January | February 2018

News in Brief

AMBER Alert: 22 Years of Progress in Recovering Abducted Children

AMBER Alert logoOn January 13, 1996, 9-year-old Amber Hagerman was abducted while riding her bicycle in Arlington, TX. She was later found murdered. The AMBER Alert program (an acronym for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response and named in honor of Miss Hagerman) began that year when broadcasters in Dallas-Fort Worth, TX, teamed up with local police to develop an early warning system to help find abducted children. Subsequently, every January 13 is commemorated as National AMBER Alert Awareness Day.

Today, the system is being used in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Indian country, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and 22 other countries. In addition to radio and TV alerts, messages are delivered via Department of Transportation signs, cell phone notifications, digital billboards, Internet service providers, text messages, and web and social media posts.

OJJDP engages numerous partners across the nonprofit, corporate, and technology sectors to bolster the AMBER Alert program. Partners include the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, federal law enforcement agencies, wireless carriers, Internet service providers, social media outlets, and the Outdoor Advertising Association of America. In addition, collaboration with apps, such as Waze and Uber, and other communications entities, such as Google and Bing are strengthening the AMBER Alert system and enhancing our nation’s capacity to locate and recover abducted children. As of January 8, 2018, a total of 910 children had been successfully recovered through the AMBER Alert system.

The Department of Justice also provides a wide range of training and technical assistance online to enhance the AMBER Alert program.

Deputy Administrator Garry Addresses State Advisory Group in Florida

On January 25, 2018, OJJDP Deputy Administrator Eileen M. Garry participated in Florida’s state advisory group (SAG) meeting as part of OJJDP’s continuing commitment to improving relationships with the states. There are 56 SAGs nationwide that are responsible for monitoring and supporting their respective state’s or territory’s progress in complying with the core protections of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.

Deputy Administrator Garry acknowledged the SAG’s hard work and successes, thanked SAG members for their dedication to improving the juvenile justice system and the lives of children, and recognized a number of the SAG’s innovative programs.

One such program is the Civil Citation initiative, which diverts first-time misdemeanor offenders to community service as an alternative to arrest. This program has helped the state save millions of dollars on formal delinquency processing and has facilitated partnerships between community stakeholders.

Also notable, Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice started using a screening tool to identify child trafficking victims and is conducting statewide trainings to teach professionals and citizens how to recognize and address victimization.

Ms. Garry also praised the state’s efforts to address disproportionate minority contact and promote fairness in Florida’s juvenile justice system, as well as efforts to provide law enforcement training programs that teach de-escalation techniques and cultural competencies with the goal of enhancing officer-youth relationships.

New Tool Streamlines Federal Grant Application Process 

Applying for OJJDP Funding Using Grants.gov's WorkspaceThrough formula and discretionary grants, OJJDP provides funding to states, territories, localities, tribal communities, and private organizations to (1) develop and implement prevention and intervention programs and (2) improve the juvenile justice system so that it protects public safety, holds justice-involved youth appropriately accountable, and provides tailored treatment and rehabilitative services.

All competitive discretionary applications are submitted in Grants.gov. To improve the grant funding application experience, Grants.gov has replaced its PDF application process with Grants.gov Workspace—a fast, easy, and secure alternative to apply for federal grants. Workspace is a shared, online environment that allows team members to simultaneously access and edit different forms within an application. Forms can be completed online or downloaded individually and uploaded to Workspace. Learn more about the new grant application process.

OJJDP will soon post fiscal year 2018 funding opportunities as outlined in the Department of Justice program plan. Prospective applicants are encouraged to review the Before You Apply and Applying for Federal Grants infographics for tips on how to apply for grants and develop effective applications.

Stay connected with OJJDP to receive notices of new funding opportunities as they become available.

Deputy Administrator Jones Addresses Family Drug Court Grantee Meeting

On January 31, 2018, OJJDP Deputy Administrator Chyrl Jones addressed the Office’s Family Drug Court Statewide System Improvement program grantees at their annual meeting.

Four teams from Colorado, Iowa, New York, and Ohio convened in Washington, DC, for 2 days to share successes and challenges regarding the work done over the past 3 years to improve family drug courts in their states. The goal of the program is to enhance cross-systems collaboration by infusing effective family drug court practices into the larger child welfare, substance use disorder, and dependency court systems. The program also increases the scale and scope of family drug courts across the states.

Deputy Administrator Jones highlighted a few of the grantees’ accomplishments and praised their efforts to create a new tailored approach for working with families by building on best practices in the field and instituting evidence-based services to make a large-scale impact.

Additionally, Ms. Jones lauded the teams for their successes with:

  • Instituting early assessment and engagement practices statewide so families are appropriately identified and treated for their substance use disorders.
  • Implementing universal screening to identify substance use disorders in families involved with the child welfare system.
  • Doubling the number of families served by family drug treatment courts in their respective states.

Ms. Jones thanked the leadership and staff at Children and Family Futures (CFF) for directing and guiding the project through training and technical assistance. After breakout sessions and presentations, staff from OJJDP, CFF, and the four state teams came together to share lessons learned and exchange ideas for future improvements to the family drug court systems.

Justice Department Solicits Public Comment on Tribal Set-Aside Funding

The U.S. Department of Justice's  (DOJ’s) Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation (CTAS) initiative enables federally recognized tribes and tribal consortia to submit a single application for most of DOJ’s tribal grant programs. As of fiscal year (FY) 2017, the Department has awarded approximately 1,866 CTAS grants totaling more than $827 million to American Indian and Alaska Native communities. The tribes are using these funds to enhance law enforcement, bolster justice systems, prevent and control delinquency, strengthen the juvenile justice system, serve victims, and support other efforts to combat crime.

The President’s budget for FY 2018 requests $518 million for public safety initiatives in Indian country. An additional $91 million may become available to tribes as part of a 7-percent flexible tribal grant set-aside, as authorized by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 (Public Law 115-31). To receive tribes’ comments on how best to use those funds and discuss the potential policy changes that may accompany the funding, DOJ hosted a set-aside consultation on the final day of the National Congress of American Indians’ (NCAI) Executive Council Winter Session in Washington, DC.

The February 15 consultation is part of a larger effort to elicit input from tribal communities. On October 13, 2017, DOJ sent a letter to tribal leaders informing them of the Department’s intention to conduct the consultation and host a series of listening sessions, conference calls, and webinars on the set-aside funding. The first listening session took place on October 18, in association with NCAI’s annual meeting in Milwaukee, WI. The second listening session was held in association with a CTAS orientation at the American Indian Justice conference on December 6, in Palm Springs, CA. Schedules for the webinars and conference calls are forthcoming.

To provide written comments on the tribal grant set-aside, email DOJtribalfunding@usdoj.gov. Visit DOJ’s website to learn about its tribal funding history.

Deputy Administrator Garry Discusses OJJDP Resources at Navajo Public Safety Summit

On February 1, 2018, OJJDP Deputy Administrator Eileen M. Garry joined officials, community leaders, and other stakeholders at the 2018 Navajo Nation Public Safety Summit in Flagstaff, AZ. “The Department of Justice has a long and sustained partnership with American Indian and Alaska Native governments and wants to improve justice and public safety in tribal communities,” Ms. Garry said. “We want you to know that we are vested in your success.”

Ms. Garry informed attendees about funding available through the Department of Justice’s Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation (CTAS). CTAS combines most of the Department’s tribal government-specific grant programs under one solicitation, allowing federally recognized tribes and tribal consortia to submit one application for funds to address crime and enhance public safety. Ms. Garry noted that the CTAS process was refined, clarified, and streamlined by tribal leaders’ feedback that is helping the Department to more comprehensively address each tribe’s needs.

Ms. Garry also shared information about program-specific training and technical assistance and an online CTAS application preparation guide that OJJDP provides to support tribes’ efforts to strengthen their public safety systems.

Summit sessions focused on coordinating resources more efficiently to eliminate delays in service, maximizing resources to meet significant community needs, and working collaboratively to prevent people from entering the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

OJJDP Convenes Brown Bag Session on Innovative Approach to Mentoring

On January 24, 2018, invited speaker Jean E. Rhodes, the Frank L. Boyden Professor of Psychology and the Research Director for the Center of Evidence-based Mentoring at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, presented to OJJDP staff on her mentoring research as part of the Office’s “Lunch and Learn” series.

Attendees learned about the potential benefits of the youth-initiated mentoring approach, which encourages youth to identify and recruit a mentor from within their existing social networks. Dr. Rhodes explained that encouraging youth and instructing them on how to select their own mentors gives youth a sense of autonomy, making them more invested in the mentoring relationship.

Dr. Rhodes suggested that programs that teach young people to recruit mentors may be particularly effective for vulnerable and marginalized youth. Adults selected by youth are often not actively seeking to mentor, but are prompted to participate because of their connection with the particular young person. In addition, the familiarity or existing relationship between the mentor and mentee eliminates the need to get acquainted and assumes an existing level of trust. Because the selected mentor is usually from the youth’s community, he or she is more accessible and able to interact more frequently with the mentee.

Dr. Rhodes suggested that young people who participate in these types of mentoring matches may maintain longer relationships that positively impact educational, employment, and behavioral outcomes.

OJJDP’s National Mentoring Resource Center provides more information about youth-initiated mentoring. Read the article “Improving Outcomes in Youth Mentoring” in this issue to learn about additional mentoring research that the Office is funding. Additional information on OJJDP’s youth mentoring programs is available on the Office’s website.