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National Partnership for Juvenile Services: welcome to the path less traveled.

The National Partnership for Juvenile Services (NPJS) is a nonprofit collaboration of five juvenile justice advocacy groups committed to improving the nation's juvenile justice system by providing specific, results-oriented training and technical assistance. NPJS is a guardian for safety, ensuring confined youths are well-treated in secure and nonsecure environments. The group also ensures facility staff are given the requisite knowledge, skills and abilities to increase their overall job performance, their personal safety and the care they provide youths in their charge. NPJS advocates for fairness in the juvenile justice system by working to eliminate racial disparities. NPJS also understands the ever-present economic challenges of the juvenile justice system and is vigilant to provide cost-effective and efficient approaches to doing business that do not mitigate the safety of the youths, staff or community.

How It All Began

The words "collaboration" and "partnership" are frequently used when multiple entities want outsiders to think they are working together for the common good and bigger picture issue. However, true collaboration or true partnerships--in which groups merge completely and work together on all issues, good and bad--seem to be the path less traveled.

The poet John Donne once wrote, "No man is an island." This is true for individuals as well as for organizations. In the late 1990s, several juvenile justice organizations realized that more could be accomplished by working in partnership than by working alone or competing against each other for an increasingly shrinking amount of juvenile justice resources and funding. After Sept. 11, a subsequent shift in federal funding priorities away from juvenile justice further exacerbated the need for these nonprofit juvenile justice organizations to find an approach to minimize duplication and maximize resources. The time was right for these organizational leaders to build smarter and stronger alliances and improve marketing efforts.

Following a series of discussions, meetings and planning sessions, NPJS was formed. The National Juvenile Detention Association (NJDA), the National Association of Juvenile Correctional Agencies (NAJCA), the Juvenile Justice Trainers Association (JJTA), and the Council for Educators of At-Risk and Delinquent Youth (CEARDY) merged under the operational umbrella of NPJS. Members of one organization were now members of all the organizations. An administrative structure was developed to allow all business and financial issues of the respective organizations to flow through one centralized point.

Just recently, a fifth organization, the National Association for Children of Incarcerated Parents (NACIP), was added to the partnership. NACIP is dedicated to preventing the cycle of intergenerational crime through a comprehensive framework of resources, research and advocacy. More information about each of the NPJS partner organizations can be found on the NPJS Web site at www.npjs.org.

Strength in Numbers

Each of the individual organizations represents different disciplines of the juvenile justice continuum; however, all of the organizations are formally united under one operational structure. Building on years of experience, knowledge and skill, this structure allows for the individual organizations to focus on their missions while minimizing duplication of effort and maximizing the impact of limited resources.

Collectively, each of these organizations brings expertise and excellence in the design, development and delivery of:

* Best practices in staff training and professional development;

* Community-based prevention and intervention programs;

* Educational services for at-risk and delinquent youths;

* Safe and humane treatment of confined youths; and

* Sound systemic approaches to operating an effective and efficient juvenile justice system while also ensuring the safety of the surrounding communities.

The State of the Partnership

To suggest that the partnership was formed overnight without challenges or that the process has been smooth would be untrue. However, to the testament of each individual involved in the process, everyone realized that successful partnerships build relationships and draw upon the strengths of everyone involved. Different perspectives, skills and experiences bring various ideas and solutions to the table for the good of all parties.

Today, the state of the partnership is strong. A comprehensive strategic planning process has been undertaken, and new leaders are being identified and mentored to help build and sustain the infrastructure of the organization. NPJS is fortunate to have the strong support of the Eastern Kentucky University College of Justice and Safety, where the NPJS Executive Office is based. It is also supported by the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University, the focal point of the NPJS training and technical assistance coordination for the past several years via Michigan State's Center for Research and Professional Development (CRPD). The academic underpinnings and service-oriented philosophies of both institutions make them ideal to serve practitioner needs for best practices and model programs. The connection to higher education also assures local jurisdictions, federal agencies and private foundations that NPJS has reputable accountability and positive outcomes.

Challenges? NPJS still has plenty of those too, but as a group, it is confident, committed and dedicated to its vision of making the partnership the foremost authority in the juvenile justice field. Collectively, the partnership is becoming more preemptive and proactive, winning small victories and building upon those successes to continue growing and developing. The path less traveled is not quite so daunting when shared with friends, colleagues and professionals working toward the same goal.

Michael A. Jones is managing director of the National Partnership for Juvenile Services.

RELATED ARTICLE: NPJS Accomplishments

Since it began, NPJS has made some significant contributions to the nation's juvenile justice system. A few are highlighted below:

* Provided more than 212,000 hours of training and technical assistance nationwide;

* Reported more than 93,000 in-service training hours;

* Provided an NPJS product or service to every state;

* Increased local agencys' capacity to provide quality in-house training through Foundation Skills for Trainers programs in partnership with the National Institute of Corrections; and

* Averaged 12,163 training contact hours at an average cost of $31 per training hour. No other public training operation provided more educational services to the juvenile justice work force.
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Title Annotation:Juvenile Justice News
Author:Jones, Michael A.
Publication:Corrections Today
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2008
Words:975
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