Ever wonder what juvenile justice reform and adolescent substance abuse treatment will look like in 2014?
That's why a group of Reclaiming Futures' leaders and allies took time out a couple of weeks ago to ponder how things would look in the juvenile justice system, the adolescent treatment system, within Reclaiming Futures, and in the world at large five years from now (follow the link for more info). Here's a fun, 88-second video recapping our meeting:
Blog: Reclaiming Futures
Ever wonder what juvenile justice reform and adolescent substance abuse treatment will look like in 2014?
No one knows, of course, not for certain. But a group of people passionately interested in juvenile justice reform and improving adolescent substance abuse treatment -- many of whom were involved in the creation and implementation of Reclaiming Futures -- met recently in Washington, D.C. to make some educated guesses about what's in store.
They also offered their hopes and opinions about what it should look like in five years.
The recipe necessary to reclaim the lives of youth that have penetrated the juvenile justice system begins in our own kitchens. One part parents, one part community, a dash of judicial intervention (to taste) and we have a life that is once again shining and full of promise.
Case in point: on September 10, 2009, the Greene County Juvenile Drug Treatment Court (JDTC) -- click on the photo at left for a larger view of our team1 -- successfully graduated one of our youth, due to the engagement of the youth and family, the commitment from the JDTC team, and the overall support from the community in Greene County. This commencement represented a very important milestone for a young man who continually demonstrated a willingness to make positive changes in his life.
[This article on the juvenile drug court in the Reclaiming Futures site in Nassau County, NY originally appeared, in a longer form in the Spring 2009 issue of the Nassau News, the newsletter of the 10th Judicial District, Nassau County.]
On March 4, 2009, Nassau County, NY held its first Juvenile Drug Treatment Court (JTC) graduation. Three teenagers successfully completed the program.
It was a little overwhelming to think we already had three graduates. When we first talked about creating the program, it had seemed like a logistical impossibility.
And after we got our first participant, there were immediate doubts: What were we thinking? How do we expect to help this kid get off drugs? We’re not equipped. This is never going to work.
The juvenile justice field has been one of the last to accept a strength-based or asset-based community development approach to working with young people and to working with communities to reduce juvenile crime.
However, based on pioneering work on a strength-based bill of rights for juvenile offenders developed by Laura Nissen, Executive Director of Reclaiming Futures and many other asset-based practitioners, the idea of a community development approach to juvenile justice has been slowly taking hold.
Reclaiming Futures isn't mentioned by name, but its spirit is nicely evoked in this short piece on the juvenile drug court in Dayton, Ohio - one of the original 10 Reclaiming Futures sites. Congratulations, Dayton!
UPDATE: There's also a great 28-photo essay covering the kids' drug court graduation ceremony, and the speech of NBA star Daequan Cook, who came to speak to the graduates.
Back in March, the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) offered $3.6 million for three new Reclaiming Futures sites. Today, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) approved an additional $2.3 million to support those three new Reclaiming Futures sites and provide technical assistance training to the existing 23 sites around the country.
This should come as no surprise to anyone who's met her, but Laura Nissen (in photo at left), who directs the Reclaiming Futures national initiative, has been named 2009 Social Worker of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Oregon Chapter. The award recognizes social workers who have made outstanding contributions to the profession and services provided to Oregon’s individuals, families and communities.
I’m heading to the airport … along with representatives from every Reclaiming Futures community. We’re meeting in New Orleans (see photo at left) this week for our bi-annual Leadership Institute.
These meetings mark times for both reflection and growth. Anyone who’s been part of the initiative from the beginning can’t help but burst with pride to see what’s been sustained; challenged to see the losses; and deeply humbled by how much remains to be done.
But Reclaiming Futures is not only still here, we’re still growing. We’re now an unprecedented size -- 23 communities representing 15 states and tribes, and excited to welcome three new sites to the RF family this fall.
Our Leadership Institute will feature two keynote speakers who will surely inspire and fuel us for the significant challenges and opportunities ahead: Marian Wright Edelman and Shay Bilchik. Both are visionaries and accomplished change agents by any measure.
I’m excited because we’ve hired Mark Fulop, M.A., M.P.H. (pictured at left), to serve as the Partnership and Development Director for Reclaiming Futures. As you’ll see from the interview below, Mark’s got an interesting background and an intriguing take on our mission. (And be sure you check out his insightful way of looking at sustainability.) –Benjamin
BC: What made you want to join the Reclaiming Futures team?
Mark: It’s a project that focuses on the strengths of young people and concurrently does not let the community off the hook for their responsibility for their kids. It says, “Your work isn’t done until every young person entering the juvenile justice system with a substance use issue is met with opportunity and not obstacles.”
And that's inspiring because it means Reclaiming Futures takes up the human rights challenge of youth--the way we as a nation
disempower youth by labeling them as “at-risk” or “troubled." That disempowerment can be seen in dropout rates, substance abuse rates and incarceration rates. When I realized Reclaiming Futures' deeper vision and ethos was to tackle this issue, I didn’t hesitate to join the team.
Kelly Graves has a question for you.
Kelly, who is Associate Director & Research Assistant Professor at the Center for Youth, Family, and Community Partnerships at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, is a Community Fellow associated with the Reclaiming Futures site in Guilford County, NC. Her agency will be offering a youth leadership series for teens in the justice system with alcohol and drug issues and is beginning its planning now.
So: any advice for Kelly on a good (ideally evidence-based) youth leadership curriculum aimed at youth with substance abuse issues who are also in trouble with the law?
Feel free to contact Kelly directly, or leave a comment below.
I'll share anything I learn.
Running a juvenile drug court? Interested in adopting the Reclaiming Futures model?
Good news: there's $3.675 million available to help you do it, thanks to the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), acting in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Want to do something positive with teens in the justice system? Give them a camera. Teach them how to use digital media.
Who knows? They might make a movie about the danger of making false assumptions about other people -- passing judgment on themselves, for example.
Don't believe me? Check out the trailer for a film made by nine young inmates in jail in Westchester County, NY (right next door, by the way, to the Reclaiming Futures site in Nassau County, NY). According to The New York Times, their movie, "Judgement," was recently screened before "a packed house." Two of the young men were able to attend in person; several more, still incarcerated, attended by video feed. (UPDATE: the film is available at YouTube in two parts - thanks to Youth Today's blog for the tip!)
Hint to Reclaiming Futures sites: having youth in the justice system tell their stories is a great sustainability tool, and it helps inspire community members to get involved in their lives.
- A new Iowa State University study shows that $1 invested in prevention saves $10, according to JoinTogether.
- JoinTogether also reports on a study from the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment that treatment providers can cut up to 6 hours of paperwork per client, without compromising quality of care. Interestingly enough, the researchers teamed up with the director of the Delaware agency overseeing alcohol and drug treatment to survey and work with all substance abuse treatment programs statewide on reducing their paperwork burden. The six-month effort yielded significant positive results - not least an improved relationship between providers and the state.
Reclaiming Futures Hocking County launched “Youth News”, a quarterly newsletter, in February. The first issue includes an interview with Natasha Cook, a young woman helped by the local juvenile court; a story about the difference positive relationships with family, community and church made in the life of Juvenile Probate Judge Richard Wallar when he was a 15-year-old – the average age of a young person in the juvenile justice system; and lists of volunteer, educational and recreational opportunities for teenagers in the area. The seven-page publication is edited by Gretchen Gregory with help from writers Christa Myers and Rev. Mark Daniels.
Great job, Hocking County!
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJ) has just funded a 4-year, $15 million initiative to help eight states increase kids' enrollment in Medicaid and the states' Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Grantees include three states in which Reclaiming Futures is operating -- Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York -- as well as Alabama, Louisiana, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin. An estimated 7 million children in the United States are eligible for -- but not enrolled in -- Medicaid and CHIP. Along with other needed health care, these programs can pay for alcohol and drug treatment for teens.
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:
Chances are, you saw the news that two judges in Pennsylvania pleaded guilty last week to charges that for five years, they funnelled teens into detention in exchange for $2.6 million in kickbacks. This, after they'd worked to get the county-run detention center shut down in 2002. An estimated 5,000 juveniles who appeared in court were victimized this way; many for behavior that should never have landed them in court in the first place. A class-action lawsuit brought by the Juvenile Law Center is in the offing, and possibly -- hopefully -- charges against those running the private detention centers.
This is appalling news. But it's also unusual. Juvenile court judges deserve the trust we place in them; they have a difficult job, trying to use the power of the court to help young people turn their lives around.
What can more fortunate jurisdictions, then, learn from this story? I came away thinking about two things:
[John Kelly, pictured below, is Associate Editor at Youth Today. His complete article is available to subscribers on the paper's website.-- Ed.]
In Indiana, a couple of techies built a case management system, Quest, that connected all the integral parties associated in juvenile and family court cases. It enabled judges to handle motions and docket changes online, staff to draft orders in real time, and juvenile justice officials to measure data and progress seamlessly.
Staffs in counties that use Quest swear by it; observers usually leave in awe when they are first introduced to it. I first saw how the system works when Indianapolis Judge Marilyn Moores off-handedly showed it to an audience during a presentation about truancy courts. About half the crowd stayed after the session to ask questions, but not about the truancy court.