Supporting Systems Change in Reclaiming Futures Communities
Reclaiming Futures has helped communities break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime for more than 10 years. But how exactly does Reclaiming Futures accomplish systems change? We sat down with National Executive Director Susan Richardson to discuss 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.
LH: Please tell us about the Reclaiming Futures model.
SJR: The proven six-step Reclaiming Futures model unites juvenile courts, probation, adolescent substance abuse treatment, and the community to reclaim youth. Together this leadership team works for change to improve drug, alcohol and mental health treatment for teens and connect them to positive activities and caring adults.
LH: Please tell me more about the leadership team and how it functions.
SJR: The Reclaiming Futures Change Teams are organized into five groups: Judicial, Juvenile Justice, Substance Abuse Treatment, Community, and Project Director Fellowships. This change team also represents their local community at national Reclaiming Futures meetings. In addition to regular conference calls, each Fellowship has an annual meeting with their colleagues. Both the calls and meetings provide opportunities for Fellows to discuss implementation issues, professional topics, and seek the advice and support of colleagues as they work to implement the Reclaiming Futures model at the local level.
Statistical Briefing Book: A Place to Find Facts on Juvenile Justice Topics
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) recently released a Statistical Briefing Book that offers statistics on various juvenile justice topics. The Book documents where states stand on a plethora of juvenile justice issues, with data analysis tools that will allow users to create custom analysis of juvenile populations, arrests, court cases and residential placement.
The book displays documentation on the extended age of jurisdiction, how the courts classify status offenses, and administration of community supervision and aftercare services. Easy access guides to juvenile populations, juvenile arrest rates by offense, sex, and race, arrest statistics and the census of juveniles in residential placement are also featured.
The national overviews include access to FBI arrest statistics including data through 2010 and National, State, and County arrest estimates. Access to Juvenile Court statistics including national estimates of the more than 30 million delinquency cases processed by the nation’s juvenile courts between 1985 and 2010 and sections devoted to Juveniles in Court and Juveniles on Probation.
Teen’s Criminal Career can Start by Age 5
By the time a juvenile is arrested, or referred to the juvenile court system, chances are he or she has already displayed a pattern of antisocial behavior.
Red flags are easy to recognize in the days following a tragic event like a mass shooting—but it’s important to identify those early warning signs before they turn into a pattern of criminal behavior.
In some extreme cases, children as young as 5 years old are committing crimes. So when that child becomes an adult, he or she may already have a lengthy criminal record.
“With onset in criminal careers, the first sign of that problem behavior is an indicator of how severe it will be,” DeLisi says. “If you can help them, you save a ton of money and you save a lot of problems. But it’s just the issue of correctly identifying them and that raises a bunch of ethical and other issues.”
The connection between the onset and the severity is similar to other ways children start to develop, either positively or negatively, at an early age.
“If you have someone who is 3, or even 2, and is already reading it would suggest that the person is highly intelligent,” DeLisi says. “The reason is because the emergence or the onset of the behavior is usually inversely related to what they will become. The earlier something appears the more special they are or extreme.”
Kansas: Justice-Involved Teens can now Train for Career in "Environmental Water Technology"
Youth in a Topeka juvenile correctional facility will soon begin training in a field that could net them attractive career options in the future.
Thanks to instruction from Fort Scott Community College (FSCC) and a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, students at the Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex (KJCC) now have the opportunity to gain skills in “Environmental Water Technology,” a field in which the median annual income in Kansas is $41,000.
The Department of Labor has identified that a shortage of technicians in the field is looming, as the mean age of those in the industry is in the mid-50s. The agency’s grant is targeting trainees in the 18-21 age range, and FSCC is bringing the opportunity to those in the Kansas juvenile justice system.
KJCC held an open house on Friday, Feb. 8, to introduce its new Environmental Water Technology course of study and encourage the youth at the facility to enroll in the program.
Classes in Environmental Water Technology, which are offered to residents of KJCC who have received a high school diploma or a GED, will begin in March. Enrollees in the program will typically study in a classroom setting during the morning, then engage in hands-on lab work in the afternoon, said Megan Milner, deputy superintendent of KJCC.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Trauma in Justice-Involved Youth
Justice-involved youth have complex histories that not only contributed to their delinquency but present challenges for rehabilitation. They often experience poverty, violence, familial instability, exposure to drug use and gangs, and serial relocations. These compound factors exacerbate a lack of self-confidence, learning difficulties, physical disabilities, and mental health issues.
In the field of public health, these experiences are identified as traumatic: including a loss of safety, powerlessness, fear, hopelessness, and a constant state of alertness. In the video above, Christa Collins notes that exposure to trauma severely diminishes decision-making skills and the ability to cope with stress.
Kansas Juvenile Justice Graduate Turns Life Around
As Pomp and Circumstance played from a laptop computer, adults, some in prison staff uniforms, and a handful of teenage girls in gray sweat suits, stand in respectful silence.
Finally, a solitary young woman in a red gown pushes her way through a heavy green security door, which slams with cold severity behind her. The door’s blast doesn’t faze her, however. She’s heard it before. She smiles sheepishly, but holds her head high, her eyes fixed straight ahead.
Emily won’t celebrate her graduation with any parties at her home. She won’t be toasted at any restaurants by family and friends. Instead she’ll spend another night at the Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex (KJCC) in Topeka.
But it will be her last. She’s going home for good the next day, to live with her mother, to start a new life.
Emily enrolled in a Topeka area high school in the fall of 2011, ready for a senior year like most students experience – going to ball games, participating in activities, maybe even attending the prom in the spring.
But Emily’s plans were interrupted. After several stints in foster care and juvenile facilities, and a short stay with her father in Mississippi, Emily was informed that her near future would be spent at the lock-down facility for juveniles in Topeka, serving time for previous convictions.
Boys and Books in Juvenile Lockup: It's Magic
I teach literacy skills to boys in juvenile corrections settings. They range in age from thirteen to eighteen and have usually skipped, dropped out of, or been expelled from school. For them, school “sucks” and so does reading. They’re not thrilled to be in my class, considering they’ve lost their freedom and are forced to go to school—where they have to read a book.
“Yo, Miss!” says Pete*, a thirteen-year-old who can’t seem to stop twitching in front of the bookcase. “I’m not reading no book!”
But sustained silent reading is a requirement of the school day, and even Perpetual Motion Pete has to comply. I pull Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key from the shelf.
“You might like this one, Pete. It’s about a kid who’s got wicked ADHD and gets in trouble all the time. His parents are whacked, too, and his grandmother’s worse than he is. It’s really funny. Joey’s a good kid and doesn’t mean to cause trouble. So he tries medication and all kinds of crazy things happen.”
I pause for a minute. I turn to put the book back on the shelf.
“Wait,” Pete mumbles. “Let me see.”
I hand the book to him and start walking away, then throw a few well-aimed words over my shoulder.
“Oh, yeah. And the guy who wrote that book, Jack Gantos, did time when he was 19. He went to jail for smuggling dope, but after he got out he became a children’s book writer. He even wrote a book about his jail time.” I turn around and resume walking.
Pete’s hooked. “He did? Where’s that one?”
Child Sex Abuse in Female Adjudicated Youth
The last 15 years of my professional focus has been working with youth and families with an emphasis on child sex abuse prevention. While working as a Juvenile Officer in Jefferson County Oregon (2002-2006), I provided gender specific services for our department. My role was to assess, develop and implement gender specific services. Girls Circle(1) curriculum and training was the best practice service that our department implemented in 2003.
We had eight female youth signed up for the class and averaged about five attending weekly. Within about 2 class sessions, I started to hear the girls talking about various types of sexual assaults. Unfortunately, there wasn’t specific group content that addressed child sex abuse and rape. With approval, I adjusted the curriculum to include an art project that would allow the girls to outline each other and color in their body outline with colors representing emotions. This was a very eye opening activity for myself and our department. The common theme in their color representations was scribbled hearts and black stomachs. The girls talked about feeling empty, numb and hopeless about their future. That was affirmation that child sex abuse was important for us to address with the female juvenile clients.
This was what made me realize that so many of the females that came into our Department had experienced child sex abuse and many times additional sexual assaults into their teen years. OJJDP promotes publications that site anywhere from 70-90% of adjudicated female juvenile’s have been sexually abused. Unfortunately, the data on males is very limited but because of high profile cases, it appears that more resources are focusing on males.
- Child sex abuse is very real for a large percent of adjudicated juveniles
- Grooming creates very deep seeded issues
- JJO’s need child sex abuse training and assessment tools
- Juvenile Officer’s have opportunities to address this root cause issue
- Adult’s need education and training to talk about child sex abuse
- Positive youth development activities really do work (especially child sex abuse focused)
- Teens are very protective of the kids in their lives (they don’t want what happened to them happen to other kids)
- Teaching ourselves and teens how to protect themselves and others from predators works
Setting Justice-Involved Youth on the Path to Success Through Career and Technical Training
In 2008, when Jose was released from his nine-month stay in a Pennsylvania residential placement for his auto theft adjudication and returned to Philadelphia, he had a 1 in 10 chance of graduating from high school, according to the Johns Hopkins study, “Unfulfilled Promise.” Without marketable skills, he was likely to join the ranks of the young unemployed, and his chances of landing in prison as an adult were significantly higher than his chances of landing in a family sustaining career.
In four short years a great deal has changed. If Jose were released today from one of the 28 delinquent facilities (including State facilities) that have affiliated with the PA Academic and Career Technical Training Alliance (PACTT), his prospects would be considerably brighter. Indeed, if he doesn’t actually graduate on credits (or get his GED) while in placement, he is much more likely to return to his home high school with a higher literacy level, earned credits and documented career/technical skills aligned with industry expectations. His career/tech skills and earned certifications such as OSHA-10, ServSafe or Microsoft Certification have prepared him for further training and make him attractive to an employer, despite his delinquent record.
The PACTT Alliance grew out of the MacArthur Foundation Models for Change aftercare initiative. Recognizing a significant need for reform of the academic and career preparation that delinquent youths receive in placement, and realizing that no government agency, not the Department of Public Welfare nor the Pennsylvania Department of Education, were monitoring the overall education and career preparation offered in these schools, the Pennsylvania Council of Chief Juvenile Probation Officers sponsored PACTT. I received a Stoneleigh Fellowship to direct this project, the balance of which was funded by grants from the MacArthur and PEW Foundations and the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
Preparing for the Models for Change Conference
The Models for Change conference is just around the corner – and it’s not too soon to start participating online!
This year, we are especially excited to engage with conference attendees and juvenile justice practitioners online through social media.
We will live-tweet all three days of the conference and encourage you to follow along and join in by tweeting and retweeting with the hashtags #MFC7 and #Models4Change. (When you want to tell something specific about some issue or subject, you can prefix your subject with #. The more people that re‐tweet your message and/or use the same # with their own tweets, the # or subject acts like a keyword and becomes searchable and more popular.) For those not yet on Twitter (join here), this is the perfect chance to dabble in social networking to promote your organization’s issues and Models for Change. Images, graphs, quotes, workshops and photographs will be featured and we hope you share your own thoughts/tweets on this medium. And remember, when you tweet, make sure to include @models4change. Start following us there as well.