Improving Outcomes for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System
A new online resource with concrete strategies, tools, examples, and best-practice models is available to city officials looking for positive results from their municipality's juvenile justice system programs.
This is a guest post by Elizabeth Seigle.
Research and field experience have demonstrated that the substance of a particular juvenile justice policy, practice or program is only as good its implementation. It is up to local policymakers and system leaders to prioritize the high-quality implementation of research-informed policies and practices. Without strategies and tools for guiding implementation processes, juvenile justice practitioners may fall short of producing significant results.
In January, the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center released the Juvenile Justice Research-to-Practice Implementation Resources. These online resources provide juvenile justice agency managers, staff, and other practitioners with concrete strategies, tools, examples, and best-practice models to help them implement research-informed policies and practices. Mayors and municipal officials may refer to these resources when advancing efforts in their own cities that are aimed at improving outcomes for youth in the juvenile justice system, and use them to help ensure that changes to policy, practice and resource allocations reflect best practice and are implemented properly.
The resources, organized by common challenges for juvenile justice programs and agencies, draw from the expertise of researchers and promising practices identified by practitioners around the country. Each resource offers methods to address those common challenges, specifically in the areas of Family Engagement and Involvement and Evidence-Based Programs and Services.
Family Engagement and Involvement
Practitioners often struggle to engage, involve, and empower the families of youth in the juvenile justice system. Because they work at the level of government closest to communities, city leaders can support local juvenile justice agency managers as they partner with leaders from probation offices, detention centers and community-based providers to apply several family engagement and involvement strategies, including:
- Defining family broadly and identifying family members and other supportive adults using visual tools, questionnaires, and other models from the field
- Establishing a culture of alliance with families who have children in the juvenile justice system through staff trainings, family-focused policies and protocols, family guides and peer supports
- Involving families in supervision and service decisions through family team meetings, group conferencing models and family-oriented, evidence-based programs
- Providing family contact opportunities for youth in facilities through flexible and inclusive policies, transportation assistance, communication technology and events to celebrate youth
- Establishing and tracking family engagement performance measures through family advisory groups, family surveys and focus groups
Evidence-Based Programs and Services
Juvenile justice agencies and contracted service providers frequently encounter challenges in identifying appropriate evidence-based programs and services and implementing them properly, consistently and in ways that lead to better outcomes for youth. City leaders can work with their local juvenile justice agency to adopt several strategies for effectively implementing evidence-based programs and services for youth in the justice system, including:
- Developing city ordinances that provide or increase funding for evidence-based programs and services, as well as funding for training staff and service providers in the proper implementation of evidence-based programs and services
- Creating city council policy or legislation that mandates the establishment of service quality standards for youth in facilities or in the community
- Requiring juvenile justice systems and service providers to regularly report to the city council on the progress and outcomes of youth under juvenile justice system supervision and on the performance of service providers
When city leaders champion proven strategies and multisystem collaboration, they emphasize the importance of effective, thoughtful juvenile justice strategies for the whole community.
About the Author: Elizabeth Seigle is the grantee technical assistance manager for Corrections and Reentry at the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center. She oversees technical assistance to local and state juvenile justice agencies implementing the Second Chance Act and other programs funded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs and awarded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Ms. Seigle also supports the CSG Justice Center’s juvenile justice projects and initiatives.