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Re-Entry at the Point of Entry. (CT Feature).

A frightened youth is ushered into a conference room at the local juvenile detention center. During his dispositional hearing the previous Friday, he was ordered into the custody of the Missouri Division of Youth Services (DYS).

"Hi, Jeremy," says the service coordinator. "My name is Tanya and I work for the Division of Youth Services. It is my job to work with you and your family to get you the help you need. To do this, it is important that we communicate openly and honestly about the problems that got you to this point and the changes you need to make. That way, you will be able to return home and be successful."

So begins a typical youth's tenure with DYS -- a process guided at the outset with the goal of successful transition back home and to the community. DYS service coordinators understand the necessity of planning for the eventual release of youths from the very beginning. It has become an underlying philosophy within the agency. However, like many other juvenile justice agencies across the country, such a notion has not always been present in Missouri. Indeed, an all too common tendency has been for aftercare and transitional services to be an afterthought, leaving such services a neglected component within traditional juvenile justice systems.

Professionals in the field agree that the ultimate measure of success for residential or institutional treatment programs is the assurance that youths exiting such facilities maintain positive gains and refrain from re-offending or engaging in otherwise problematic behaviors upon return to the community. The false perception that youths have "completed" treatment or rehabilitation while in residential programs may inadvertently contribute to a sense of overconfidence and a subsequent denial of ongoing risk of recidivism. Herein lies the importance of developing transitional and aftercare programming, whereby youths receive additional treatment, education, monitoring and other support services following release from a residential or institutional treatment program.

In Missouri, DYS, which is located within the Department of Social Services, manages juvenile offenders. Missouri's approach to juvenile justice includes a balanced focus on rehabilitation and community safety, which is reflected in the DYS mission statement: "to enable youths to fulfill their needs in a responsible manner within the context of and with respect for the needs of the family and the community." In fulfilling this mission, DYS maintains a commitment to protecting the safety of Missouri's citizens by providing individualized and comprehensive needs based services that ultimately enable youths to successfully return to their families and communities. To accomplish this, DYS facilities have evolved during the past two decades from large, statewide training schools that emphasized custodial care into small, regionally based treatment programs designed to serve youths and their families close to home.

Accompanying the movement from large correctional institutions was a dramatic and important shift in philosophies and approaches. More specifically, while maintaining a commitment to public safety, DYS adopted a strong emphasis on providing individualized treatment and educational services within a therapeutic and supportive environment. Each DYS facility is small, most ranging from 10 to 30 beds, with youths placed in groups of 10 to ensure more individualized intervention and attention -- a 30-bed facility is comprised of three groups of 10 youths housed in cottages or dormitories. There are no cells, no bars on windows, no stark concrete walls, no stale institutional buildings and no uniforms. Instead, the facilities resemble schools and campuses. Even in secure care programs, which may be surrounded by perimeter fencing, the interiors reflect a more natural and homelike atmosphere. The youths' achievements, educational and treatment projects, artwork and family photos are displayed proudly throughout the facilities. Although safety and security are emphasized, correctional officers are not present. Facility staff, most of whom have degrees in the social services or juvenile justice, are part of a treatment team.

Overall, the teams strive to provide a consistent, safe, caring and structured environment. Within this environment, youths are afforded the opportunity to take responsibility for their behaviors. In addition, they are taught to recognize the various factors associated with their unhealthy decisions and to identify and practice appropriate and effective ways of meeting their needs while respecting others' rights. While individual and family counseling are significant components of the programming, a group modality is emphasized. The division program prohibits shame-based, punitive, highly confrontational and power-based techniques and instead, uses invitational, strength-based, respectful and dignified approaches that focus on therapeutic engagement. A versatile blend provides for more individualized approaches that are less rigid and limiting in scope and application, allowing staff to modify their approaches. The services and approaches DYS provides include:

* A continuum of security and programming, ranging from community-based and nonresidential programs, such as alternative living and day treatment, to residential programs, including group homes, and moderate and secure care placements;

* Comprehensive, standardized needs and risk assessments that enhance classification and placement decisions and facilitate development of individualized treatment plans;

* An emphasis on individualized psychosocial, educational and vocational needs;

* Community-based partnerships for job placement and alternative education;

* Incorporation of treatment outcome exploration, quality assurance and program reviews to evaluate efficacy and improve service delivery;

* Demonstrated investment and commitment toward collaboration with local juvenile courts in early intervention and prevention efforts through the provision of more than $6 million for diversionary programs; and

* A singular case management system in which a service coordinator follows each youth throughout his or her tenure with DYS.

The development of the case management system has resulted in increased attention to and emphasis on transitional and aftercare services.

The DYS case management system was developed to facilitate assessment, treatment planning, and coordination and monitoring of services for youths and their families. Service coordinators, or case managers, are the primary link between the division, the youths and their families, and the juvenile or family courts. In general, service coordinators are responsible for ensuring that youths adhere to court orders and are appropriately supervised and meet expectations, such as attending work, school, treatment and community service. To that end, service coordinators perform comprehensive risk and needs assessments that lead to development of individual treatment plans. The plan clearly articulates areas of need, short- and long-term steps toward goals, resources to achieve those goals and target dates for completion.

As the ultimate goal for youths is to successfully reintegrate into the community, ensuring that comprehensive and appropriate transitional and aftercare services are identified and delivered is a critical element of the service coordinator's role. Comprehensive planning for re-entry at the outset is, therefore, an underlying tenet of the division. Ideally, when service coordinators first meet youths, they have information provided by the court of adjudication. Social histories provided by local juvenile officers assist service coordinators with important contextual information about prior offenses, family composition, medical and educational needs, and possible avenues of support. The hypothetical scenario in the introduction describes meeting first with the youth, then with his parents because youths often are reluctant to share information in the presence of their parents. Otherwise, anger and resentment may become the focus of the discussion, yielding little in the way of useful direction. Service coordi nators must establish themselves as advocates for both the youths and their families. Building a foundation of trust and respect is vital to success.

Beyond information-gathering, a primary importance of the interviews with youths and their families is to establish their roles as active partners in the rehabilitation process. The immediate message delivered is that the youths and their families are expected to engage, invest and take ownership in the process as active collaborators -- treatment and services are done with, rather than to, the youths and their families. Interview results, coupled with the risk and needs assessments, serve as a guide for the service coordinators when developing specific, needs-based and individualized programming. In an effort to promote quality and individualized service delivery, DYS maintains a commitment to preserve low caseloads -- fewer than 20 youths are assigned to each service coordinator. Further, to increase availability to clients and communities, service coordinators are strategically placed in locations that are in close proximity to the communities they serve. As such, frequent contact, resource development, c ivic involvement and community interaction are facilitated and enhanced.

Aftercare

Missouri's aftercare consists of an indefinite period of time that youths remain on caseloads but have transitioned into the community. While transitional and aftercare services occur alter residential placement, initial individual treatment planning is always developed around and directed toward reintegration. As the division has evolved, there has been a directed and diligent effort toward broadening the services to maximize the potential for each youth's effective reintegration. Careful and thoughtful consideration of the youths' continued needs has subsequently resulted in service delivery that transcends typical work schedules and illustrates resourcefulness on the part of staff. The range of services now offered by DYS in the aftercare phase is consistent with the services provided in residential programming, e.g., family therapy, drug and alcohol counseling, general equivalency diploma (GED) preparation, community service, sex offender groups, mentoring services, and college and vocational programming . The administration of these services inevitably takes on the flavor of the region and locale. Overall, DYS' response to transitional and aftercare programming has been to encourage and expect a "whatever it takes" attitude.

Intensive Care Supervision

The whatever it takes approach has resulted in the development of the Intensive Case Supervision Program, in which social service aides, known as "trackers," maintain consistent and frequent contact with youths in aftercare or community care. Employed under the direction of the service coordinators, trackers typically are college students majoring in social work or related fields, whose schedules permit them to serve in a variety of capacities, enhancing supervision, monitoring and supportive functions. While serving as mentors and role models, trackers also facilitate accountability by ensuring that the youths with whom they work meet program expectations and supervision conditions, such as curfew restrictions, school attendance, counseling and community service activities. In addition, trackers provide transportation to therapy and educational meetings, offer tutoring, participate in recreational activities, assist with obtaining and completing employment applications, and provide supportive and paraprofes sional counseling services. The trackers are a valued complement to case management and intensive supervision components. Beyond the clear benefits to youths as a result of frequent and consistent contact and mentoring, trackers are a cost-effective way to enhance supervision of youths while reducing demands on service coordinators' caseloads. This affords service coordinators the ability to attend to the variety of case management-related issues that arise. Further, trackers enjoy invaluable experience in their fields of study and often become an excellent recruitment source for DYS.

Day Treatment Programs

Further exemplifying DYS' whatever it takes approach to transitional and aftercare services has been the establishment of day treatment programs. Although primarily designed to divert lower-risk youths from residential placement, day treatment programs provide an effective transitional service for youths re-entering the community following release from residential care. Day treatment programs provide youths with community-based, structured, alternative educational programming. In addition to academic and vocational instruction, day treatment programs incorporate psychoeducational groups and other treatment interventions. The program includes nontraditional hours of operation, which extend into evenings and weekends to incorporate "day treatment plus" activities. Included among the numerous day treatment plus elements are community service projects, family therapy, individual counseling, GED skills enrichment, substance abuse prevention, life skills, tutoring, mentoring services and planned outings during whi ch important socialization skills can be practiced and reinforced. Typically, youths committed to DYS are targeted for day treatment programs, although other at-risk or low-risk youths may be referred by local juvenile courts, public schools and other agencies. Overall, Missouri's day treatment programs and accompanying services allow for practicing skills learned in residential programs and provide an excellent community resource with sufficient structure to facilitate a gradual and, consequently, more successful reintegration into public school or employment settings.

Jobs Program

Treatment and educational services are integral to individual youth development planning, and Missouri continues to refine educational programming. DYS recently has been evaluated through Missouri's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's School Improvement Plan, receiving state accreditation. Efforts to provide youths with vocational programming resulted in development of the DYS Jobs Program. This program allows youths to gain employment skills and receive minimum wage compensation through a contractual agreement between DYS and the Division of Workforce Development. Funding is identified by DYS through the state's Workforce Investment Areas, whose local entities then provide payroll functions to residential, day treatment and service coordinator sites. Program benefits include acquisition of specific job skills as is the case in some programs in which youths train under maintenance staff and have set foundation forms and poured concrete, installed vinyl siding and landscaped the grounds. Yet an other approach to providing vital job skills is being developed in which a commitment has been made to provide integrated vocational programming with traditional academics. To that end, required academic curricula have been structured to focus on career applicability. The impetus for this approach lies in the effort to provide youths with skills beyond those required for entry-level jobs. Thus, upon release from the residential program, youths, whether they obtain a GED or return to public school, are better prepared to seek and maintain employment. In addition to acquiring skills, the wages earned from the jobs program have enabled youths to make restitution payments and contributions to the Crime Victims' Compensation Fund.

During the aftercare phase, service coordinators network with government or nonprofit organizations to place transitioning youths in appropriate sites, where they may gain a further understanding of the work world, as well as the importance of community service. A common collateral effect of these placements is a decrease in the tension in the communities in which the youths committed their crimes.

Health Care

A fundamental service warranting attention from a re-entry perspective is the focus on health care needs. Upon commitment to the division, youths receive medical, dental, vision and mental health screenings, physical examinations and qualified reviews of any medications they may have been prescribed. As youths progress through treatment and approach discharge, a variety of transitional health care efforts occur. While residential programming provides youths with appropriate health care, challenges often arise during the aftercare phase. Consequently, service coordinators collaborate with the nursing and treatment staff regarding ongoing and potential health care needs, assess the ability of the family or guardian to provide for such needs, orient youths and their families to community resources and, when necessary, enroll youths in Missouri's MC+ program, which pro vides health insurance to qualified recipients. Part of DYS' needs-based approach is the recognition that the medical well-being of youths in its care is a primary concern that, left untended, severely impairs the therapeutic value of other services.

Other Services

Additional transitional services for youths in the aftercare phase include sex offender management groups, substance abuse programming and family therapy services. Juvenile sex offender groups that use cognitive behavioral and relapse prevention models exist in both residential and aftercare settings. Involving families and providing them with resources and ongoing treatment support are recognized as critical aspects of the effective supervision of juvenile sex offenders. Understanding pre-offense patterns and the sex offense cycle, victim empathy and creation of a relapse prevention plan are common treatment targets within the groups. The aftercare sex offender groups provide a therapeutic link to the reality of lifetime accountability for behavior and offer. the opportunity for juveniles and their families to discuss day-to-day challenges and successes. Similar participation in substance abuse services has become an important transitional and aftercare need for youths.

Family therapy occurs within DYS facilities, as well as in the families' homes. Ideally, regional family specialists initiate therapy when youths are in residential care, continuing once they re-enter the community. Monitoring the youths' reunification process with family allows the possibility of both appropriate intervention and validation of progress that the members might otherwise fail to recognize. Family support groups, designed to provide parents and guardians with an opportunity to share challenges and successes with others in similar positions, began experiencing better involvement when transportation was offered. When day treatment sites are too remote, service coordinator offices or residential programming sites serve aftercare youths. The emphasis on family involvement reflects an agencywide adherence to a multisystemic approach and recognition that families are critical to successful transition and re-entry. Unfortunately, a common pitfall has been for juvenile justice systems to become solely offender-focused. In other words, rehabilitative efforts and services are directed exclusively toward young offenders, failing to recognize the multisytemic needs (i.e., school, peers, family, community). Consequently, the perceived "troubled" but now "rehabilitated" youths are returned to their families, while other aspects of the system have remained status quo, often leading to less than desirable results.

Despite the numerous transitional and aftercare services, inevitably, there are cases in which youths in the community nonetheless continue to exhibit difficulties with the re-entry process. In those circumstances, the division uses sheltering and sanctioning strategies, depending on the severity of the behaviors and intended outcome of the intervention. Youths involved in the sheltering and/or sanctioning process have reported that the aspect with the greatest impact on them, beyond removal from the community, is facing many of the youths remaining in the residential program who had been there during their tenure, identifying and discussing lapsing or relapsing behaviors with their peers. Reviewing and critically examining coping strategies and challenges can lead to invaluable insights for all involved.

In an era when a prevailing sentiment is that nothing works for juvenile offenders, Missouri's DYS continues to challenge that presumption and demonstrates that with sound transitional planning from the outset and dedication to comprehensive service delivery, successful re-entry can, in fact, be achieved.

Kit Glover, M.Ed., is treatment and education coordinator and Kurt Bumby, Ph.D., is assistant deputy director for the Missouri Division of Youth Services.
COPYRIGHT 2001 American Correctional Association, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:eventual release of detained youth
Author:Glover, Kit; Bumby, Kurt
Publication:Corrections Today
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2001
Words:2975
Previous Article:Promoting Community Change for Juvenile Justice: Collaborative Change and Community Partnerships. (CT Feature).
Next Article:Relationships' Role in Female Juvenile Delinquency. (CT Feature).
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