UPDATE, July 13, 2012 Emily Luhrs of the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ) reports on a panel discussion last month in which CJCJ members of the Wraparound team spoke before officials from California counties at the Sierra Health Foundation's Positive Youth Justice Initiative conference. An excerpt::
...the San Francisco collaborative was invited by Sierra Health Foundation to discuss its community-based wraparound approach towards serving high-needs youth....
Recidivism rates for San Francisco youth upon returning from out-of-home placements dropped from approximately 80% to 35% from 2009 to 2010, and fell to approximately 20% by 2011.
This is proof that intensive and individualized case management involving existing formal and informal community networks, rather than strictly confining youth in facilities where they have little to no connection to their community, more effectively serves San Francisco’s most vulnerable justice-involved youth and their families...
Client involvement in their own treatment plan is paramount as it gives them ownership and motivation to succeed. When the family and other role models are involved, it not only enhances their drive but improves client sustainability because now they have the opportunity to model positive behavior to their family those closest to them...
November 22, 2011: Federal money -- $63 million -- will be paid out in 2012 for the Second Chance Act that funds programs to assist adult and juvenile offenders as they re-enter the community after incarceration. The funding assurance comes much to the relief of grantees such as San Francisco Juvenile Probation Department.
(Signed into law on April 9, 2008, the Second Chance Act (P.L. 110-199) authorizes federal grants to government agencies and nonprofit organizations to provide employment assistance, substance abuse treatment, housing, family programming, mentoring, victims support, and other services that can help reduce recidivism.)
Allison Magee, left with former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Deputy Director of the San Francisco Juvenile Probation Department (SFJPD), runs theprogram for the SFJPD funded by the Second Chance Act. In San Francisco, it's called the Juvenile Collaborative Reentry Team (JRCT), and is a collaboration between SFJPD, San Francisco's Public Defender Office, the Superior Court, and the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. The JCRT consists of a probation officer, a public defender, a youth advocate, and a clinical case coordinator; the team offers intensive support to youth prior to and after leaving out-of-home placement (OHP) (typically group homes). The Juvenile Reentry Court, also funded by the Second Chance Act, oversees the plan for each youth and is the first of its kind in the nation.
In its 3rd and final year of funding, the program has had impressive results so far, said Magee in an interview with California's Children. There has been a 44% reduction in recidivism for youth returning from OHPs who were offered the program compared to youth who not did not participate. Because they are usually not first time offenders and their offenses higher level, the 44% reduction in recidivism is exciting to those who work in juvenile justice.
As the program can only serve youth who are represented by the public defender's office, those who have private lawyers cannot participate. This policy disparity does pose challenges for the JCRT; for the meantime, however, until the team can find a way to expand the program, the private-attorney-offender population serves as a control group.
As of July 2011 (date of the last report), there are 58 participants, Magee said --22 active and 35 completed. Initially, the program planned to serve 100 juveniles per year, but since then, the number of youth getting involved in the system has dropped dramatically (in the last 5 years the number of youth in OHP has gone from 200 to 85). Most participants are transitional youth (16 or 17 years olds), which in itself can pose challenges, she explained, as they are typically too old for teenage programs but too young to participate in adult ones. Most youth have returned from placement out of state (for example, Pennsylvania,); there are not many group homes in California (a handful in the Bay Area, one in Los Angeles, according to Magee).
The team starts planning the re-entry process 3 months before the youth leaves OHP and must come up with a comprehensive plan to be heard and approved by Judge Kathleen Kelly of the Juvenile Re-entry Court. The aim is to reduce the gap between the time of release and the requirements of, for example, the school district, so as little time as possible is wasted. There is support at all levels: therapeutic services (for family, too); substance abuse programs; help with housing, work, and school. The youth advocate (from the Public Defender's Office) is responsible for helping with preparation for jobs and education. The clinical case coordinator (from CJCJ) is responsible for overseeing all the programs; most programs involve a case manager so with multiple people involved, the clinical case worker ensures nothing is duplicated or redundant. The bureaucracy involved in helping a youth reintegrate can be overwhelming and that is why the focus is very much on helping them negotiate the paperwork --even taking them to the DMV. The team works so intensively with the participants there is often daily contact, said Magee.
Magee feels there is more security for the program now that funding has been appropriated for one more year. In addition though, there has been some exciting early interest in the program. The Chief Justice of the California Superior Court, Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye, visited the re-entry court and expressed great interest (see video). Other visitors have included Shay Bilchek, director of the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., former director of Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) that administrates the Second Chance Act grants for the U.S. Department of Justice, and former president and CEO of the Child Welfare League of America.
Copyright: California Courts News
Written for California's Children by Elizabeth J Carlyle.