Major Gains for Family Engagement in Indiana’s Juvenile Justice System
Last year, the Vera Institute of Justice’s Family Justice Program wrapped up a multi-year project to develop and pilot family engagement standards for the Performance-based Standards Learning Institute. All juvenile corrections facilities participating in PbS are now collecting information related to family engagement—including a survey of family members twice a year. There are currently 48 facilities across 15 states collecting family surveys with a total of 1,033 family surveys collected since the start of the project.
One of the original pilot states is already benefiting from having data on family engagement after implementing the new standards last fall. Based on feedback from their PbS reports, Indiana’s Pendleton Juvenile Correctional facility decided to increase their rates of visitation. They analyzed their visitation policies and made drastic changes—opening up visitation hours to just about any time a family member can get to the facility. In addition to the expanded visiting hours, all restrictions on the number of visits a young person could receive were lifted.
These changes went into effect at the beginning of this year and, after just a few short months, the staff are seeing big changes. Not only did they successfully double their normal rate of visitation, they saw improved behavior by young people in the facility. The Family Justice Program found a similar correlation between improved behavior and visits in Ohio.
Family Visitation is More than Just a Nice Perk
After years of research, Vera’s Family Justice Program has implemented new programs which will contribute to easier access for family members seeking out their incarcerated loved ones. Considering youth school performance and behavior are both directly affected by family visitation, the Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS) partnered with the Vera’s Family Justice Program on the Families as Partners project to promote support from the family members of incarcerated juveniles.
Through research gathered February 2010 through March 2013, the Families as Partners project discovered incarcerated adults and juveniles with a strong tie to loved ones progress better in prison and pose less of a threat once they are released. This family relationship and contact is described as critical to the accomplishments of youth in juvenile justice facilities.
Despite the lasting benefits family visitation has on incarcerated juveniles and the community, families often face obstacles when visiting their loved ones. Thus, the research gathered sought to support staff-to-family encouragement on emotional and material support, scheduled visits and overall involvement in treatment and reentry plans.
Parenting is Prevention
A youth’s perception of risks associated with substance use is an important determinant of whether he or she engages in substance use.
A recent SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health surfaced several important perceptions among adolescents aged 12 to 17. Binge drinking can be categorized as having five or more alcoholic drinks once or twice a week. The good news is that the percentage of adolescents who perceived great risk from binge alcohol use has increased from 38.2 percent in 2002 to 40.7 percent in 2011; during the same period, the actual rate of binge alcohol use among adolescents decreased from 10.7 to 7.4 percent.
The bad news: between 2007 and 2011, the percentage of adolescents who perceived great risk from smoking marijuana once or twice a week decreased from 54.6 to 44.8 percent, and the rate of past month marijuana use among adolescents increased from 6.7 to 7.9 percent.
Parents and other caring adults who provide adolescents with credible, accurate, and age-appropriate information about harm associated with substance use are an important component of prevention programming. The importance of strong, effective parenting throughout the adolescence, teenage, and young adult years has long been known to be central to helping prevent adolescents from engaging in substance use. However, it is less known but equally true that parental influence can continue to help affect their children’s behavioral environment when they become young adults. Many parents feel that when a child turns 18 that their work is done—that the young person has to make his or her own choices. We often see this with parents whose children go off to college. Yet, many of these students are making poor decisions.
Promising Outcomes for a Parenting Sentencing Alternative
Washington State's Parenting Sentencing Alternative provides qualifying offenders with the opportunity to parent their minor children under intense community supervision instead of serving prison time. Although it is too soon to gauge the program's long-term success, the Department of Corrections is seeing a number of early benefits, including cost savings, with Community Parenting Alternative (CPA) and Family and Offender Sentencing Alternative (FOSA) cases.
On average, it costs $34,000 to supervise these alternative cases—between $7,000-$8,000 more than traditional community supervision. Officers have smaller caseloads but are more directly involved with day-to-day activities of offenders and their children, partners, and other family members. Although the program requires a higher initial cost per offender than traditional supervision and expends more resources up front, cost savings come in the reduction of daily population rates and duplicate service reduction. It costs an average of $90 a day to incarcerate; in contrast, it costs $7 a day to electronically monitor those who are on the prison-based alternative. While other supervision expenses exist, this reduction in costs upon transfer from prison provides substantial savings.
Missouri Employs Families to Combat Delinquency
The juvenile justice system, in a sense, functions to replace a core family function: discipline of a child. While this is an important governmental role in some cases, it is necessary to ensure that families are not unnecessarily displaced, and in fact included in juvenile justice to the highest degree possible.
This is why family based juvenile justice programs often are very successful. Such programs return parents to their natural role of disciplinarian, and ensure that parents and youths are able to move forward with as little state involvement as possible.
Jackson County, Missouri, has adopted this precept with their Family Court program. The Family Court uses Parenting with Love and Limits theories, which seek to arm parents with the tools they need to discipline and control youths at home, and avoid placement in a secure facility.
The Family's Role in Addiction Recovery
*Editor's note: Please note that Reclaiming Futures does not endorse New Beginnings Recovery Center.
As young people suffer from addiction, their families suffer too. Just watching the decline of people they love and feeling helpless to stop it is bad enough, but they probably also feel angry, hurt, and frustrated with the addict. There are a number of things family members can do to help in a child’s recovery as well as steps they can take for themselves.
The very first thing to be done is to have a talk with the child. This needs to be done when he or she is not under the influence of drugs and it needs to be presented as supportive. A child who feels under attack will withdraw and nothing will be accomplished. When the child denies the use of drugs and parents still suspect they are an issue, the parents need to press forward and seek help.
Choosing treatment options
New Report Examines Needs of Justice-Involved Girls, Parents and Staff
“Girls get judged too much—it’s OK for guys to get into trouble because they’re guys, but not for girls; this is not fair.”
“The system didn’t realize that the whole family was scared and didn’t understand what was happening.”
“There are not enough adequately trained people to effectively deal with child abuse and neglect issues. As a society, we don’t do a good job of treating these issues; we don’t do a good job of treating the whole being.”
This small sampling of comments represents what justice system-involved girls, their parents, and staff, respectively, shared during listening sessions held nationwide by the National Girls Institute (NGI). The purpose of the listening sessions was to assess the current training, technical assistance, and informational needs of state, tribal, and local entities serving girls who are justice-involved or at risk of involvement as well as their families.
A report detailing the results and implications of the listening sessions, “Voices From the Field: Findings From the NGI Listening Sessions,” was recently released by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) through a cooperative agreement with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). An executive summary of the report is also available.
Report: Frequent Family Dinners Make a Big Difference in Teens’ Substance Use
A new white paper from CASAColumbia reports that family dinners make a big difference in teens’ use of illegal substances. The Importance of Family Dinners VIII found that teens who have frequent family dinners (five to seven per week) are more likely to report excellent relationships with their parents and therefore are less likely to use marijuana, alcohol or tobacco than teens who have infrequent family dinners (two or less per week).
CASAColumbia surveyed teenagers 12 to 17 years old in order to arm parents with the information they need to help their children develop life skills and choose a substance free lifestyle. The findings presented are from The National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVII: Teens.
In 2012, 57 percent of teens reported having family dinners at least five times a week. The results show frequent family dinners increased the amount of parental knowledge about their kids’ lives. On average, teens with frequent family dinners were three times less likely to use drugs, drink or smoke compared to teens that have infrequent family dinners.
Judging Children as Children: Partnering with Families for Our Children's Future
A resident of East Harlem used to be somewhat of a problem child. He was always running around and banging on cans and tapping on walls. His mother felt helpless. Finally, one of her neighbors suggested that she send her child to "drum school." She followed this advice. And the child grew up to become Tito Puente, the King of Latin Music.
There is a valuable lesson in this little story.
It is often the family and community that know best how to provide support and solutions for our "problem children." New York's Penal Law and related statutes, however, often undermine or fail to recognize the power of families to be effective, if not indispensable, partners in the solution.
New York is one of only two states in the nation (North Carolina is the other) that sets the age of criminal responsibility as low as 16. New York also tries children as young as 13 as adults when they are accused of the most serious crimes.
Families Unlocking Futures: Solutions to the Crisis in Juvenile Justice
In 2001, my 13 year old son, Corey, was sent to what the New York Times called, “the worst juvenile prison in the country.” What crime had he committed that earned him this hellish journey? He stole a $300 stereo out of a pick-up after he smashed out the window with a crowbar. His sentence was 5 years in the one of the most brutal facilities in the U.S.
The families of children who are system involved are often thought of as “lazy,” “uneducated,” “uncaring” and worse. But a new report by Justice for Families (J4F) gives us a much different picture of families and relies on substantial data rather than outdated myths and stereotypes. I was given a second chance to make different decisions for my youngest daughter, nearly seven years later. Today, that daughter is in her second semester of college, having earned a 3.7 GPA in her first semester and has never again been involved in the system. Sadly, for my son that second chance never came. Today, he is living on taxpayer money, serving a 12 year sentence in a state prison.
In 20 sites across eight states, Justice for Families, the Data Center and our local partners led by families of kids involved in the system, conducted two dozen focus groups and took exhaustive surveys from more than 1,000 families who were involved in the juvenile justice system. We conducted a media review that looked at hundreds of articles discussing families and juvenile justice. Lastly, we conducted an extensive literature review of promising approaches led by systems and community based organizations. Families designed the focus group and survey questions and collected and analyzed the data, proving that families are capable, they do care and they do, indeed, want to be involved.