Juvenile Reentry Programs: Get Stakeholder Buy-in
Bring in Reinforcements
Getting “buy-in” refers to cultivating meaningful support from various stakeholders to implement reentry program efforts successfully. Stakeholders may include
- juvenile court judges and court services personnel
- state and local government officials
- juvenile defense attorneys and public defenders
- correctional/residential facility personnel
- juvenile parole or probation officers
- mental health or treatment service providers
- law enforcement
- school authorities
- potential employers
- members of the community
- parents, guardians or other caregivers
Steps to Take: Lessons Learned from the Research
Steps to Take: Lessons Learned from the Research
- Identify program champions who can help get support for the program.
- Encourage program champions to help in the development of programmatic goals and implementation.
- Use an implementation team to enhance the implementation process.
- Collaborate with leadership to get their support for the reentry program.
- Ensure buy-in from frontline staff who would be impacted by the implementation of a reentry program.
- Build a bridge across public and private organizations to increase long-term collaboration.
- Integrate opportunities for youth and family engagement into reentry program.
- Get buy-in from all members of the community directly affected by the implementation of certain types of reentry programs, such as gang interventions.
Find a Program Champion to Help Secure Support of the Program
A program champion can be someone who not only secures support from the community, but also serves as the go-to person for any questions and concerns about the program.
- Identify program champions who can help get support for the program. For example,
the Boys and Girls Club of America’s (BCGA’s) Targeted Reentry Initiative was implemented in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, and Wisconsin, with support obtained from different members of each community. In Alaska, a senior administrator and strong advocate for reentry services initially championed the program. Though this individual retired 3 years after program implementation began and there was considerable staff turnover, the program continued to operate because significant commitment and relationships were already established.
Alternatively, the absence of a program champion can also impact implementation. The BCGA program in Alabama, which initially benefited from the support of staff members who had prior experience with a similar reentry program model, had no program champion. Thus, because of a lack of support, training, and communication between program and facility staff, the BCGA program was terminated after 2 years.
- Encourage program champions to help in the development of programmatic goals and implementation. For example, the Philadelphia Intensive Aftercare Probation (IAP) Program was supported by a single juvenile court judge. The IAP program, which provided intensive supervision and case management by juvenile probation officers, did not provide probation officers with training or any written materials describing the program’s mission or goals. In the end, officers relied on the leadership of the juvenile judge to gradually develop a sense of program philosophy.
- Identify program champions who can help get support for the program. For example, the Boys and Girls Club of America’s (BCGA’s) Targeted Reentry Initiative was implemented in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, and Wisconsin, with support obtained from different members of each community. In Alaska, a senior administrator and strong advocate for reentry services initially championed the program. Though this individual retired 3 years after program implementation began and there was considerable staff turnover, the program continued to operate because significant commitment and relationships were already established.
Establish an Implementation Team
An implementation team can help gain support for the program during planning and offer guidance once the program begins. This team ensures fidelity of the intervention, monitors outcomes, and addresses barriers.
- Use an implementation team to enhance the implementation process. In Colorado’s Intensive Aftercare Program (IAP), a management team consisting of high-level administrators from the central office, program champions, community members, and facility personnel regularly met to ensure that multiple stakeholder perspectives were incorporated into the planning process and to provide ongoing support, guidance, and monitoring throughout the implementation process. However, though the same program was implemented in Nevada, a formal management team was never created, which may have hampered the project’s ability to resolve key issues such as the liaison vacancies and contract problems.
Secure Buy-In from Staff (All Levels)
Getting support from leadership (i.e., senior administrators and middle management) is crucial to help foster buy-in from frontline staff. But you must also get the support of frontline staff directly involved in implementation.
- Collaborate with leadership to get their support of the reentry program. A program manager who is present for the day-to-day operations of a program can establish staff buy-in and support. For example, the Sex Offender Treatment Unit at the Illinois Youth Center at Harrisburg had a program manager who visited the facility several times a day. Protocol was established for staff concerns and feedback, and follow up on every question or concern was made by a specific response date, even in instances where the answer was that there was no response. Such an environment encouraged open and effective communication, and a shared sense of responsibility for the reentry effort.
- Ensure buy-in from frontline staff who would be impacted by the implementation of a reentry program. Develop a realistic plan to get buy-in from frontline staff that is suitable for your agency. One approach is to organize meetings that describe the goals and desired outcomes of the reentry program, how the program can address identified problems in your jurisdiction, and address staff concerns. For example, the program manager of Sex Offender Treatment Unit established regular monthly meetings for all treatment providers, security personnel, educators, office staff, and any others who worked regularly with program youth.
- Build a bridge across public and private organizations to increase long-term collaboration. Many reentry programs require the collaboration of stakeholders, including parole or probation officers, care coordinators, therapists, teachers, and clergy. For example, the Wayne County Second Chance Reentry Program developed a task force consisting of all administrators and leaders from the county and from each of the participating community organizations and residential facilities. These meetings maintained open channels of communication, which would otherwise not exist.
Secure Buy-In from Parents and GuardiansWhether voluntary or court-mandated, parents and guardians need to support and work together with youth and program staff to successfully reintegrate youth into the community.
- Integrate opportunities for youth and family engagement into reentry program. Some programs bring families together in therapeutic or community settings to help them work through any familial trauma or problem behaviors and plan for a youth’s return into the home. Other programs work directly with families to improve their skills. For example, the Multisystemic Therapy–Family Integrated Transition (MST–FIT) program works individually with parents and guardians for about 2 hours every week in the home to improve family-management skills and to reinforce therapeutic skills that youth learned during incarceration. Families are connected to several community services, including an FIT coach, who is available 24 hours, 7 days a week. Such family/parental involvement is consistent with research that suggests that this is a significant protective factor for preventing violent behavior. For more information on the impact of families, see the MPG literature review Protective Factors Against Delinquency.
Secure Buy-In from the CommunityCommunity support is crucial for a reentry program. Community members (including those identified during the community needs assessment process) may feel that reentry efforts represent a risk to public safety. This concern cannot be easily dismissed, as a lack of community support could mean a loss of funding or other resources.
- Get buy-in from all members of the community directly affected by the implementation of certain types of reentry programs, such as gang interventions. For example, Texas’s Gang Intervention Treatment Reentry Development for Youth (GitRedy) made specific efforts to integrate community members in early identification and support of gang-involved youth who were released back into communities. Staff held monthly formal community meetings across three Houston neighborhoods and had informal conversations with youth and families. These opportunities allowed community members to identify problem areas and any return to gang involvement of youth in the GitRedy program.
Steps to Take:
Juvenile Reentry Programs
- Establishing clear programs goals
- Conducting a needs assessment
- Doing supportive research
- Getting stakeholder buy-in
- Identifying specific jurisdictional issues
References and Levels of Evidence
*for details about the references and levels of evidence for the Juvenile Reentry Programs I-Guide.
I-Guide Category Reference
- These components relate to building a solid foundation before implementing an evidence-based intervention.
- These components assist with putting a program or practice into place.
- These components relate to stabilizing and sustaining the program or practice within the community or jurisdiction.
Review the I-Guide Glossary Page for a complete listing.
Development Services Group, Inc. 2018. MPG I-Guides: Juvenile Reentry Programs. Washington, D.C.: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. https://www.ojjdp.gov/mpg-iguides/topics/juvenile-reentry-programs/
Prepared by Development Services Group, Inc., under contract number GS–10F–0166K.