Chapter 2: Policy And Program Development For Serving Female Juvenile Delinquents|
Common Steps in Policy Development
The impetus to develop a policy for serving girl delinquents can originate from a number of different sources, such as governors' offices, state legislatures, state agencies, community organizations, juvenile courts, and others. Rather than being all-inclusive, the steps highlighted below are given as examples of those steps that have proven useful in states that have already developed policies for serving girls.
Get organized. Many states have developed policies to better serve girls by forming a task force or working group to focus attention and gather information on the specific needs of girls in the juvenile justice system. Accurate information on the scope and nature of the problems girls face within a particular state or region will guide the development of gender-specific policies. In some states, a formal task force or legislative study group has grown out of a more informal network of service providers who work firsthand with delinquent girls. In other instances, committees addressing the issues of women offenders or community services have expanded their scope to include delinquent girls.
Define mission, vision, goals and objectives. Answer such questions as, What is the purpose of the task force or other planning group? How will the mission be accomplished? Who will be involved in the process?
Gather information that presents the scope and nature of problems girls face within a particular state. Some states, such as Oregon, have undertaken a county-by-county assessment to obtain an accurate picture of girls and availability of programs in urban, rural, and suburban communities. Town meetings, focus groups, and grassroots meetings are all useful forums for gathering information about girls and defining their problems in local communities.
Disseminate findings. Once information has been gathered, an information campaign can advance understanding of the unique problems girls face, highlight the lack of services available to them, and obtain public support for gender-specific programs. Such campaigns can make the "invisible" population of girl offenders more visible. In Oregon, for example, a quarterly newsletter ("Oregon Girls Advocate") was published in 1991-92 to promote awareness of the problems and needs of girls and young women related to physical and sexual abuse, alcohol and drug abuse, homelessness, and teen pregnancy.
Lobby for legislation and conduct ongoing advocacy to address needs of girls in juvenile justice and secure funding for gender-specific programming. Engage support from likely allies, such as other agencies or community groups that serve girls.
Plan for implementation. What actions need to be taken? What individuals and agencies should be involved in the process? What resources are available? What are the estimated costs and timetables for implementation? For example, in Minnesota, the task force decided to implement an annual statewide conference to train corrections staff on gender-specific approaches to working with girl offenders.
Overcome barriers. In some states, task forces have also had to overcome impediments to policy development. Common impediments include: