Laura Burney Nissen, M.S.W., Ph.D.
Laura Burney Nissen specializes in innovating dynamic community and cross-agency partnerships. She has led the Reclaiming Futures initiative through conceptualization, demonstration and dissemination. As national program director, Laura has written extensively about the lessons of the initiative, and is a regular speaker at national meetings on juvenile justice reform. Laura has worked with state and federal agencies to encourage system-wide recognition and use of strength-based methods for youth. She is an associate professor at Portland State University’s School of Social Work. Her research focuses on qualitative research methods, system reform issues, and communication tools for social change.
November 04, 2012
Beyond "Scared Straight" – Moving to Programs that Actually Work
In the last couple of decades, we've seen an explosion of research that tells us what works in adolescent substance abuse treatment and in helping kids caught in the juvenile justice system turn their lives around. As a result, foundations and lawmakers have raised their expectations: quite rightly, they want to fund "what works."
Just finishing up an IRB this morning to submit to PSU to get permission to proceed with a new research project I’ve been committed to doing for several years now. Most excited to jump into it this summer. Here is the brief required narrative from my proposal:
Substance abuse remains a formidable problem in the U.S. Until recently, adolescent substance abuse treatment frameworks and related research about them was under-developed. However in the last ten years, there has been significant development in both treatment models and research in the area (Carter Narendorf & McMillan, 2010). Simultaneously, there has been a movement in motion regarding the “recovery” process which is associated with, but tends to follow, formal treatment (Sheedy & Whitter, 2009). What happens when people leave treatment and begin a new life in “recovery?” This research will fill a gap in the addiction recovery literature by centering youth perspectives on their unique developmental view of the process of recovery from addiction as they experience it. Research questions include:
- What does recovery mean to young people following cessation of alcohol and drug abuse?
- What are examples of recovery in the lives of young people who are experiencing it?
- What do young people wish people knew about the recovery process from their own points of view?
- What risks and what reinforcements to recovery do young people experience in their lives?
"Strength-based” and “developmentally appropriate” models are frequently mentioned and often encouraged throughout justice and treatment programming for young people. But between managed care mandates, budget cuts and staffing reductions, the reality is that one’s strength-based mindset and focus on youth development can sometimes be lost. So as we build and protect improved systems of care and opportunity for young people (as Reclaiming Futures tries to do), how do we assure that we maintain a rigorous focus on strength-based approaches for diverse groups of youth, families, organizations, and communities?
December 30, 2010
A Season of New Beginnings for Reclaiming Futures
In mid-December, we hosted our annual Project Director Fellowship in Washington, D.C. (Click on photo at left to see a larger view of a model of the U.S. Capitol that I spotted at the botanic gardens.) Project Directors from our ten original sites, our first three expansion sites, and all ten of the sites that started this past fall attended. While everyone had gotten acquainted by phone to a certain extent, nothing matches the energy, creativity and momentum of getting together in person to reflect about lessons learned, and create strategy for moving the initiative forward both locally and nationally.
Our agenda included opportunities to: get overviews of each new community joining Reclaiming Futures; compare notes about progress made thus far in sites that begain in 2007; and assess long-term changes that have occurred in the our ten original sites.
December 29, 2010
Reclaiming Futures in Uncertain Times - Needed Now More than Ever!
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.
After more than 10 years with Reclaiming Futures, I have decided to step down as national program director, in order to concentrate on teaching and research in my role as a faculty member at the School of Social Work at Portland State University. I will continue to serve as national director until my successor begins work.
The search for a new national director will begin soon, and our plan is to have a new leader in place at our next leadership institute in May 2011. We are forming a search committee of four to six people who are close to the project to advise us about the selection process. A job announcement is forthcoming soon.
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.
January 17, 2009
Welcome Message From the Director
Hello, Reclaiming Futures Community -- welcome to the newest part of our national learning community: our blog. Over the past few years, I've been inspired and energized by the way others have used this evolving medium to share ideas and build movements.