Clinic at Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex Teaches More than Just Basketball
Washburn University basketball coach Bob Chipman and five members of the Ichabod team gave some pointers on the game of basketball, and a few on the game of life, to residents of the Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex (KJCC) last week.
With their first game of the season a little over two weeks away, Chipman and a few of his players took time out to teach a group of juvenile offenders about basketball, as well as to encourage them to make healthy life choices.
The visitors coached the residents on techniques of the game and ran through a series of drills that helped bond the two groups of young men, many of whom are very close in age. The day ended with one of the young offenders tossing alley-oop passes to red-shirt freshman Evan Robinson.
“It’s a great feeling to get this opportunity to serve the community, and I guarantee that I will learn a lot more from them than I will teach them,” said Robinson. “It’s good to see the smiles on their faces and know that we’re able to make a positive impact in some way.”
Chipman first connected with KJCC through one of his former players, Steve Bonner, who now serves as a corrections counselor at the facility.
“We all make mistakes, in life, and in basketball,” Chipman told the juvenile offenders. “But you learn from your mistakes and you go on. Just like in basketball, it’s not how you start, but how you finish that counts. I want every one of you to finish great.”
The Importance of a Positive School Climate
We all want schools to have a culture of high achievement. A place where students are challenged; where they have the freedom to think creatively, where they are pushed by their teachers; where they are more than test scores; and where they go on to exceed all of their hopes and dreams and our hopes and dreams for them. Education reformers spend countless hours and dollars to create high performing schools. But we don’t seem to take into account what research has shown us: that positive school climate is associated with positive child and youth development, effective risk-prevention and health-promotion efforts, student learning and academic achievement, increased student graduation rates, and teacher retention. Aren’t these results what we expect in a high performing school?
During the past year as a Stoneleigh Fellow, I have had the privilege to immerse myself in the issue of how to provide for positive school climate throughout the district. I often find myself thinking about a conversation that I had with a School District of Philadelphia principal. This principal had made great strides towards improving his school’s climate. During our conversation, I was pressing him about what he had put in place to create a safe, secure and positive school environment. He told me that creating a positive school climate and school culture isn’t “rocket science,” but simply about creating a culture of care.
There are many schools in the Philadelphia system that have created a culture of care. For instance, I visited a middle school that was in its first year of implementing restorative practices. During the course of the day, I watched classrooms using restorative circles to talk about the school’s new lateness policy. Students held thoughtful discussions about the pros and cons of being late and, together with teachers, they talked about why this policy was needed and how they could help to prevent students from coming to school late. Later that day, I observed a circle with two staff members and four young ladies. It was convened because the staff over heard the students talking about fighting each other. During the course of the circle, they talked about what led to the fight, how it made the participants and the bystanders feel, what they could lose by fighting, and what was to gain. In the end, the students acknowledged that they did not have to be friends, but apologized and said they didn’t want to fight each other.
In Chicago I visited an elementary school where there has been an intensive and pro-longed focus on social-emotional learning, or SEL. Children as young as pre-K talked about SEL – how to acknowledge their feelings, how to calm down, how to pay attention. A classroom of 7th graders discussed what happens within the body when you are scared, or angry or upset. The school developed a “peace center,” where students recognized when they were upset, asked an adult to go to the center, and gave themselves the time to calm down.
Recent Report Highlights the Indicators Of Children’s Well-Being
The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics recently released a report on indicators of children’s well-being and features statistics on children and families in the United States.
America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2013 is the sixteenth in an ongoing series of reports on children and family statistics. The reports look at 41 key indicators in seven domains: family and social environment, economic circumstances, health care, physical environment and safety, behavior, education, and health.
The report found interesting changes in the past two years and projected outcomes for the children’s population:
- A drop in births for unmarried women. 46 births for every 1,000 unmarried women ages 15–44 in 2011, down from 48 per 1,000 in 2010.
- A drop in the percentage of children from birth to 17 years with no usual source of healthcare, from 5 percent in 2010 to 4 percent in 2011.
- A drop in the percentage of children from birth to 17 years of age living with two married parents, from 65 percent in 2010 to 64 percent in 2011.
- A rise in the percentage of male and female 12th graders who reported binge drinking—consuming five or more alcoholic beverages in a row in the past two weeks—from 22 percent in 2011 to 24 percent in 2012.
- By 2050, about half of the American population ages under 17 is projected to be children who are Hispanic, Asian, or of two or more races.
- By 2050, the population of children under the age of 17 will make up 21 percent of the population.
Addressing the Suffering of Children
I was recently sent a link to The Mistakes Kids Make website. While taking the quiz, I was reminded of the difference between the negligible costs of my mistakes, from the potentially life-changing payment my black, 22 year old son might face for making the same mistakes. Though it is a difference that Stoneleigh strives to erase, it is a reality that was repeatedly mentioned at the Stoneleigh Symposium, From Risk to Resilience: What Youth Need to Thrive.
On May 8, representatives from all segments of the Philadelphia community came to discuss what it means to be resilient and how as individuals and a community, we can help youth thrive by making them so. Attendees came to hear from an adolescent pediatrician who has spent his career building on the strengths of teenagers by fostering their resilience, a young man from Boston who benefited from an ecosystem of youth development programs, one of his mentors who has spent 40 years serving youth and their families in Boston’s poorest and most violent community, the Deputy Commissioner of Philadelphia’s DHS who oversees the Division of Juvenile Justice Services and is a passionate advocate for fairness and equity in that system, and a Stoneleigh Fellow who developed and directs an alternative approach to dealing with violent crime.
Each of our speakers provided unique perspectives on what it means and what it takes to develop resilience in youth. Each of them addressed the reality that young black and brown boys and men are treated differently for the common mistakes they make in childhood and adolescence. However, all of the speakers agreed that it is never too late to transition youth from risk to resilience and that first and foremost all youth need to feel loved.
When we developed the symposium, this was not the core message I expected to hear from a scientist, a bureaucrat, or our friends from Boston. Though resilience is a basic human capacity, nascent in all children, and something that can be developed even in the most hurt children, it doesn’t just happen. In fact, for children who have faced a lifetime of social, racial and economic injustice, it demands intentional practice change that starts with caring adults.
Almost 50 Percent Fewer Youth Arrested in Florida Schools; News Roundup
Juvenile Justice Reform
- Courts making strides in protecting children, vulnerable adults (Lincoln Journal Star)
Supreme Court Chief Justice Heavican thanked lawmakers for passing legislation last session to enhance the Nebraska Juvenile Service Delivery Project, which is designed to keep children involved in the juvenile justice system from becoming repeat offenders. The project aims to keep children from being jailed while they receive services or treatment.
- Changes made in laws affecting youths (Midland Daily News)
It’s been years in the making, but now some big changes have been made to laws pertaining to juveniles in court. “The predominant push is the idea that we need to have laws that are geared to juveniles,” Midland County Probate Judge Dorene S. Allen said. “Not use adult laws for juveniles.”
- Almost 50 percent fewer youth arrested in Florida schools (Florida Department of Juvenile Justice)
The number of youth arrested in Florida’s public schools declined 48 percent in the past eight years, from more than 24,000 to 12,520, according to a study released by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. The decline corresponds with a downward trend in juvenile delinquency in all categories across the state.
- Building their future: Youth offenders learn woodworking, life skills in lockup (Waco Tribune-Herald)
In a small shop building at the state youth lockup in Mart, teenage boys who have gotten into trouble with the law are learning woodworking skills that officials hope can be put to good use for the community.
- Best Of 2012: Juvenile Justice Desk (Youth Radio)
In 2012, Youth Radio's Juvenile Justice Desk followed some major changes to youth sentencing in California and the nation.
The Court's Role in Reclaiming Our Children's Futures
Relying on negative reinforcement and punishment to rehabilitate a troubled teen is not effective, writes retired juvenile court Judge William Hitchcock in a Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE) op-ed. While teens should be held accountable for their offenses, courts should also help them get back on track and away from a life of crime. One way to do this is by building on their strengths.
Judge Hitchcock explains:
Despite the fact that the vast majority of offenders commit nonviolent property crimes, we still detain too many of these youth in the guise of managing misbehavior by consequences. Most of the disposition reports that I would read as a juvenile court judge contained only references to the negatives, rarely highlighting the assets that the young person may have.
Where is the other side of the coin? With rare exception, these youthful offenders have assets that can be built upon by an intentional approach to managing their probation. Yet most probation officers are not trained in strength-based planning.
Recognizing the role that courts can play in rehabilitating youth, Reclaiming Futures uses assessments to determine teens' needs and builds a plan around them. According to Judge Hitchcock:
Teens Learn Teamwork and Patience by Building Gingerbread Houses
Hardin County Reclaiming Futures was recently invited to speak to a local church group about their Recovery School (Hardin Community School) and Hardin County Reclaiming Futures Juvenile Drug Court. The church members loved hearing about the community initiative and wanted to reach out to the local youth by donating funds for a gingerbread house project.
The project began on December 10, 2012 for the Recovery School students who had a week to complete their houses. Now that the houses are finished, we are holding a contest on our Facebook page for the best houses. Hardin County’s Reclaiming Futures Fellows are also invited to come in for judging and awarding prizes. Almost the entire student body at the recovery school turned out to participate in the project.
Most students anticipated doing their own gingerbread house, but quickly realized that the task was not as easy as one would think and most began working together as teams to build the walls and the roofs. The houses were made of graham crackers and held together by a special icing to help hold the structure together. Decorations were available as multiple assortments of candies.
Rethinking Juvenile Justice: Promoting the Health and Well-Being of Crossover Youth
There are many reasons to be concerned about systemic failures that impede the promotion of healthy lifestyles for youth growing up in America’s economically challenged communities. Among the most notable are diminished academic institutions, lack of access to quality health care, limited exposure to the world of work, and trauma-induced behavioral and physical health effects associated with victimization and exposure to violence. And concerned we should be, as a growing body of research provides compelling evidence that these experiences persist far beyond adolescence.
As research linking childhood and youth experiences to adult health status has evolved, two subpopulations—youth in child welfare and juvenile justice systems—have become the primary focus of policy and practice reform. Recent research, however, suggests we may be paying too little attention to a third and perhaps more vulnerable group—youth with histories in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Increasingly referred to as “crossover youth,” a recent path-setting report funded by the Conrad Hilton Foundation found “membership in the crossover group to be a strong and consistent predictor of less desirable [adult] outcomes,” including heavy use of public services, high likelihood of criminal justice involvement, lower educational attainment, and extremely high use of outpatient mental health treatment (Culhane et al. 2011).
Most Popular Juvenile Justice Blog Posts | September 2012
Did you miss some of our blog posts last month? Not to worry - here's a round-up of the top 10 posts from September 2012.
10. Dismantling the Cradle to Prison Pipeline
A recent Children's Defense Fund report looks at the cradle-to-prison pipeline and offers ways to disrupt the cycle.
9. Phoenix House Uses the West Side Story Project to Disrupt the Cycle of Youth Violence
By connecting law enforcement agencies and troubled teens through the West Side Story, Phoenix House is interrupting the cycle of violence and distrust and encouraging positive youth development.
8. Pilot Juvenile Reentry Program in Illinois
Right on Crime's Jeanette Moll looks at a program in Illinois working to slash recidivism rates by targeting the underlying issues, whether related to substance abuse or family problems.
Phoenix House Uses the West Side Story Project to Disrupt the Cycle of Youth Violence
In September 2011, Phoenix House, one of the nation’s leading non-profit providers of substance abuse treatment, received a two-year grant from the Department of Justice to address the issue of youth violence using a curriculum called the West Side Story Project. For the past year, Phoenix House has been working with young adults at six of our program sites to deconstruct cultural stereotypes, build relationships with members of law enforcement, and promote peaceful conflict resolution – using themes and content from the musical West Side Story.
Funded via the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), the West Side Story Project got its start in Seattle in 2007, with the goal of increasing the capacity of law enforcement agencies to positively interact with at-risk kids through community partnerships. Phoenix House is fortunate to have had the project’s creator, Anna Laszlo, guiding our implementation of the grant across the country. Our work would not be possible without the participation of police departments in Arlington, Virginia; Dallas, Texas; Los Angeles and Santa Ana, California; and New York City and Suffolk County, New York.