile justice reform and adolescent substance abuse treatment.
My answer then: Would I ever!
Seven hundred and eighty-six posts later -- many authored by some of the leading experts in the field -- it's time for me to lay my figurative pen down. (Fortunately, I know I'm leaving the blog in very good hands; you can count on Reclaiming Futures to remain a go-to source for information in the fields of juvenile justice and adolescent substance abuse treatment.)
When I began, hardly anyone else was using blogging or social media to talk about juvenile justice or adolescent treatment. To say that's changed is an understatement. There's been a virtual explosion of skilled and thoughtful people disseminating news, opinion, new research, and best practices (in juvenile justice, anyway; teen treatment has a ways to go).
I think that's great. But it's not enough.

OJJDP Pre-Conference Livecast: Reclaiming Futures and the Juvenile Drug Court

juvenile-justice-reform_broadcast-antennaReclaiming Futures will be hosting an all-day workshop on October 10, 2011 at the the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) pre-conference next week, the Monday before the full juvenile justice conference gets underway. 
Best of all - we'll be livecasting it: you can watch it right here on our blog. The workshop is called, "Reclaiming Futures and Juvenile Drug Courts." It kicks off at 8:30 am EST, and finished up at 4:45 pm EST.
To sit in, tune in on Monday, October 10, right here at
At the end of the day, participants will be able to:
•    Define and describe the increasing challenge of substance abuse (and other behavioral health issues) for juvenile offenders.
•    Define and describe Reclaiming Futures as a standard of care to address this challenge.
•    Begin the process of assessing readiness and preparing to retool local juvenile justice responses to substance abuse and delinquency.
•    Take steps to assess community recovery capital and increase direct community engagement options at the local level.  
Can't tune in for the whole thing? Here's our agenda:

How to Use the SAMHSA Recovery Month Toolkit to Promote Teen Recovery

adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment_national-recovery-month-logoAs a busy project director for Reclaiming Futures Hocking County, communications with the community and positive staff recognition often fall to the bottom of my to-do list, despite my best intentions. This is why the designation of September as National Recovery Month by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and their annual Recovery Month toolkit is extremely helpful to me. I know that during the month of August and September, I will be focusing my efforts on helping to promote prevention, treatment and long-term recovery from substance use disorders, and that there are resources available to help me easily complete my mission. 
In August, I begin by preparing proclamations for our local government officials. In the toolkit, there are ready-made examples of both traditional and modern proclamations. Our local mayor and county commissioners have been very willing to sign on to this special initiative for the past three years. (To do this yourself, just call the office of that elected official whose support you want. There's usually someone in their office whose job it is to handle proclamations who can tell you what they need.)
Once I receive the signed proclamations, I post copies in prominent areas and ask our Reclaiming Futures Change Team members to do the same. During the month of September, I share the proclamations and information about Recovery Month and Reclaiming Futures Hocking County at any meeting I attend. I also send a copy of the signed proclamations to the Recovery Month website, where SAMHSA shares them online.

Reclaiming Futures: Improving Treatment for Youth Involved with the Juvenile Justice System

adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment_grass-through-barsOur mantra at Reclaiming Futures sums up our goals for youth in the juvenile justice system: more treatment, better treatment, and beyond treatment.  
While not every young person who uses or abuses drugs and alcohol is addicted, we know that addiction is a disease that usually has its onset in adolescence, so intervening early is important. But the problem is particularly acute in the juvenile justice system, which refers nearly half of all teens who enter publicly-funded substance abuse treatment.
We also know that nearly one in five youth at the door of the juvenile justice system have diagnosable substance abuse disorders-- and that the percentage goes up, the deeper youth penetrate the system. Of youth in post-adjudication placements, 47%  have alcohol and drug disorders.  Furthermore, the groundbreaking Pathways to Desistance research on serious juvenile offenders found that substance use was strongly related to their continued criminal activity.
The good news is that substance abuse programs that involve an individual’s family in the intervention are one of the few things that reduced recidivism. That's why, in the communities we work with, we promote the expansion of treatment – more treatment – and the implementation of evidence-based screening and assessment tools, such as the Global Appraisal of Individual Needs (GAIN) – better treatment.  Many times, trauma or other unmet needs can be a contributing factor in a youth's negative behavior choices and need to be addressed.  

North Carolina Governor Announces Statewide Expansion of Reclaiming Futures to Help Teens Break Cycle of Drugs, Alcohol and Crime

Raleigh, N.C. (September 14, 2011) -- North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue today announced a partnership between state agencies and two North Carolina foundations that will expand the successful Reclaiming Futures program from a model to a statewide initiative that helps youths in the juvenile justice system beat problems with drugs and alcohol. This tested and proven program will help put teenagers on a path toward finishing high school ready, for a career, college or technical training.
"This program takes my priority of making government more efficient, taps into the expertise and resources of the private sector and uses them for the most important purpose imaginable - protecting the future of our young people," Governor Perdue said. "This is an investment in turning young lives around." 


Webinar: The School-to-Prison Pipeline

juvenile-justice-reform_Teske-article-coverThink you can't dent the school-to-prison pipeline? The Honorable Steven Teske is here to tell you why you should and how you can.
--Okay, he's not here now, but he'll be leading a webinar about it (sponsored by Reclaiming Futures) in September. So, write the date and time down in ink, and pass this on to all your colleagues:

The School-to-Prison Pipeline
September 14, 2011 at 11:00am PDT / 2:00pm EDT

In this webinar, Judge Steven Teske will share the strategies used in Clayton, Georgia to work with the local school district to reduce referrals to juvenile courts, while simultaneously developing school-based strategies to address disruptive behavior.
This collaborative arrangement has reduced serious juvenile crime both at school and in the community, while increasing graduation rates. Judge Teske will also share the importance of making this a community effort by reaching out both to the local media and civic groups to educate them on the effects of referring teens from school to juvenile courts, and the importance of developing strategies in the best interest of our youth.
Update September 20, 2011: You can watch the archived webinar and download the slides and other info here (search for "The School-to Prison-Pipeline," in the "Juvenile Justice Reform" section.)

Kentucky Adapts Reclaiming Futures Model for Status Offenders

[Editor's note: We're extremely proud of the work Kentucky has done with the Reclaiming Futures model to serve the needs of teens in the juvenile justice struggling with alcohol, drugs and crime.
Given the tenacity of our Kentucky contingent, it's only to be expected that they'd find a creative way to apply the Reclaiming Futures model in a new way -- and what Kentucky Youth Advocates proposes below may be a promising indication of the model's applicability to other problems relating to young people in the juvenile justice system. We're gratified that Kentucky recognizes the power of the model to drive change at the systems level.
Though we're pleased that the model is gaining traction, the Reclaiming Futures national program will continue to focus on youth in the juvenile justice system with alcohol and drug issues. We were launched by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in 2001 because that population was not getting the services it needed, and though progress has been made, there's still a lot to do.]

Many things make me proud to call Kentucky home – beautiful horses, great college basketball, and friendly people. But behind the rolling hills, the thrilling games, and smiling faces, are several things about my great state that make me concerned. Kentucky frequently ranks at the bottom of the pile on health, economic well-being and other measures of how children are faring. One particularly disconcerting benchmark is the frequency with which our youth end up being locked up for things like skipping school or running away from home. Kentucky has the second-highest rate in the nation of doing so.

Apply Now for Reclaiming Futures Judicial Training

juvenile-court_judges-crossing-streetMaking change in the juvenile justice system to help teens with drug and alcohol problems requires a strong community leader who can convene diverse players, some of whom are not used to working together. Judges are uniquely placed to take on this role.
That's why we're offering two trainings for juvenile court judges new to the Reclaiming Futures model, titled, "Leading Change in the Juvenile Justice System for Teens with Drug and Alcohol Problems." (see below for details). 

Stopping the Revolving Door: Advances in Juvenile Justice in the National Drug Control Strategy

adolescent-substance-abuse-juvenile-justice_staircaseEliminating the revolving door of the criminal and juvenile justice systems is one of the Nation’s biggest challenges in reducing the devastating consequences of drug use. It deprives our youngest generations of their chance to lead healthy, safe and productive lives, and often fosters intergenerational violence. That’s why the Obama Administration is taking steps to prevent young people from becoming involved in drug use and crime, and providing intervention, treatment, alternatives to incarceration, and reentry support for those that do.
Last year, the Administration released its inaugural strategy for coordinating national drug control activities and reducing the effects of drug use and its consequences and stressed the need for effective substance abuse treatment for adolescents. The week before last, the 2011 National Drug Control Strategy built upon that foundation and expanded support for these efforts. Evidence-based, early interventions are critical tools to keep young people from cycling in and out of the juvenile justice system, or worse, entering and cycling through the adult system. Youth should not only be screened and treated for substance use problems, but also for unmet emotional, behavioral, or academic needs.

VIDEO: Dr. Howard Liddle on Engaging and Changing Troubled Youth

adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment_Howard-LiddleBack in 1974, sociologist Robert Martinson reviewed the research and concluded that "nothing worked" when it came to rehabilitating offenders. Then, in the mid-1990s, when fears about rising juvenile crime rates were at their peak, John DiIulio of Princeton predicted an onslaught of teens in trouble with the law, whom he dubbed "super-predators," creating a toxic political environment for those who knew from experience that youth in the justice system were overwhelmingly capable of positive change and rehabilitation. 
Martinson and DiIulio were wrong. Most importantly, Martinson's research was flawed, and he admitted his errors in print. [For this history and much more, see "Juvenile Justice: Lessons for a New Era."]
But the myths remain -- and they get in the way of our ability to take advantage of new, evidence-based treatments that are exceptionally effective.
So argues Dr. Howard Liddle, of the Center for Treatment Research on Adolescent Drug Abuse (CTRADA) at the University of Miami, in the brief video below:

Karen Pittman: Helping Teens Beat the Odds Is Not Enough (Video)

Isn't it great when you see a young person beat the odds? You know what I mean -- you'll read a story or see a video about a teen who struggled with drugs, alcohol, and crime, and somehow overcame all of that (and probably more) ... and it just makes you feel fantastic, doesn't it?
Well, it should. But Karen Pittman, CEO and Founder of the Forum for Youth Investment, has an even more inspiring idea, which she shared in an interview at the Reclaiming Futures Leadership Institute held in Miami in May:

You can also see Karen's full presentation at the Reclaiming Futures Leadership Institute here. 

Dr. Jeffrey Butts on Positive Youth Development in Juvenile Justice (Video Interview)

Positive youth development is a key part of Reclaiming Futures. But what the heck is "positive youth development?" According to juvenile justice researcher Dr. Jeffrey Butts, it blends what we know about adolescent development and what we know about effective services.
But don't take it from me -- here's a brief interview on the subject that I did with Dr. Butts at the Reclaiming Futures Leadership Institute held in Miami in May:

Bonus: here's how to implement positive youth development in the juvenile justice system.

The Supreme Court Updates Miranda Warnings for Teens; Plus Six Conferences and 40 Years of Drug War: a Roundup

This week, I've got a monster roundup of news, grant opportunities, and conferences related to the juvenile justice system and (a little) about adolescent substance abuse treatment and behavioral healthcare for kids. Here goes:

  • Reclaiming Futures Nassau County: Football Star Andrew Quarless Speaks to Juvenile Drug Court Graduates
  • U.S. Supreme Court Says Age Matters When it Comes to Miranda Warnings
    Miranda warnings must be given by police when a suspect is being interrogated in a custodial setting. What's considered custody or the degree to which a suspect is being restrained are what matters here: in this case, a 13-year-old in North Carolina was interrogated on school grounds by a police officer about alleged crimes committed off-campus. He was not read his Miranda rights; his lawyers argued that his subsequent confession was therefore inadmissible. North Carolina's Supreme Court said his age wasn't relevant -- arguing, as I understand it, that the youth was not in a custodial situation and could have left. In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed, writing that, “It is beyond dispute that children will often feel bound to submit to police questioning when an adult in the same circumstances would feel free to leave.” (Hat tips to the Juvenile Law Center and the National Juvenile Justice Network.)

Creating a Holistic Approach to Intervening with Juveniles in the Justice System

juvenile-justice-reform_hands-coming-together[Testimony given April 2011 by John Roman, Ph.D., before the Council of the District of Columbia Committee on Human Services. Reprinted with permission from The Urban Institute. -Ed.]
Good morning. My name is John Roman and I am a senior fellow in the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute, where I have studied innovative crime and justice policies and programs for more than a decade. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today about integrating innovative practices to better serve juveniles involved with the justice system and to improve public safety.
Using Lessons from Recent Innovations to Create a Holistic Approach to Intervening with Juveniles
Over the last decade, across the United States, there has been tremendous interest in reforming juvenile and criminal justice systems to both improve their performance and to improve public safety by reducing crime and delinquency among adjudicated youth. What I would like to describe today is how those innovative practices—the Reclaiming Futures initiative, drugs courts and other alternatives to commitment, and Project HOPE—might be integrated to maximize their effectiveness and minimize costs.
In the first phase of Reclaiming Futures, begun in 2002, multidisciplinary teams in ten communities worked collaboratively to enhance the availability and quality of substance abuse interventions for youth involved with the juvenile justice system. All ten projects relied on judicial leadership, court/community collaborations, interorganizational performance management, enhanced treatment quality, and multiagency partnerships to improve their systems of care for youthful offenders with substance abuse problems.

Families of Youth with Substance Use Disorders: A National Dialogue

adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment_national-family-dialogue-report-coverReclaiming Futures just sponsored a webinar by Dr. Howard Liddle on the clinical importance of working with the families of teens in the justice system as well as the young people themselves -- follow the link to listen to the webinar or download the slides -- but family involvement is critical in other areas as well, from program planning to policy-making. 
And as it happens, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is seeking comments on its proposed changes to its block grants (including target populations) -- comments are due this Friday, June 3, 2011 -- so it seems like a good time to remind everyone that in 2009, SAMHSA convened a group of family members from all across the country to look at barriers to their involvement, opportunities for change, and to make recommendations for improvement.