Alternative to Juvenile Treatment Court: Family-Centered, Community-Based Case Screening and Case Navigation
Family engagement and community collaboration are key ingredients to the success of juvenile-justice system-based programs for youth. Juvenile drug treatment courts (JDTC) have chronically poor outcomes and low graduation rates. These courts and other juvenile diversion programs have historically struggled to engage caregivers and to build authentic community-based partnerships in ways that strengthen families and motivate youth and families to connect to services and supports and commit to making real changes on their own terms. At Reclaiming Futures, we have observed that effective parent and community engagement is what separates successful court-based treatment programs from those with sub-par graduation and success rates.
In 2017, Reclaiming Futures partnered with the 29th Judicial District Court in St. Charles Parish Louisiana and a local community-based organization called the St. Charles CARE Center to create a community- based alternative to their juvenile treatment court that places the key elements of family and community engagement front and center. Like many juvenile drug treatment courts around the country, St. Charles Parish was dissatisfied with its program outcomes and made the difficult decision to shut down their JDTC and to replace it with a new program built from the ground up – one centered around family and community engagement. Since developing this model, Reclaiming Futures is now in the process of supporting other jurisdictions in implementing this new approach.
From our collaboration with St. Charles Parish, a new program model emerged based on two key components:
- Implementation of Family screening, brief intervention and referral/navigation to services (Family SBIRT)
- Establishment of an assertive new model of court-community partnerships.
FSBIRT is an innovative new screening and case navigation model that places the family as the primary focus of initial assessment and case planning. While it is typically a youth who comes to the attention of the court as needing services, in this new model the first encounter upon intake is with the youth and family. Assessments of a family’s key relationships, strengths, needs and goals are the key drivers for the resulting case plan. A parallel screening and brief intervention for the youth (SBIRT JJ described below) accompanies the family screening, case planning and navigation process.
FSBIRT Screening is a holistic approach involving the identification of the full spectrum of behavioral health and physical needs of the youth and family and providing supports and treatment referrals not only to the youth, but to other family members as well.
In this new approach, we encourage the juvenile court to establish a collaborative partnership with a community-based, youth and family-serving agency – wholly situated outside the juvenile court – to conduct intake, family and youth SBIRT screening, referral, case navigation and provide updates and reports on case progress and program completion to the court. Building a trusted partnership of this kind with a community-based agency relieves the court of the need to engage in burdensome, unnecessary or redundant court dates and prevents over-monitoring of youth. This process shifts the lens on program success away from the typical compliance-based, check-box lens to an emphasis on positive service engagement and behavior change with the community-based agency and the family themselves collaborating on the determination of client’s success and ultimately program completion.
Impact and dissemination of the model
In our multi-year implementation of this model in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana, the partnership between the juvenile court and the St. Charles CARE Center - the community-based agency operating the treatment court alternative – has seen program completion rates above 90% in each year of operation since 2018. The use of the model in St. Charles Parish has expanded beyond its use as an alternative to treatment court and is now employed with a range of court diversion programs and a child welfare case track is under development. Training and implementation are currently underway in other jurisdictions. For further information or to arrange a brief presentation on Zoom, contact Reclaiming Futures Executive Director, Evan Elkin at email@example.com
SBIRT is a public health approach for identifying, preventing and reducing harmful drug and alcohol use through a process of screening, brief intervention and referrals (as indicated). SBIRT has been implemented in settings where treatment is not typically offered or sought (e.g., primary care; education).
With funding provided by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Reclaiming Futures has developed its own manualized version of SBIRT designed for juvenile justice involved youth and their caregivers which we call SBIRT JJ. It is based on the fundamentals of existing evidence-supported screening, participant feedback, and brief intervention/treatment approaches for youth and caregivers.
Our adaptation includes:
- Increased flexibility in session frequency. This includes at least one session to a maximum of four (youth up to three; parent/guardian up to two). The Reclaiming Futures SBIRT project staff uses a structured decision making approach that includes screening, participant feedback reports, and to determine what is most feasible and appropriate services and supports for youth.
- A highly engaging and “youth-centered” approach using Motivational Interviewing principles designed for use in non-typical settings settings (e.g., juvenile justice).
- Options for the brief intervention to focus on risk behaviors associated with the youth’s mental health in addition to substance use.
- English and Spanish versions are available.
Addressing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Behavioral Health Programming for Youth
Helping local juvenile justice jurisdictions reduce racial and ethnic disparities at key behavioral health decision points
Reclaiming Futures, in collaboration with the W. Haywood Burns Institute and Impact Justice have developed a new training and technical assistance framework aimed at helping local juvenile justice jurisdictions reduce racial and ethnic disparities at key behavioral health decision points.
This will help jurisdictions and in particular treatment diversion programs like juvenile drug treatment courts to deconstruct and measure the ways that the behavioral health decision points in juvenile justice are vulnerable to racial and ethnic biases.
The approach will begin with the way a site establishes norms and continues through the continuum of decision steps involved in the process that leads a young person into and out of treatment - or a treatment focused alternative to incarceration - after first coming to the attention of the justice system.
The continuum the approach will target proceeds from:
- An examination of norms to the practice of population screening and the use of screening tools
- The way that treatment need and program eligibility are determined through assessment and diagnostics
- How we define and respond to treatment engagement ("compliance"), progress and completion
Each of these decision steps is highly subjective and can be the source of racial bias in settings like juvenile treatment court where we know that kids of color are not succeeding.
The training and TA approach helps sites realize the need to examine and measure the disproportional impact that these decision points can generate and offers a strategy to track this and take corrective action.
Training and Technical Assistance Center (RF-TTAC)
Reducing the number of youth involved in the juvenile justice system who have behavioral health concerns
The RF-TTAC addresses the complexities and challenges of developing multi-sector teams to improve collaboration while promoting opportunities for staff training and development. Its primary goal is to reduce the number of youth involved in the juvenile justice system who have behavioral health concerns through our 6-step model.
Using a Learning Collaborative methodology, RF-TTAC takes science to service to improve the systems and services in which youth and families involved in juvenile justice interact.
The RF-TTAC provides a variety of training and technical assistance including:
- Youth interventions
- Specialized technical assistance
- National fellowship membership
- National meetings
For customized training and technical assistance tailored to your jurisdictional needs, contact us.
School-based Mental Health – Universal Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral (SB-SBIRT)
There is a growing consensus that our nation’s youth are experiencing an acute mental health crisis. The Centers for Disease Control report alarmingly high rates of depression, anxiety and suicidality among adolescents – with rates even higher for youth of color, girls and LGBTQ youth. Schools play an increasingly important role in responding to and preventing mental health and substance use challenges for students. A growing body of research substantiates the benefits of universal, school-wide mental health screening in schools as part of a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) framework used in many schools, providing a continuum of care to promote emotional and behavioral health based upon students’ needs.
In 2018, Reclaiming Futures partnered with colleagues in King County, Washington to design a powerful new approach to universal screening, intervention and referral (SB-SBIRT) that has now been implemented in roughly 70 schools across the Pacific Northwest. With nearly 30,000 students screened, the Reclaiming Futures SB-SBIRT is highly effective in identifying mental health needs and getting kids to the appropriate supports (See Journal of Adolescent Health article). In 2021, we partnered with the Seattle Children’s Research Institute to publish an Implementation Playbook that we use as a roadmap to help school districts prepare for and implement our model. Here are some quick facts and findings related to our SB-SBIRT work:
- 30-50% of students identified as needing additional resources were previously unknown to the school.
- Students feel significantly more engaged with school and supported by caring adults after participating in School-based SBIRT.
- Our program has been successfully implemented in more than 50 middle and high schools.
- 35,000+ students have been screened.
- Our step- by-step implementation Playbook facilitates efficient, sustainable implementation.
- Integrates well with existing school wide mental health and behavior programs like MTSS, PBIS, and Restorative practice.
- Affordable license costs include 2-day training, ongoing coaching and use of screening tool for one or more years.
- The Screening tool allows counselors to quickly triage/sort students into priority levels.
- The screening tool produces data reports so schools can track trends and set mental health programming and policy.
Working in tribal communities
Reclaiming Futures has begun working in tribal communities: with the Yurok community where we are developing an adaptation of our SBIRT model for tribal youth; in Northern California; and in Nebraska where we are providing training and technical assistance to help the Winnebago adopt the RF six step approach within their new crisis intervention center.
Much of our tribal work has been in partnership with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Center for Court Innovation in NYC and the Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center Indian Child Trauma Center. Read about how we approach tribal work:
The Path Forward: Helping Tribal Courts Build and Sustain Culturally Resonant Screening and Brief Intervention Practices:
Here to Help (H2H) is a self-guided, online, public health screening tool for youth, families, and educators. H2H is designed to help adolescents, their caregivers, and family members identify stressors that may impact their health and wellbeing and immediately connect them, should they choose, to local resources that can assist.
How it works:
- A youth or family may receive a link to the H2H tool via an email from a school or community-based organization.
- The participant engages anonymously by answering questions covering several topic areas, including mental health, substance abuse, food security, economic and housing stability, and racial equity experiences.
- The tool allows the participant to elevate their awareness of potential issues related to their health and wellbeing by navigating through a series of questions in each topic area.
- After the participant completes a module, H2H provides a list of relevant, local, and accessible resources available to assist those who might be having experiences that could adversely affect their health.
Watch a video walk-through of H2H on our YouTube channel.
Reclaiming Futures has piloted H2H by partnering with schools and community organizations seeking screening methods to support students and families. H2H is flexible, allowing schools to connect students and their families, and faculty and staff to valuable local resources. Partners can tailor H2H to meet their needs. If desired, a school can request to collect identifying and demographic data and information on responses and response rates. In addition to technical services and support, Reclaiming Futures assists with communications strategies and implementation support. Our software development partner, Tickit Health, a Canadian software company that embraces digital empathy in its product design, offers partners digital customization to meet their identification and branding needs.
Here to Help could serve as a universal screening tool across youth-serving systems. In that capacity, the tool has the power to help providers gain a better understanding of the social determinants that impact the health, wellbeing, and life outcomes for adolescents. But more than that, it can help those experiencing a variety of stressors connect to resources that can improve outcomes for students, families, and educators.
H2H is available to organizations interested in partnering with Reclaiming Futures via a non-exclusive licensing agreement with Portland State University's Office of Innovation & Intellectual Property.
Similar to our Here to Help tool we designed for older teens, this self-guided, interactive tool serves to support a child's well-being and has been designed for younger kids, aged 5-12 and their parents. My Kid's Voice is delivered remotely and completed by repondents on a tablet, phone or computer. It helps parents identify and prioritize needs and difficulties their young child may be experiencing by having them answer questions about their child, and then having their child fill-out a brief section themselves.
There are three types of resources the tool delivers:
- Immediate tips for how parents can respond to their child’s concerns with feedback and support
- Links to resources that can help them talk to and support their child around a range of topics
- A list of locally customized community-based resources like behavioral health counseling, youth and family support programs, and food and financial assistance. This list is generated by the local contracting agency we partner with and includes any and all support services and treatment agencies, and other relevent local resources.
Watch a video walk-through of My Kid's Voice on our YouTube channel.
Respondents have the option to request to speak to a practitioner e.g., a school counselor, navigator, case manager or other support person determined by the licensee. The tool gives the respondent the option to remain anonymous, or to forego anonymity if they would rather submit an immediate request to be contacted by a support person.
My Kid's Voice is a flexible tool that can be implemented and utilized in a number of ways. For example, individual or aggregate data reports can be produced that can be useful for both individual triage and service planning, as well as policy changes at the agency and jurisdictional level. Additionally, the tool may serve as the first step in a Screening Brief Intervention and Referral sequence for families, referred to as SBIRT or Family SBIRT.
Updated: March 29 2023