McCourt School Policy Perspectives Fall 2016 : Page 14

Center for Juvenile Justice Reform POLICY PERSPECTIVES For the past decade, the McCourt School’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform has been connecting systems of care in an effort to improve the lives of at-risk youth around the country. Bridging T HE KIDS MAY HAVE COMMITTED CRIMES, but in Shay Bilchik’s eyes, they are still children. “Malleable,” he calls them. Being malleable is a good thing, be-cause there’s still hope for them. Youth only commit a fraction of the crimes that take place nationwide everyday. The additional good news is that, according to a report by the National Center for Juvenile Justice, the number of delinquen-cy cases has decreased by 32 percent since its peak in 1996. The response to those decreasing numbers, however, needs to be measured. To this point, Bilchik notes that there are repercussions when the systems over-respond to delinquent behavior by removing a young person from his or her home, family, and school life, and placing them into the system, which can involve detention centers, correctional facilities, and other treatment centers. Most of these youth did not commit a violent crime, yet may be treated as harshly as one who did. The psychological effects on a developing young person can be long-term, even permanently damaging, more so than for an adult. by RIN-RIN YU Having spent nearly four decades focusing on juve-nile justice and child welfare policy and practice, Bil-chik has helped make significant strides to improve the treatment and management of those in the sys-tem. He’s also pushed for recognizing early warning signs of children who have experienced or witnessed violence, which often leads children down the path to enter the juvenile justice system. And as director of the Center of Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR) at the McCourt School, Bilchik’s still forging ahead with applying proven-to-work methods to develop better support for the nation's youth so they don’t become repeat offenders. Better yet, to keep them from com-mitting an offense in the first place. There has been a lot of research and progress through the years on the best approach to assessing youth for service needs and risk to offend, managing cases and assigning treatment, and improving the effectiveness of programs. However, many of the sys-tems of care for these children still operate in isola-tion. CJJR aims to break down such silos using what Bilchik calls “a multi-system approach” entrenched 14 McCourt School of Public Policy WESTEND61/GETTY IMAGES

Juvenile Justice

Rin-Rin Yu

For the past decade, the McCourt School’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform has been connecting systems of care in an effort to improve the lives of at-risk youth around the country.


Bridging the Gap



THE KIDS MAY HAVE COMMITTED CRIMES, but in Shay Bilchik’s eyes, they are still children. “Malleable,” he calls them. Being malleable is a good thing, because there’s still hope for them.

Youth only commit a fraction of the crimes that take place nationwide everyday. The additional good news is that, according to a report by the National Center for Juvenile Justice, the number of delinquency cases has decreased by 32 percent since its peak in 1996. The response to those decreasing numbers, however, needs to be measured. To this point, Bilchik notes that there are repercussions when the systems over-respond to delinquent behavior by removing a young person from his or her home, family, and school life, and placing them into the system, which can involve detention centers, correctional facilities, and other treatment centers. Most of these youth did not commit a violent crime, yet may be treated as harshly as one who did. The psychological effects on a developing young person can be long-term, even permanently damaging, more so than for an adult.

Having spent nearly four decades focusing on juvenile justice and child welfare policy and practice, Bilchik has helped make significant strides to improve the treatment and management of those in the system. He’s also pushed for recognizing early warning signs of children who have experienced or witnessed violence, which often leads children down the path to enter the juvenile justice system. And as director of the Center of Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR) at the McCourt School, Bilchik’s still forging ahead with applying proven-to-work methods to develop better support for the nation's youth so they don’t become repeat offenders. Better yet, to keep them from committing an offense in the first place.

There has been a lot of research and progress through the years on the best approach to assessing youth for service needs and risk to offend, managing cases and assigning treatment, and improving the effectiveness of programs. However, many of the systems of care for these children still operate in isolation. CJJR aims to break down such silos using what Bilchik calls “a multi-system approach” entrenched in evidence-based research. These methods include implementing effective practices, strengthening the engagement of families, having close ties to the community, creating strong public and private partnerships, providing a balance of prevention and intervention services, and creating a stronger, fairer, and individualized system of justice for youth.

CJJR has enjoyed success in its research and tried-and-tested programs. More than 900 senior management and leadership individuals working across the judicial, juvenile justice, child welfare, education, behavioral health, and law enforcement areas of practice have passed through McCourt’s doors to pursue an Executive Certificate from a CJJR program. Each of these participants is looking for a way to do their work differently and as a result, reach better outcomes for youth. With this approach, CJJR is building a new field of leaders. As some have called them: “boundary spanners.”

BUILDING THE BRIDGES

Bilchik didn’t set out to be a reformist in the juvenile justice system. The year was 1977, and he was fresh out of the University of Florida Holland Law Center, working in the State Attorney’s office in Miami. As he moved his way through the normal rotation of traffic court, juvenile court, and felony division, he found his time in the juvenile court, which handled both child welfare and delinquency cases, to be most fulfilling.



Shay Bilchik launched the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform 10 years ago to create a “multi-system approach“ to helping children.

It was in the juvenile courts that he saw his chance to make a real impact on youth. He noticed a pattern: many of those who committed a delinquent act had records of maltreatment and other early warning signs such as truancy, ungovernability, and running away. When the position of juvenile delinquent chief opened up, he requested to go back to that area. “It changed the trajectory of my career 180 degrees, with my commitment, satisfaction, and passion to this area of policy and practice having sustained me over the last 35 years.”

At the time, Janet Reno, who was a major advocate for changing and improving the juvenile justice system, had been named state attorney of Dade County, Florida. With her appointment she brought many ideas. Eventually, Bilchik rose to become one of Reno’s chief assistant state attorneys, and then joined her in Washington, D.C. at the Department of Justice when she was named U.S. attorney general in the Clinton administration. He headed up the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention from 1994 to 2000, where he introduced child victimization and multi-system comprehensive approaches as key areas on which to focus. As part of these efforts, they examined the best way to support kids exposed to violence through maltreatment or domestic/community violence, as well as community level investments in ways to reduce juvenile delinquency.



After his service in the Department of Justice, Bilchik spent seven years leading the Child Welfare League of America, where he helped grow its focus on juvenile justice. Throughout his career, he recognized the need for child welfare and juvenile justice to work even closer hand in hand. Bilchik began to seek a platform that would work across systems and promote a more holistic approach to case management. With the help of McCourt’s Judy Feder, Joe Ferrara, Harry Holzer, and other faculty, they created such a platform and developed an operational plan. The Center for Juvenile Justice Reform was launched in the winter of 2007.

A MULTI-SYSTEMS APPROACH

The programs the Center operates vary, but all use a multi-systems approach. CJJR’s efforts in using this approach began with the creation and implementation of the Crossover Youth Practice Model (CYPM). Crossover youth are children who move back and forth between, or span both the juvenile justice system and the child welfare system. According to a CYPM aggregate report, anywhere from 9 to 29 percent of children who have experienced maltreatment in their lives also have later contact with the juvenile justice system. This crossover population of youth, while generally not serious offenders, are likely to be treated more harshly than similarly situated youth who were not in the child welfare system. They are held in pre-trial detention at higher rates and are less likely to be diverted from the system, even though their offenses and public safety considerations do not call for this harsh system response. Presenting significant needs, with 83 percent having diagnosed mental health, substance use, or co-occurring disorders and substantial educational needs, a more effective response is one well-coordinated among the juvenile justice, child welfare, behavioral health and educational systems. The CYPM has effectively demonstrated in 21 states and more than 90 communities that this approach has the potential to reduce recidivism and improve other life outcomes for these youth.

Rather than have children fall into this vicious cycle, the CYPM aims to provide treatment and support in the least restrictive possible setting while providing for public safety. In this regard, one goal of the CYPM is to reduce the number of youth removed from their homes. “The most significant trend is the deinstitutionalization of youth in juvenile justice systems across the country,” Bilchik says. “There is a greater understanding that we should be working with youth in the community in non-custodial settings, if at all possible.”


“Those who committed a deliquent act had records of maltreatment.”


In addition, the CYPM aims to reduce the number of youth of color in the crossover population, which has been disproportionately higher than the underlying child welfare and juvenile justice systems. A 2009 study by the Center for the Study of Social Policy found that there was an underlying belief that African- American children were more likely “better off ” away from their families, creating a greater divide between the children and their chances of improvement compared to those of other races. As a result, African-American families tended to feel the system was biased against them, that the child welfare system was intrusive, and that there was inadequate support while participating in the system. The CYPM and the research upon which it is based has further established that youth of color, in particular African- American youth, are impacted in a disparate manner by their involvement in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. It calls, therefore, for jurisdictions implementing the CYPM to analyze this occurrence in their own communities and address it if present.

The CYPM is also working to increase participation in the process, from inter-agency information sharing to more family inclusion in decision-making. So far, as noted above, more than 90 counties in 21 states have implemented or are in the process of implementing the model. Much to CJJR’s credit, this has created a huge shift in multi-systems policy and practice across the country.



Another example of CJJR helping to shape policy and practice is the Juvenile Justice System Improvement Project (JJSIP). This effort, started in 2010, helps states implement proven methods of “what works” for improving outcomes among juvenile offenders. Following in the footsteps of JJSIP, the Juvenile Justice Reform and Reinvestment Initiative (JJRRI) is a demonstration program to reduce recidivism and improve existing services. The idea behind JJRRI is to create and sustain a cost-efficient approach, with each site working to align its assessment of the youth in its care with the level of supervision and quality services they receive, supported by the use of the Standardized Program Evaluation Protocol (SPEP) to assess each juvenile program and make improvements. The SPEP, developed by Dr. Mark Lipsey at Vanderbilt University, was also part of the efforts undertaken pursuant to JJSIP and is one of the most significant breakthroughs in juvenile justice research in the last decade. This groundbreaking work has helped juvenile justice systems and their partners in seven states provide a more effective response to delinquent behavior.



CJJR aims to establish more community-based, non-custodial settings to help children.

Because youth are still impressionable and developing, CJJR is constantly looking at ways to improve their situations that consider their brain development and maturity potential. While efforts such as JJSIP and JJRRI will ensure that more youth are appropriately receiving services in community-based, non-custodial settings, Bilchik notes that “an area that needs much more attention is the conditions youth experience when they are placed in a juvenile correctional facility. They are still too much like adult prisons, inappropriate from a developmental perspective, and on average, too far from the youth’s home community, making visitation and planning for re-entry very difficult.”

Two of CJJR’s newest initiatives are designed to address these issues, including the Youth in Custody Practice Model (YICPM) and the Stop Solitary For Kids Campaign (SSK). The SSK, led by CJJR and partner organizations Center for Children’s Law and Policy, Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators, and Justice Policy Institute, is designed to end the practice of putting kids in solitary confinement, a practice that is still prevalent in many juvenile facilities across the country. Research shows that because adolescents are still developing mentally, solitary confinement can cause permanent damage, including trauma, depression, psychosis, and increased risk of suicide. More broadly, the YICPM is designed to demonstrate in four jurisdictions (Florida, Massachusetts, Texas, and Wayne County, Michigan) that a more developmental approach to juvenile corrections, one reflecting a stronger focus on cognitive behavioral treatment, family engagement, a teaming case practice model and re-entry planning will lead to lower rates of recidivism and better life outcomes for youth who have been incarcerated in the juvenile justice system. CJJR operates the YICPM initiative with the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators.


“Solitary confinement [for juveniles] can cause permanent damage.”


TEACHING PEOPLE CHANGE

The Center also serves as a central ground for juvenile justice experts and practitioners to exchange ideas and network among each other. This is where ideas flow and banter about, from best practices to application of policies.

The Center hosts a Juvenile Justice Leadership Network, a small, closed group of leaders who meet twice a year to discuss ideas honestly and support each other. The Center also holds the Public Information Officers Learning Collaborative, a three-day session that teaches the delivery of proactive messages and how to handle crisis situations without undermining their jurisdiction’s reform efforts.

The Center’s certificate programs bring professionals to receive in-depth training across a variety of topics, including diversion, school-justice partnerships, reducing racial and ethnic disparities, multisystem integration, and youth in custody. Each program culminates in a capstone project involving a reform agenda each team and individual will take home with them to implement in their own community. More than 900 leaders and senior staff have attended CJJR’s certificate programs, leading to the implementation of more than 220 capstone projects.

Word of mouth is powerful as CJJR’s models take effect across the country, and Bilchik says they often receive calls asking for the model to be put into action in a particular city or county. He’s excited that people are enthusiastic and open to the ideas, but there’s still the general challenge of bringing policy to practice. “One of the brick walls we face is that as humans, we are often not open to change, even when we’re introducing new tools for them to use that have proven to be more effective,” he points out.

Bilchik hopes to hurdle this issue. While meeting resistance to change isn’t only limited to the juvenile justice profession, what’s unique and complicating is its public safety aspect. “The one-off headline-making case, such as a horrible crime committed by a youth being supervised in the community as opposed to a residential program, can undermine the implementation of a sound policy/practice of serving youth in their home communities,” Bilchik says. But, “data capacity to demonstrate the overall effectiveness of these policies and practices, and a strong communication plan will help to sustain this cross-systems work even in the face of public safety concerns.”

He believes that the cross-systems approach will gain even more traction as more communities successfully use this method. In fact, research has demonstrated the effectiveness of the implementation of the CYPM and the approaches being used throughout the YICPM and CJJR’s certificate programs. It is Bilchik’s belief that the collaborative approaches it encourages will eventually emerge as core policy and practice in this country’s juvenile justice and related systems of care and “help build the type of field we need to better serve youth in our communities.”



Honoring Janet Reno
Former Attorney General Janet Reno dedicated her career to changing the path and lives of children, youth and families for the better. She sought to reduce youth violence and improve the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, find alternatives to imprisonment, increase primary education, and stressed the importance of love and care for children to prevent future crime. As the first female U.S. attorney general, she also set the tone and path for other women to follow through their own careers.

In honor of her work, the McCourt School of Public Policy and the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform established the Janet Reno Endowment to support efforts at the local, state, and federal level that reflect the work to which she has devoted her career and to recognize women leaders. The Endowment is presenting its first annual Women’s Leadership Award at the 2017 LEAD Conference. It will honor a woman who has dedicated herself to the implementation of policies, programs and practices designed to benefit children, youth, and families. —R.Y.

Center for Juvenile Justice Reform Celebrates 10 Years
Ten years ago, the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform opened its doors at Georgetown University. Today, it boasts some of the nation’s top research, fieldwork, events, collaborative efforts, and initiatives to improve child welfare and juvenile justice. More than 900 child and family serving professionals have completed a certificate program through CJJR, developing over 220 capstone projects in their home communities and leading jurisdictions around the country call the CJJR for help in implementing its proven practices.

To celebrate this milestone, CJJR’s work will be the focus of this year’s McCourt School of Public Policy LEAD (Leadership. Evidence. Analysis. Debate) Conference. Topics will cover child welfare, early childhood education, juvenile justice, and behavioral health. The focus will be how research can be applied to policy and from policy turned into practice. About 400 people will be in attendance from around the country, including, among others, fellows from CJJR’s certificate programs, participants from the Crossover Youth Practice Model and Youth in Custody Practice Model sites, leaders from the Juvenile Justice Leadership Network, and communications people who have attended the Public Information Officers Learning Collaborative, as well as others with whom CJJR has worked in the past decade.—R.Y.

Read the full article at http://editiondigital.net/article/Juvenile+Justice/2589691/340044/article.html.

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