Blog: Reclaiming Futures

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.

Reclaiming Futures to Host Information Sessions in New Jersey

Reclaiming Futures has been invited by New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI), a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to conduct a six-month readiness assessment to determine if Reclaiming Futures can be implemented in New Jersey, with support and funding through NJHI.
Please join us and spread the word about the following information sessions. Participants will learn more about the Reclaiming Futures model and share experiences working with justice-involved youth in New Jersey. 
Tuesday, November 13th, 2012
9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Westin Mt. Laurel
555 Fellowship Road
Mt. Laurel, NJ 08054
Thursday, November 15th, 2012
9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Hyatt Morristown
3 Speedwell Avenue
Morristown, NJ 07960
Please RSVP online.
Space is Limited. Register early for your preferred location.

Focusing on Recovery-Oriented Systems of Care

King County Reclaiming Futures is aligning their recovery work with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's revised definition and vision of recovery:

 “A process of change through which individuals work to improve their own health and wellbeing, live a self-directed life, and strive to achieve their full potential.”

Please take a moment to review the new "performance indicator" report, released by the King County Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS) Mental Illness, Chemical Abuse and Dependency Services Division (MHCADSD).
A few highlights from the summary:

  • Successful grant applications
  • High quality programs
  • A wide range of services
  • Strong policymaker outreach

Despite difficult fiscal times, King County also made significant progress transforming to a Recovery Oriented System of Care (ROSC). They continue to focus on evidence-based practices throughout their system and increase provider capacity to use evidence-based service models. 

Hocking County, Ohio, Celebrates Recovery Month

In beautiful Hocking County, Ohio, about an hour southeast of Columbus, Juvenile Court intake numbers are high due to drug-related offenses. The court has seen the kinship population grow (grandparents and other relatives taking over care of youth) mainly due to the increase in drug abuse and drug-related offenses.
Like all of the 29 Reclaiming Futures sitesHocking County is partnering with courts, treatment providers, juvenile justice, communities and families to meet the urgent needs of young people in the juvenile justice system.
Judge Richard Wallar says it best in a Recovery Month letter in the Logan Daily News:

Please do not lose hope because there is good news. Many local people, including neighbors, relatives and friends, are receiving help and are in recovery from mental health or substance abuse disorders. They are contributing to our businesses, connecting with their families, and giving back to the community. But if we want more people to join them on a path of recovery, we need to take action — now. Too many people are still unaware that treatment works, and that these conditions can be alleviated, in the same way that other health disorders, such as diabetes and hypertension, are being treated. We need to work together to make recovery the expectation.

In celebration of Recovery Month, we honor the Reclaiming Futures Hocking County team for:

King County, Washington, Celebrates Recovery Month

king county proclamations
Many of the 29 Reclaiming Futures sites helping communities break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime celebrate Recovery Month, hosted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) each September. They, along with our King County site, which includes Seattle, Washington, are spreading the positive message that prevention works, adolescent substance abuse treatment is effective and people do recover. 
King County convenes a multi-disciplinary planning committee (chemical dependency, mental health and community mobilization) to reach people across cultures and disciplines to reduce the stigma for people in recovery.
They actively develop the Recovery Oriented System of Care model, starting with mental health and gradually including substance use disorders. This year, King County is working with their County Council to include substance abuse disorders in the recovery ordinance so that it becomes a behavioral health recovery oriented system of care. (The recovery ordinance ensures that the publicly funded mental health system in King County is grounded in mental health recovery principles.)

Celebrate Recovery Month

For the 29 Reclaiming Futures sites using evidence-based practices to break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime, September holds special promise. This is the 23rd year the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has designated September Recovery Month to promote the message that prevention works, treatment is effective and people recover. 
This year's Recovery Month theme is "Join the Voices for Recovery: It's Worth It." The theme emphasizes the benefits of preventing and overcoming mental and/or substance use disorders and the importance of involving everyone in these efforts.
Please visit Recovery Month on to find events, planning tools and other resources to help your community participate. Involvement can be as simple or robust as you choose. 
A few ideas include:

How do you celebrate Recovery Month? We appreciate hearing from you. Please share your ideas and comments below.  

After Treatment: The Role of Community-Based Partnerships in Substance Abuse Recovery

In honor of Recovery Month, I'm sharing the Road to Recovery's latest video on the importance of community-based organizations. Reclaiming Futures is a huge believer in connecting young people with long-term community supports so that teens don't find themselves in the same situations that got them in trouble. 

From the Road to Recovery:

Illinois Community Trading Guns for Groceries and Social Services

Gun buyback programs have been hosted for decades from Los Angeles to New Jersey, with goals of reducing the number of illegal guns on the street and offering citizens a chance to turn in weapons without fear of being arrested.
Gun buybacks also provide an opportunity to build relationships with vulnerable young people. St. Clair County Reclaiming Futures, one of 29 Reclaiming Futures communities, is promoting an upcoming event in their area.
The New Life Community Church, with assistance from the St. Clair County State Attorney's Office in Illinois, is sponsoring a gun buyback on Saturday, August 25, 2012.
Participants will be eligible for a $25 grocery gift card in exchange for each gun they turn in. They can also receive consultation and (in some cases immediate) assistance in a variety of areas—from health and education to transportation and housing.
Please pass this along to your colleagues in St. Clair County who are working with teens to break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime.
When: August 25, 2012
Time: 12:00 - 4:00 p.m.
Where: 2931 State Street, East St. Louis, Illinois
Has your community offered a gun buyback program? If so, we'd like to hear about the positive results.

Changing Lives, One Theater Performance At a Time

Reclaiming Futures Judge Bettina Borders has a terrific op-ed in the South Coast Today on the positive impact theater performances have had on troubled teens in Massachusetts. Thanks to the generosity of the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, teens in the juvenile system are attending plays and sharing the experience with their families.
She writes:

For most of these youth and their families, this is an extraordinary experience. First, they are having a wonderful experience together, one that most of us take for granted. The probation officers who accompany these youth have watched while the demeanor of these kids transforms as the evening unfolds. They are indistinguishable from the rest of the audience; polite, engaged, attentive, well behaved, well dressed, inquisitive, mesmerized by the magical extravaganzas they are watching. They are out of their "comfort zone" and yet "belong" in this new environment. It is wonderful to hear about as the probation officers report back to the court.
But the transformation does not end there. The youth are asked to write about their experiences or discuss them in groups. Each youth is excited, energized and articulate when dissecting the play or gushing over the virtuosity of dancers or musicians. Many "thank yous" by letter and by mouth are sent by the youths. Another lesson learned. These are experiences we want for all of the youth in our community and Ms. Knowles and the Board of the Z must be commended for making them accessible to those teens least likely to find their way to the beautiful Z.

PODCAST: Art, Troubled Teens and Recovery

Sadly in America, many times the answer to substance abuse problems for young persons is jail. Jail does allow them to get sober but once released most will once again go down the same path and wind up in jail again. It becomes a revolving door with a young person's life being basically tossed away.

In Snohomish County in the state of Washington, the local Reclaiming Futures effort has a new program that may help to change that. It is called PAIRS-Promising Artists in Recovery.

At-Risk Teens Earn Place in Library of Congress

It is so important for young people to realize they have gifts.
The Reclaiming Futures site in Travis County, Texas is providing an opportunity for their young people to identify their gifts and express themselves through a nationally recognized program called Do the Write Thing Texas Challenge. The anti-violence and academic program provides middle school-aged youth the opportunity to think and write about the issues surrounding violence.
Students engage in thoughtful classroom discussions about violence -- its impact on their lives -- and solutions. Students then compose essay responses.  Community volunteers select a boy and girl with the most thought-provoking essays. National ambassadors, selected from the finalists, then have the opportunity to present their views on violence to national leaders like the Secretary of Education, the Secretary of the Interior, the Attorney General of the United States, the Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and Members of Congress. The essays of the National Finalist Ambassadors are published annually and placed in the Library of Congress.

North Carolina Teens Join Together Against Bullying

In North Carolina, teens are joining together to stand up against bullying. As part of the Salisbury Police Cadet Program, teens are joining youth court participants in making an anti-bullying video. 
The Salisbury Police Cadet Program is for young people ages 13 to 21 who are interested in a career in law enforcement. As cadets, they learn about the criminal justice system while gaining life skills and mentoring. This year, they are partnering with local teen court participants and Reclaiming Futures Rowan County.
Teen Court is a program that allows first-time teen offenders to be "tried" by their peers for misdemeanors. Teens serve as attorneys and jurors, while local attorneys serve as judges. Sentences given out through teen court often consist of restitution and community service, with a focus on rehabilitation instead of punishment.
From the Salisbury Post:

Scrapbooking Connects Troubled Teens With Family

A group of volunteers is helping young people improve communication skills and build better family relationships in Juvenile Court in Kenton, Ohio. We are mentors, recruited by Reclaiming Futures Hardin County.
For the past year, scrapbooking workshops have provided a conversation-starter for the families of our court-involved young people. On Thursday evenings, mothers and children gather and assemble "Life Books" that help them tell their personal stories. Families open up and get to know one another better. The results have been amazing!


Artists Offer Positive Youth Development, Mentoring in Snohomish County

I believe all young people can succeed.
The professionals, community members and other caring adults in Snohomish County, Washington agree.
Annie Mulligan and other generous artists in Snohomish County are mentoring young photographers through a program called Promising Artists in Recovery (PAIR), modeled after Reclaiming Futures. The PAIR program connects teens in the county's juvenile justice system with local artists. This powerful work introduces young people, like Ayrton Clements, to mentors along the road to success. Ayrton’s photography appears at right.
The second installment of this three-part series in was featured July 16, 2012 in The Herald of Everett, Wash.

$1.29 Million National Evaluation to Examine Juvenile Drug Courts Implementing Reclaiming Futures

New federal dollars will pay for a $1.29 million, multi-year evaluation in six juvenile drug courts implementing Reclaiming Futures, a national program that improves drug and alcohol treatment for teens in trouble with the law. This evaluation, the first of its kind, will examine the impact, processes and cost-effectiveness of Juvenile Drug Courts implementing the Reclaiming Futures model. Funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention through an interagency agreement with the Library of Congress, this evaluation will be conducted by the University of Arizona's Southwest Institute for Research on Women (SIROW).
"We know from a 2006 evaluation by the Urban Institute that Reclaiming Futures improves the lives of young people by changing the juvenile justice system for the better," says Susan Richardson, national executive director of Reclaiming Futures. "This new research will look at specific outcomes, such as recidivism, relapse rates, and costs." 

Washington: Music-Therapy Helps At-Risk and Troubled Teens

In Snohomish County, Washington, troubled teens attend music classes and transform from "youth offenders" to "musicians." This is part of a partnership between the Snohomish County Music Project and Reclaiming Futures Snohomish County.
The Music Project is a nonprofit organization that came into being after the Everetty Symphony fell on hard times. The Symphony board decided to change its mission from an arts organization to a human service organization with music-therapy programs.
From the Daily Herald:

Updates from Reclaiming Futures North Carolina

It has been an exciting few months for Reclaiming Futures in North Carolina. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Local Fellows from each of the 6 sites along with state partners from North Carolina attended the National Reclaiming Futures Leadership Institute in San Antonio. This year’s theme was “Implementing and Sustaining Change: Empowering Youth” and provided training and discussion around implementation plans, family and community engagement, and DATA, DATA, DATA.
  • The six current sites are busy with implementation planning, including how to apply learning from the Leadership Institute and developing sustainability strategies.
  • The Request for Proposal was released for the new expansion sites being funded by The Duke Endowment. We’ve been fielding questions and hosted a webinar with 33 participants from across the state on June 14th. Applications will be due July 13th.
  • Project directors, community fellows, and mentoring program representatives had the opportunity to participate in a full day session focused on best practices on mentoring. The session, facilitated by Charlotte McGuire, consultant for the National Program Office also provided an opportunity to connect the Reclaiming Futures sites with state-level contacts supporting mentoring programs for youths and families, including representatives from DJJ Community Programs, NC Families United, and Communities in Schools of North Carolina.

What is Denver Juvenile and Family Justice Doing Right? Teamwork

They were the recipients of the 2012 JMATE Evidence-Based Practice Program Award for demonstrating a consistent commitment and movement towards evidence-based practice in adolescent substance abuse treatment. What is Denver doing right? Turns out it's good old fashioned teamwork.
We recently spoke with Juvenile Court Presiding Judge Karen M. Ashby about what Denver is doing to break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime.  

Note: Review criteria for the JMATE reward included evidence of: (1) using evidence-based manuals, protocols, knowledge, and technologies, and using data to improve implementation, management, and fidelity; (2) a sustained commitment to evidence-based practices; and (3) a specific focus on adolescent treatment and recovery.

Program fosters trust between youth, police and more; news roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

Today at 12:30 p.m. (PDT) Live Chat with Hazel Cameron and The Seattle Times

Discuss the impact of mentoring on at risk youth Wednesday June 13th between 12:30-12:45
Please join Reclaiming Futures King County Community Fellow Hazel Cameron of the 4C Coalition in a live chat hosted by The Seattle Times.

Here's the lineup:
12 p.m. to 12:15 p.m. Seattle Police Department.
12:15 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. Prometheus Brown, also known as George Quibuyen, wrote a song about the shootings in a Sunday Seattle Times guest column. Check out his video and lyrics here.
12:30 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. Hazel Cameron is executive director of the 4C Coalition, which mentors at-risk youth. Editorial writer Lynne K. Varner wrote about mentoring as a way to protect the public from street violence.
12:45 p.m. to 1 p.m. Andrew J. Swanson is a musician and Cafe Racer regular who wrote a moving op-ed about the friends he lost in the shooting and how we can honor them.
Join the chat. Please share comments or questions about mentoring.