On December 6, 2012, Casey Family Programs, Campaign for Youth Justice, and Justice for Families, in collaboration with OJJDP, sponsored a daylong retreat for Office staff on engaging families as valued partners in the juvenile justice system.
During the opening panel presentation, staff heard firsthand about what families face when their child enters the juvenile or criminal justice system. Presenters, who included youth who have experienced incarceration as well as parents of currently or previously incarcerated juveniles, spoke of a range of challenges: little or no information about their rights and about the legal process; difficulty in locating and visiting incarcerated family members; confinement of youth in facilities located far away from their families; exposure to violence in confinement; and a lack of mental health, education, and reentry services.
Grace Bauer, codirector of Justice for Families, first encountered the juvenile justice system when her 14-year-old son, an honor roll student in Sulphur, LA, was sentenced to 5 years in a juvenile justice facility for stealing a $300 stereo out of a pickup truck. While incarcerated, her son "was beaten, raped, abused, and neglected, and he had lots of issues when he came home," Ms. Bauer said. "And there was very little aftercare. I've talked to thousands of families whose children have been victimized by the system."
Following the panel presentation and discussion, OJJDP staff met with advocates, parents, and youth to identify specific strategies that OJJDP can use to raise public awareness about the need for family engagement and to incorporate the promotion of family engagement into all of the Office's work, including grant requirements and the development of training and technical assistance resources.
On December 14, OJJDP and its National Center for Youth in Custody launched a Webinar series on family engagement. The first Webinar, titled "Engaging and Empowering Families in Juvenile Justice: An Overview From the National, State, and Local Levels," focused on how to increase family engagement at all decision points in the justice system and showcased efforts that have successfully engaged families and improved outcomes for youth.
Panelists included Melodee Hanes, OJJDP Acting Administrator, as well as John Gomez and Tammy Schneiderman, director and client services coordinator, respectively, of the Colorado Department of Human Services' Division of Youth Corrections. The second Webinar in the series, "Expanding on the Definition of Family and Engagement," was held on February 13. The Webinar explored the definition of "family," discussed what it means for agencies and practitioners to meaningfully engage with families, and offered strategies for involving and empowering families of court-involved youth.
The Webinars were made available through OJJDP's National Training and Technical Assistance Center.
Information about upcoming Webinars on family engagement will be available on the Web site of the National Center for Youth in Custody. To learn more about OJJDP's efforts to support family engagement in the juvenile justice system, read the articles "Engaging Families as Valued Partners in the Juvenile Justice System" and "OJJDP Holds Family Engagement Listening Sessions" in past issues of OJJDP News @ a Glance.
The current issue of OJJDP's Journal of Juvenile Justice features an article about Juvenile Justice 101, a peer support program in Washington state that has proven helpful in educating parents and youth about, and engaging them more fully in, the court process. A guidebook for implementing the program is available online.