November | December 2014

Developmental Approaches to Juvenile Justice Reform Highlighted at OJJDP’s Training and Technical Assistance Provider Meeting
OJJDP hosted it’s Training and Technical Assistance Provider Network Meeting on October 23–24, 2014.
OJJDP Training and Technical Assistance Provider Network Meeting, October 23–24, 2014.

How can providers of juvenile delinquency and victimization services best benefit from OJJDP enhancing its training and technical assistance (TTA) services to transform and improve the lives of children, families, and communities? That is what an estimated 70 practitioners representing 50 organizations from across the country convened to discuss in Washington, DC, October 23–24, 2014, at OJJDP’s annual Training and Technical Assistance Provider Network Meeting.

Learning new methods for obtaining TTA through OJJDP, getting to know OJJDP staff, sharing information, and forming new partnerships were other goals of the meeting. "You are on the front lines for reforming juvenile justice; I need to know what you need," said Robert L. Listenbee, OJJDP Administrator, who opened the meeting, answered questions, and participated in sessions on both days.

Administrator Listenbee spoke to the attendees about how the adoption of a developmental approach when dealing with at-risk youth can transform the lives of the youth by preventing incarceration or, if incarceration occurs, by helping to prevent repeat offenses. Delinquency, Administrator Listenbee shared, oftentimes stops when a child receives support and counsel, such as from mentors. The Administrator also said that status offenses, such as truancy, can be addressed without throwing a minor in jail. The challenge, he said, is, "How are we going to have accountability for children without criminalization?" Administrator Listenbee said he wanted to hear from and partner more with prosecutors and law enforcement to find out.

Administrator Listenbee discussed the disproportionate number of minority youth in confinement. "When you’re a kid in the system and most of the kids you see are the same color as you," he said, "you know there’s something wrong. And it makes you angry."

Alex Piquero, Ph.D., professor of criminology, University of Texas at Dallas, and Cherie Townsend, consultant, presented results from surveys about the experiences of offenders. "The evidence on this is very clear. People want to be heard and they want to be treated fairly," said Dr. Piquero. According to Dr. Piquero, when adolescents in the system have "a fair experience with judges [or] police, they are less likely to offend again." Dr. Piquero and Ms. Townsend are among the co-authors of the OJJDP-sponsored report Implementing Juvenile Justice Reform: The Federal Role, recently released by The National Academies.

During break-out sessions, attendees discussed the resources and supports TTA providers most need to transform the juvenile justice system. The participants suggested that the Office—

  • Teach practitioners how to engage families—to bring family members into the process early, listen to their opinions, and address their needs—because family engagement can improve outcomes for system-involved youth.
  • Provide consistency in strategy and outcomes. Participants shared that changes in OJJDP administrators and staff can lead to a difficulty in moving forward efficiently. This might happen because continuity and progress can be lost when new staff members present different agendas or are not aware of progress that has already been made.
  • Provide strategic training about new techniques to ensure they can be adapted in diverse communities. For example, in a program such as drug courts, it is important to recognize that particular aspects may need to be revised so they will be successful in communities with varying needs.
  • Be strategic in training about new techniques as this is is essential to ensure those techniques can work in every community. For example, when a strategy becomes popular, like drug courts, recognizing that not every technique works for every situation or that additional tools may be needed for a technique to work in different communities. As it is now, there is not enough assistance to know how to implement, manage, and acquire needed resources, and how to educate the public for support to sustain drug courts.
  • Customize TTA so that it is applicable to the needs of all demographics.
  • Provide training on marketing and outreach so that providers can educate their communities about juvenile justice programs, how to access them, and why to support them.
  • Continue to create opportunities to share best practices.

Highlights of "TTA 360," under development by OJJDP’s National Training and Technical Assistance Center (NTTAC), were unveiled at the meeting. Set to launch in 2015, this Web-based resource will allow providers to request and schedule an array of TTA and track their requests online.

OJJDP plans to convene more meetings to enable more opportunities for live feedback and networking. "I want to partner with you to transform our nation," said Administrator Listenbee.

Resources:

Visit the NTTAC Web site to request training and technical assistance, register for Webinars and other events, and learn more about the latest in the field.

Learn more about the developmental approach to transforming juvenile justice by downloading the OJJDP-sponsored Reforming Juvenile Justice: A Developmental Approach from The National Academies Web site.