Webinar: Increasing Family Voice in the Juvenile Justice System

Why is a family voice significant in the juvenile justice system? I’m addressing this question in aOlivia September 19 webinar, along with Sandra Spencer of the National Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health.

We’ll discuss why family voice is crucial to the success of and support of youth involved in the juvenile justice system. As an advocate for substance abuse and mental health treatment for teens, Reclaiming Futures helps families connect to the community support resources needed for adolescents to stay clean and sober, and become a productive member of society.

Here are three takeaways you’ll gain from attending this webinar:

  • Understand and discuss why family and youth voice is critical
  • How to incorporate family voice into practice in the juvenile justice system
  • Learn how Reclaiming Futures sites have successfully integrated family voice


  • What: Webinar—Increasing Family Voice in the Juvenile Justice System
  • When: Friday, September 19, 3-4 p.m. EDT
  • Presenters: Sandra Spencer, Executive Director, National Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health; Susan Richardson, National Executive Director, Reclaiming Futures;
  • Register: Register here
  • Cost: Free
  • Contact: If you are unable to listen from your computer and need to call in, please email

Botticelli Discusses Drugs As A Public Health Issue, Emphasizes Treatment

RadioMy ears perked up on Monday when NPR broadcast an interview with the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Acting Director Michael Botticelli.  Earlier this year while accompanying Reclaiming Futures Executive Director Susan Richardson to Washington D.C. I had the chance to briefly meet Acting Director Botticelli, and knew he was highly thought of by the federal juvenile justice staff members  with whom we work.  On August 28, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate Botticelli as the Director of ONDCP.

The interview I heard was conducted by NPR’s All Things Considered host, Robert Siegel. In the interview, Mr. Siegel sounded impressed that Acting Director Botticelli publicly acknowledges that he was a recovering alcoholic (25 years). He went on to ask questions about the drug issues of our day, particularly marijuana legalization and prescription pain medication abuse.

What stood out to me, as an advocate for Reclaiming Futures, a parent and as someone who has worked for an agency treating kids with serious drug addictions (mostly marijuana), were the questions to Botticelli about marijuana legalization and his call for dealing with the issue of addiction through a public health lens.

Botticelli spoke about drugs as a public health issue, emphasizing treatment as well as intervention and prevention, a perspective Reclaiming Futures embraces. He also talked about the marketing of marijuana in states where it has become a business and the escalating use of the drug.  He expressed concern that a growing number of teens now see marijuana as less dangerous than tobacco.

“We see escalating use. We know that marijuana is addictive. About 1 in 9 people who use marijuana regularly become addicted,” Botticelli said.

Later, Siegel asked, “Should we stop talking about a war on drugs? Is it - is that a metaphor that does not describe exactly what you've just been talking about?”

Botticelli responded that, “We need to deal with addiction and drug use as a public health issue. We need a more compassionate and humane criminal justice response to this issue. I was one of those with my own level of involvement in the criminal justice system and was given a second chance to be a productive citizen. And that's the response that we want for all Americans.”

The interview also includes an important conversation about prescription painkillers as well. You can listen to, or read a transcript of, the full interview here.

Image by Robert Ashworth via Flickr

Opportunity Board Roundup: Juvenile Justice Grants, Jobs, Webinars and Events

opportunityBelow you’ll find a selection of the latest grants, jobs, webinars and events posted to our Opportunity Board. Please share the Reclaiming Futures Opportunity Board with your colleagues in the juvenile justice, adolescent substance abuse and teen mental health areas. It’s free to browse and post!



Media for a Just Society 2014 Award Winners Announced: Spotlight on Juvenile Justice Media

National Council on Crime and Delinquency’s (NCCD) announced the winners of its 2014 Media for a Just Society Awards. These awards are the only national recognition of media whose work furthers public understanding of criminal justice, juvenile justice, and child welfare issues.

More than 150 entries from 50 different outlets contended to win the categories of book, film, magazine, newspaper, radio, TV/video, web, and youth media. Each of the winning entries was recognized for “[telling] the stories we need to hear to help us create social change and right injustice.”

The winners are as follows:

Book: Men We Reaped: A Memoir, Jesmyn Ward, Bloomsbury USA

Film: Gideon’s Army, Dawn Porter, Trilogy Films

Magazine: “With 2.3 Million People Incarcerated in the US, Prisons Are Big Business,” Liliana Segura, The Nation

Newspaper: “Split the Baby: Two Sides of an Adoption Battle,” Olivia LaVecchia, City Pages

Radio: “Going to Rikers Island,” Maria Hinojosa, Latino USA (NPR)

TV/Video: “Our Turn to Dream,” Brittany Washington, Jordan Melograna, and Jesse Lava, Brave New Films

Web: “The Fight for Black Men,” Joshua DuBois, The Daily Beast/Newsweek

Youth Media: “Life Under Suspicion: Youth Perspectives on NYPD’s Stop-and-Frisk Policy,” Raelene Holmes-Andrews, Educational Video Center

Distinguished Achievement Award in Film: Fruitvale Station, written and directed by Ryan Coogler

Leading up to the Oct. 15 awards ceremony, the NCCD will publish blog posts going behind the scenes with this year’s finalists and winners. For more information on this year’s Media for a Just Society Awards, visit the NCCD website.

Watch the youth media submission in full here.

Life Under Suspicion full documentary from JODML on Vimeo.

Celebrate Recovery Month: Tune Into the White House Special Event September 17

You’re invited to tune into a live broadcast of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) on September 17 at 2-4pm ET. This White House special event celebrates the 25th anniversary of the National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month.

The event will celebrate the millions of individuals who have reclaimed their lives by overcoming addiction, and those who have persevered with them to aid their success.

You can help recognize these individuals at the event by tweeting questions and comments to @Botticelli44 using the hashtag #RecoveryatWH at any time prior to or during the event. Questions will be selected and posed to the panelists in recovery at the event.

Visit the live broadcast on September 17, or host a viewing party and register here.

With your help, we can take an important pause to highlight stories of recovery, uplift the negative stigma of addiction and take the next step toward a national commitment to recovery.

  • Who: You, your stakeholders, members and affiliates, and ONDCP
  • What: A ONDCP White House special event viewing party
  • Where: Your venue of choice +
  • When: September 17th | 2 – 4pm EST
  • Contact: Nataki MacMurray at or (202) 395-5510


Study Reveals Stronger Link Between Childhood Trauma and Juvenile Offenders in Florida

2A recent study conducted by Florida’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the University of Florida revealed that juvenile offenders in Florida have significantly higher rates of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) than the population as a whole.

This conclusion from the study—The Prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) in the Lives of Juvenile Offenders—is compared to the previous study by the CDC, which discovered a link between childhood adversity and the adult onset of chronic disease, mental illness, violence and becoming a victim of violence.

The 10 adverse childhood experiences measured in the Florida research and the CDC’s ACE Study were the same:

  • Emotional, physical, and sexual abuse
  • Emotional and physical neglect
  • Witnessing a mother being abused
  • Household substance abuse
  • Household mental illness
  • Losing a parent to separation or divorce
  • Having an incarcerated household member

Half of the Florida juveniles reported four or more ACEs, compared with 13 percent of those in the CDC’s ACE Study. Young people with four ACEs are twice as likely to be smokers, 12 times more likely to attempt suicide, seven times more likely to be alcoholic, and 10 times more likely to inject street drugs.

The Department of Juvenile Justice incorporates trauma-informed practices into many of its programs due to the higher rates of certain individual types of trauma among juvenile justice-involved youth.

This study provides further evidence to support these practices that create safe environments for young people to avoid re-traumatizing them and to facilitate participation of trauma survivors in the planning of services and programs.

Opportunity Board Roundup: Juvenile Justice Grants, Jobs, Webinars and Events

opportunityBelow you’ll find a selection of the latest grants, jobs, webinars and events posted to our Opportunity Board. Please share the Reclaiming Futures Opportunity Board with your colleagues in the juvenile justice, adolescent substance abuse and teen mental health areas. It’s free to browse and post!




Arlington Mural is an Outlet for At-Risk Teens; News Roundup

News-oldTV-smlJuvenile Justice Reform

  • REDEEM Act Aims to Fix Criminal Justice System (
    "The REDEEM Act will ensure that our tax dollars are being used in smarter, more productive ways. It will also establish much-needed sensible reforms that keep kids out of the adult correctional system, protect their privacy so a youthful mistake can remain a youthful mistake, and help make it less likely that low-level adult offenders re-offend," said Sens. Cory Booker.
  • L.A. Schools Program Aims to Keep Kids out of Courts (JIE)
    The nation’s second-largest school district — Los Angeles Unified — is unveiled a sweeping new agreement to curb police involvement in minor school discipline and campus problems.
  • D.C. Defense Attorneys Want Juveniles Released From Shackles in Court (The Washington Post)
    “They have been shackling kids who have no violent past. It’s a horrible thing. A lot of these kids are nonviolent offenders. We don’t want to send them down the wrong path by shackling somebody who doesn’t need to be shackled,” D.C. Council member David Grosso said.

Jobs, Grants, Events and Webinars

  • Please share the Reclaiming Futures Opportunity Board with your colleagues in the juvenile justice, adolescent substance abuse and teen mental health areas. It’s free to browse and post!

Topics: News

Study Illustrates Impact of Collaborative Support for Teens with Mental Health Issues

holdinghands“Nearly two-thirds of adolescents who have had a major depressive episode don't get treatment, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.”

A new study, Collaborative Care for Adolescents With Depression in Primary Care, examined the impact of a concerted treatment effort among parents and a depression care manager. NPR reports on the study:

“In a clinical trial, researchers from the University of Washington and Seattle Children's Hospital split a group of 100 teens who screened positive for depression into two categories. Half were referred to mental health specialists and had their screening results mailed to their parents.

The rest were treated with what doctors call a collaborative care model. These kids were paired with a depression care manager (a specially trained nurse, social worker or therapist) who worked with them and their parents to choose a therapist and make decisions about whether a psychiatric medication might help. The care manager also followed up with the teens every week or two, and called their parents every month.

After a year, only 27 percent of the teens who didn't get that extra coaching had enlisted in the recommended treatment, while 86 percent of the collaborative care group got treatment.”

The study not only explores the general lack of long-term support for teens with depression, it reiterates the need for collaborative parental, medical and community involvement in mental health treatment. That’s our goal at Reclaiming Futures. Providing a strong united support system to kids with mental health issues can prevent substance abuse and crime, helping kids avoid the juvenile justice system altogether.

Compassionate Canine Joins Snohomish County’s Juvenile Drug Treatment Court

Lucy and Judge Dingledy

Meet Lucy.

Lucy is one of two highly trained therapy dogs in the Prosecuting Attorney’s office. Lucy has several important roles.

She provides support and comfort to victims of trauma and abuse. Lucy helps break the ice when children are asked to talk about sexual and/or physical abuse. She is in the courtroom, hidden from jurors, sitting with children as they testify in court. Some families also request that Lucy sit with them as they watch the trials of people accused of killing their loved ones.

Lucy and  Juvenile Drug Court staff

Lucy is also the newest member of Snohomish County’s juvenile drug treatment court. She and her handler, Kathy Murray, attend staffing and are also present in the courtroom. Lucy lies near the bench on her blanket.  She provides support for the youth while in the courtroom.

She also helps the team. It’s tough on the team members when a youth has not succeeded in breaking free from their addiction.  Having Lucy there helps ease frustration and sadness and keeps the team focused on helping every youth in drug court have the best chance of success.

Kathy, Lucy’s handler, is also developing a program that will allow drug court youth who like animals to earn community service credit by working with Lucy one on one. As part of the program Kathy will provide a short training session to teach youth about giving commands and proper grooming. Not only will this teach the youth proper handling techniques, having Lucy follow their commands  will also provide them with a sense of accomplishment.

We’re very fortunate in Snohomish County to have a Prosecuting Attorney that cares so passionately about victims of trauma, their families and our drug courts.

We are also grateful to Canine Companions for Independence, a private non-profit organization that breeds and trains dogs, primarily for people with disabilities, for providing Lucy.


Former Incarcerated Youth Speaks Out: “Why Your Worst Deeds Don’t Define You”

tedrfpostBy 19, Shaka Senghor had been shot three times and killed a man. After going through his darkest times in prison, leading to solitary confinement, Senghor had an awakening that led him to where he is today. In a March TEDTalk: Why Your Worst Deeds Don’t Define You, Senghor shared his powerful story of incarceration, rehabilitation and transformation.

After receiving a meaningful letter from his son, Senghor started to truly examine his past and the decisions he had made. This began his transformation, and these four key things kept his recovery moving forward:

  1. His mentors, who forced him to look at his life honestly and challenged his decision-making.
  2. Literature: While in prison, Senghor was inspired by many black poets, authors and philosophers whose words helped him heal. Senghor references the autobiography of Malcolm X as significant in shattering the stereotypes he believed about himself.
  3. Family: Senghor knew he couldn’t truly heal without his father by his side, and he thanks the mother of his children for teaching him how to love himself.
  4. Writing opened Senghor’s mind to the idea of atonement and helped him start to forgive himself. It also ignited a spark to share his reflections to help other incarcerated men and women begin to heal.

Senghor believes that rehabilitation is the most important element missing from the juvenile justice system, as not everyone has the support system around them that he did. He claims that it is our responsibility to change the tide to ultimately improve our society as a whole:

“The majority of men and women who are incarcerated are redeemable. Ninety percent of [incarcerated men and women] will return to the community, and we have a role in determining what kind of men and women return to the community.”

The ‘lock them up and throw away the key’ mentality, as Senghor calls it, is the main mindset he claims needs to change. Instead, he calls for society to embrace a more empathetic approach to allow more incarcerated youths and adults redeem themselves from past deeds and not be “held hostage to their past.” He believes each person needs the support to do three things that will begin recovery:

"Raise the Age" Victory in New Hampshire: More Kids Treated as Kids; News Roundup

News-oldTV-smlJuvenile Justice Reform

  • Why Evidence-Based? New Resource Hub Covers All  (Reclaiming Futures)
    Moving toward the next step in determining reliable practices that reduce youth crime, the National Juvenile Justice Network and the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange launched a new Evidence-Based Practices section of the Juvenile Justice Resource Hub.
  • "Raise the Age" Victory in New Hampshire: More Kids Treated as Kids (Campaign for Youth Justice) 
    Are 17 year olds really old enough to be sent to adult prisons? In NH, since 1995, the answer has been YES. Over the past decade, as states across the US have recognized that 17 year olds are still children, NH was unwilling to change. Since 2000, Representative David Bickford (R ) attempted to “Raise the Age” without much support, that is until this year.


Jobs, Grants, Events and Webinars

  • Please share the Reclaiming Futures Opportunity Board with your colleagues in the juvenile justice, adolescent substance abuse and teen mental health areas. It’s free to browse and post!

Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment and Mental Health

Topics: News

Why Evidence-Based? New Resource Hub Covers All

NatalieMoving toward the next step in determining reliable practices that reduce youth crime, the National Juvenile Justice Network and the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange launched a new Evidence-Based Practices section of the Juvenile Justice Resource Hub. This news hub will no doubt become a toolkit for policy makers as evidence-based programs and models become more prevalent.

Why is evidence-based important?

Beyond the fact that evidence-based practices are scientifically evaluated and proven to be effective in reducing crime, they also carry long-term benefits that directly affect communities. According to the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, distinct benefits include:

  • Improving public safety
  • Improved outcomes for youth and families
  • Saving money
  • Technical assistance
  • Community support

The new evidence-based resource offers information on key issues, reform trends, experts in the field and resources. As Reclaiming Futures implements evidence-based screening, assessment and treatment, we’re happy to see this new resource become widely available.

Read more and share this new valuable resource here.

Take our Reader Survey: Share your Thoughts and Enter to Win

During my first year with Reclaiming Futures, I’ve enjoyed meeting the good-hearted, solution-oriented, practical yet hopeful people who make up the Reclaiming Futures community, offline and online.

Some of you are connected to Reclaiming Futures’ 39 sites in 18 states; others are interested in bringing Reclaiming Futures to your communities.  (If this is you, I’d like to talk with you, so please contact me by email at

What we talk about on our website and blog reflects our learnings from both the courts and the academic research world, and is intended to be informative, inspiring, and useful to you.  To ensure that we’re delivering valuable, relevant information, we thought we’d just ask for your opinion of our content.

That’s why we’re launching an online survey this month, designed to gather your thoughts about your engagement with Reclaiming Futures, and what you’d like to learn more about.

We are also offering an incentive to participants. If you complete the survey and provide your name and contact information, you’ll be entered into a drawing for a $50 Amazon card.   

We respect your time, so the survey is short.  Nine questions are all we have to learn about what you’re interested in reading.   Are you willing to lend a hand?  Please click here.

Thank you for your help and for working to Reclaim the Futures of our young people.

Webinar: Co-Occurring Disorders within the System of Care, August 21

It is important for communities to be aware that youth presented with substance abuse issues are likely to also be dealing with mental health issues. Youth in the juvenile justice system are also likely to be faced with trauma issues, academic needs and other concerns.

To help communities better understand the challenges and approaches to treating youth with co-occurring behavioral health disorders, Reclaiming Futures, a TA Network Core Partner, will present a webinar on Co-Occurring Disorders within the System of Care on August 21.

Designing a Recovery-Oriented Care Model...The webinar, presented by Kari Collins and Michelle Kilgore, will share information on the complex needs of youth with co-occurring disorders and outline some important considerations when developing or enhancing a system of care so that it will better address their needs.

Included in the presentation will be an overview of a document called Designing a Recovery-Oriented Care Model for Adolescents and Transition Age Youth with Substance Use or Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorders that was published by the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in 2009, following a consultative session with substance abuse and mental health treatment providers, family members and other experts.

Register here.

Mental Health Funding Cuts are Leaving Young People Abandoned; News Roundup

News-oldTV-smlJuvenile Justice Reform

  • Juvenile Justice Care and Protection Bill 2014 Introduced in the Lok Sabha (India TV)
    After years of wait, the government has finally introduced the Juvenile Justice Care and protection Bill 2014 in the Lok Sabha today. This Act will give power to the Juvenile Justice Board to decide if juveniles between the ages of 16 – 18 should be tried as adults for crimes like murder and rape.
  • House members Appointed to Juvenile Justice Task Force (West Virginia Record)
    “West Virginia has the highest rate of 16-19 year-olds who are neither in school, nor in the labor force, while 30 percent of children under the age of six are living in poverty – the odds are stacked against them,” Delegate Stephen Skinner said. “We must provide effective case management, and expose at-risk youth to instruction and reinforcement for proactive, acceptable social behaviors."

Jobs, Grants, Events and Webinars

  • Please share the Reclaiming Futures Opportunity Board with your colleagues in the juvenile justice, adolescent substance abuse and teen mental health areas. It’s free to browse and post!

Topics: News

Two-Part Webinar Series Identifies Principles to Reduce Recidivism

Last week, we highlighted two new white papers that provide strategic recommendations for instigating systemic change to reduce recidivism among youth in the juvenile justice system. Next month, the National Reentry Resource Center, with funding from the U.S. Department of Justice, will host a two-part webinar series sharing highlights from these white papers.

Aimed at juvenile corrections leaders, probation officers, judicial staff, policymakers and other key stakeholders in the juvenile justice space, these webinars will provide quick summaries of what is working, along with tangible, actionable recommendations.National Reentry Resource Center

Webinar #1: Core Principles for Reducing Recidivism and Improving Other Outcomes for Youth in the Juvenile Justice Systems

Webinar #2: Measuring and Using Juvenile Recidivism Data to Inform Policy, Practice, and Resource Allocation

  • September 11, 2014 at 2-3:30 p.m. ET
  • Register here
  • “The second webinar summarizes the issue brief, "Measuring and Using Juvenile Recidivism Data to Inform Policy, Practice, and Resource Allocation," and its five recommendations for improving juvenile justice systems’ approaches to the measurement, analysis, collection, reporting, and use of recidivism data. Participants will learn the essentials on measuring recidivism in an accurate and comprehensive way, and how to use such data to guide system decisions and hold agencies and providers accountable for results.”