Blog: Reclaiming Futures

Empowering Families to Help Teens Overcome Drugs, Alcohol, and Crime

After struggling for years to engage the community, a parent-led effort called Family Voices, part of the St. Clair County, Illinois, Youth Coalition, offers dinner, childcare, gas stipends and incentive cards to parents working to unite support systems.
Through the Family Leadership & Support Initiative Program, and exceptional leadership from Chris Hendrix, Kathy Coffee and Mary Pat DeJarnette, more than 30 actively involved parents attend monthly meetings to develop leadership skills and provide training for issues like children’s mental health, substance abuse, developmental disabilities and education.
The mission is twofold:
1)Empower families to advocate for themselves, and
2)Engage parents as partners in planning, implementing and evaluating community programs and services
St. Clair County Reclaiming Futures Treatment Fellow, Daron Copp, organizes and provides trainings about adolescent substance abuse treatment. He teaches about normal adolescent brain development and how substance use disrupts areas of the brain responsible for memory, concentration, planning and judgment.
Daron also reviews signs of adolescent substance abuse and gives parents an overview of the treatment system, so they understand assessment, treatment planning and interventions for adolescent substance abuse treatment.

Reclaiming Futures Judge South Coast Woman of the Year

Congratulations to Judicial Fellow Bettina Borders, recently recognized by The Standard-Times in Massachusetts as South Coast Woman of the Year for her contributions to the community as a judge and activist.
Judge Borders has been helping young people her whole life, and for the last few years, implementing the Reclaiming Futures model to help teens in trouble.
By working with the City of New Bedford, Bristol County Sheriff's Office, and Bristol County District Attorney Office, Judge Borders and her team are working with the community, treatment providers and social service agencies to provide better intervention, substance abuse treatment and mental health services to young people in need.
We are proud of Judge Borders and salute her committment to her community!

The Court's Role in Reclaiming Our Children's Futures

Relying on negative reinforcement and punishment to rehabilitate a troubled teen is not effective, writes retired juvenile court Judge William Hitchcock in a Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE) op-ed. While teens should be held accountable for their offenses, courts should also help them get back on track and away from a life of crime. One way to do this is by building on their strengths.
Judge Hitchcock explains:

Despite the fact that the vast majority of offenders commit nonviolent property crimes, we still detain too many of these youth in the guise of managing misbehavior by consequences. Most of the disposition reports that I would read as a juvenile court judge contained only references to the negatives, rarely highlighting the assets that the young person may have.
Where is the other side of the coin? With rare exception, these youthful offenders have assets that can be built upon by an intentional approach to managing their probation. Yet most probation officers are not trained in strength-based planning.

Recognizing the role that courts can play in rehabilitating youth, Reclaiming Futures uses assessments to determine teens' needs and builds a plan around them. According to Judge Hitchcock:

SAMHSA: Juvenile Drug Treatment Courts Break Cycle of Drugs, Alcohol and Crime

Across the country, juvenile treatment drug courts (JTDC) are helping teens achieve better outcomes by focusing on treatment and family engagement. JTDCs treat teens for both substance abuse problems and mental health issues, as needed. As David Morrissette, senior program manager at SAMHSA, explained to SAMHSA News, "up to 70 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system have mental health disorders and more than 60 percent of those also have a substance use disorder."
The latest issue of SAMHSA News highlights a number of successful drug court programs, including Reclaiming Futures. From the article [emphasis mine]:

In a 2012 evaluation [ppt] examining data from 1,934 young people participating in drug courts at 17 CSAT grantee sites, evaluators found that participants saw a 26 percent increase in the number of days they abstained from alcohol and other drugs between intake and a 1-year follow-up. Participants' scores on a scale measuring emotional problems and difficulties with self-control declined by 16 percent. The average number of crimes reported dropped by half.
According to the evaluation, a more intensive approach to juvenile treatment drug courts called Reclaiming Futures reached youth with more severe problems, provided more services, and did an even better job of increasing abstinence, reducing emotional problems, and reducing criminal behavior.
"There are six stages in the [Reclaiming Futures] model," said SAMHSA Project Officer Holly Rogers, M.A. "These include screening and assessing young people to identify alcohol or substance use problems, coordinating services across agencies, helping kids and families make an initial contact with services, getting them actively engaged in services, and transitioning them out of services and into long-term supports, such as helping relationships and community resources."

Teens Learn Teamwork and Patience by Building Gingerbread Houses

Hardin County Reclaiming Futures was recently invited to speak to a local church group about their Recovery School (Hardin Community School) and Hardin County Reclaiming Futures Juvenile Drug Court. The church members loved hearing about the community initiative and wanted to reach out to the local youth by donating funds for a gingerbread house project.
The project began on December 10, 2012 for the Recovery School students who had a week to complete their houses. Now that the houses are finished, we are holding a contest on our Facebook page for the best houses. Hardin County’s Reclaiming Futures Fellows are also invited to come in for judging and awarding prizes.  Almost the entire student body at the recovery school turned out to participate in the project.
Most students anticipated doing their own gingerbread house, but quickly realized that the task was not as easy as one would think and most began working together as teams to build the walls and the roofs. The houses were made of graham crackers and held together by a special icing to help hold the structure together. Decorations were available as multiple assortments of candies.  

Lucas County Makes News Helping Teens Break Cycle of Drugs, Alcohol and Crime

We welcome Lucas County, Ohio, to Reclaiming Futures!
In the news clip above, Project Director LaTonya Harris, explains how new funding will transform their juvenile drug court by coordinating services so young people have access to better treatment and support beyond treatment.
Lucas County, Ohio, will receive $1.32 million in funding from the Office of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), over the next four years, to improve and enhance their juvenile drug courts by integrating the Reclaiming Futures' model into the court.

Reclaiming Futures Receives $6.15 Million to Expand in Nine New Communities

On December 10, 2012, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety announced new investments in a public-private partnership with the Duke Endowment and the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust to reform the state's juvenile justice system. Together the foundations are contributing $888,000 to bring Reclaiming Futures to six additional communities in North Carolina.

On December 11, 2012, Reclaiming Futures announced a $5.27 million award from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to improve drug and alcohol treatment for teens in trouble with the law in the following communities: 

  • Lucas County, Ohio
  • Forsyth County, N.C. 
  • Duval County, Fla.

The funding will also provide training and technical assistance for the existing six federally-funded Reclaiming Futures sites in addition to these three new communities.
Reclaiming Futures brings together judges, probation officers, treatment providers, families and community members to focus on three common goals for teens: more treatment, better treatment and community connections beyond treatment, in 37 sites across 18 states.

Juvenile Justice and Adolescent Treatment Leaders in New Jersey Learn More About Reclaiming Futures

On November 13 and 15 in Mt. Laurel and Morristown, New Jersey, leaders from around the state of New Jersey and a variety of youth-serving disciplines, gathered to learn more about the national and local problems facing communities and the solutions offered by Reclaiming Futures.
Reclaiming Futures is working with New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI), a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to conduct a six-month readiness assessment to determine if the Reclaiming Futures model, offering more treatement, better treatment and support beyond treatment, can be implemented in New Jersey, with support and funding through NJHI.
According to national data, almost two million young people ages 12 to 17 need treatment for substance abuse or dependence, but only one in 20 will get treated. That's unfortunate, because effective adolescent substance abuse treatment can help teens stay out of trouble, make our communities safer, and save money.
Young people need to be held accountable when they break the law, but unless they receive treatment when they have a substance abuse problem, they will likely find themselves back in juvenile court again and again.
Please contact Reclaiming Futures at 503-725-8911, or email for more information about bringing Reclaiming Futures to your community.

Anchorage, Alaska, Helping Teens for 10 Years

To celebrate 10 years, Reclaiming Futures Anchorage recently hosted a reception to honor those who have worked together, improving the lives of young people in the justice system for the past decade.
They also served a delicious cake (pictured at right), which helped improve attendance! It was clear from the events that there is interest in a statewide effort to provide more treatment, better treatment and support beyond treatment for communities working to help teens overcome drugs, alcohol and crime. 
Both Fairbanks and Matanuska-Susitna County were very well-represented, but the events were also attended by a wide variety of leaders from around the state, including:

  • Judicial representatives
  • Treatment providers
  • Community members 
  • Funders
  • Public health employees
  • Attorneys
  • Young people and parents 
  • Division of Juvenile Justice staff and leadership
  • Other youth-serving agency representatives

Everett Herald Features Photos from Young Artists

The sixth step of the Reclaiming Futures model is "transition," which highlights the importance of creating opportunities for young people in the community based on teens' unique strengths and interests.
Mentors in Snohomish County, Washington, are connecting with young people through Promising Artists in Recovery, a program created through Reclaiming Futures Snohomish County and the Denney Juvenile Justice Center in Everett, Washington. 
The Everett Herald is celebrating this very compelling photography in print and online. (Photo at right by student Jordyn Brougher.)

Celebrating 10 Years of Success During Tough Fiscal Times

Evan Elkin, Director, Department of Planning and Government Innovation at the Vera Institute of Justice, discusses the success and longevity of Nassau County Reclaiming Futures, despite the decimation of county and local budgets over the past three years in New York. 
The work goes on because the team pulls togther tightly and reinvents itself around the model


King County, Washington, Celebrates 10 Years of Reclaiming Futures

Through Reclaiming Futures, King County, Washington is changing the experience for young people in the justice system with substance abuse and mental health problems.
On November 7, they celebrated 10 years, having helped thousands of teens get what they need – more treatment, better treatment and beyond treatment – to turn their lives around.
For 10 years, Reclaiming Futures Seattle-King County has partnered with courts, treatment facilities, juvenile justice centers and communities to help teens break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime.
They have been successful by integrating the Reclaiming Futures model into their policies and by providing:

  • Comprehensive screening using the Global Appraisal of Individual Needs (GAIN)
  • Adolescent-specific, evidence-based treatment models
  • Support to juvenile justice youth who also have mental health issues
  • A mentoring program
  • High Fidelity Wraparound model to nurture and support youth on probation and beyond 

In October, Jerry Large of The Seattle Times honored King County for "a better way of dealing with juvenile-justice and family-court issues."
Congratulations to Reclaiming Futures Seattle-King County for you dedication and hard work!

Ventura Teen Finds Hope Through Juvenile Drug Court

An estimated 130 young people arrested each year in Ventura County, California, are diagnosed with substance abuse or co-occurring mental illness problems. But there is good news for these teens and their families.
Ventura County's juvenile drug court is turning young lives around with the help of Reclaiming Futures.
Our team recently worked with "JM" to access appropriate treatment and connect to a support system beyond treatment.   

Why I’m a Reclaiming Futures Advocate: Evidence-Based Practices and Community Engagement in North Carolina

Juvenile crime is decreasing nationwide. But here in North Carolina, our drop in teen crime is almost double the national average. In fact, violent crimes committed by teens 16 and younger have dropped by nearly 37%. So how did we accomplish this?
In 2003, we shifted our approach to focus on prevention and treatment. More recently, we’ve begun implementing the Reclaiming Futures model to coordinate care and improve drug and alcohol treatment for justice-involved youth.
When I first learned of Reclaiming Futures, my heart beat faster over the prospects of what it could accomplish. I immediately recognized early on what I’ve now come to describe as Reclaiming Futures’ “practice principles” – those elements of daily and organizational practice that make it work, and that improve or reform the system in which they are embedded.
These principles are of my own modification. Yet to me, they capture the essence of juvenile court reforms as catalyzed by Reclaiming Futures:

  • Evidence-based (data driven) decision making – we should attempt with all intention to take our personal values and cultures out of the decisions we make regarding vulnerable youth. Reclaiming Futures drives this through evidence-based screening, assessment and the use of evidence-informed clinical interventions.
  • Judicial leadership and court management – that’s right, without the judges’ buy-in, nothing in the juvenile court flies. And I’ve found that Reclaiming Futures judges buy in because they become significantly better informed by the data collected, the teams giving input around the table, and clear options for kids under their supervision and care. This “stakeholder buy-in” includes a commitment from judges to regularly bring cases back into the courtroom for reviews to recognize both the positive and negative changes that may be occurring with youth.
  • Engaged communities with court staff having a primary case management function (if the youth is on supervision or an agreed-upon court plan) – sort of a corollary to the judicial leadership bullet, having a focal point in the juvenile justice system for coordinating services, engaging formal and informal helping systems, and balancing public safety with treatment, intervention and pro-social engagement makes perfect sense…and Reclaiming Futures sets up this organizational picture by virtue of the 6-step model. This does not mean that the court staff “control” the process; rather, they are the accountable hub in the wheel of collaboration and case management since they are required by law to be accountable for case outcomes to the juvenile court judges.
  • Continuous quality management and improvement – Reclaiming Futures is designed to be driven by constant monitoring, feedback, team meetings and data consideration. In my view, every juvenile court should be doing the exact same thing (with or without Reclaiming Futures). By necessity, these processes will require sharing of information and data within and across agencies and systems --- and after all, shouldn’t we be finding ways to do this so that the system adapts to the child/family and not the other way around? These principles drive excellence that the methodology for measuring both process and outcome.

NC Teens, Police, Community Join Forces to Stop Bullying Epidemic

Our small community has been deeply affected by bullying. Last year, two teenage girls committed suicide after being bullied. This school year, we’ve already had five students bring weapons to school to protect themselves from bullies. And two out of three students referred to our Teen Court program for simple assault, simple affray or disorderly conduct are there because of bullying-related incidents.

Recognizing the need to address bullying in schools, our young people, police officers and community members decided to take a stand by creating a short movie. The movie was written and acted by students, many of whom have been involved in bullying.

How Can We Improve?

As a Reclaiming Futures blog reader, your opinions are very valuable to us! In addition to helping kids overcome the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime, we pride ourselves in being a resource for juvenile justice and adolescent substance abuse treatment news.
We are conducting a survey and your response will help us plan for the future as we think about how best to share information and connect with you. It should take less than 10 minutes to complete.
Please click the link below to take our survey. As a thank you for your thoughts, everyone who completes the survey will be entered to win a $50 cash card.

Supporting Systems Change in Reclaiming Futures Communities

Reclaiming Futures has helped communities break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime for 10 years. But how exactly does Reclaiming Futures accomplish systems change? We sat down with National Executive Director Susan Richardson to learn about the model and benefits of becoming a Reclaiming Futures site.

Lori Howell (LH): What makes Reclaiming Futures successful in a variety of communities across the country?  
Susan J. Richardson (SJR): Reclaiming Futures offers powerful tools and resources to communities helping teens overcome drugs, alcohol and crime. We work to improve drug, alcohol and mental health treatment and connect teens to positive activities and caring adults.
LH: That sounds like quite a feat! How do you accomplish this? 
SJR: Reclaiming Futures unites juvenile courts, probation, adolescent substance abuse treatment, teen mental health treatment and the community to reclaim youth.