SAN DIEGO–The San Diego County Probation Department will head a new two-year pilot project to help improve the success rate of youth from abusive or neglectful homes who have entered the juvenile justice system. Such youth are at the highest risk for poor outcomes once they reach adulthood. The pilot project focuses on increasing the collaboration between child welfare agencies and juvenile justice agencies and tailoring services and programs to help set the young people on a more positive course.
“Today, we can start to put a plan into action that will ultimately help our highest risk youth become more resilient and reduce their time in the juvenile justice system,” said San Diego County Probation Chief Mack Jenkins. “With the help of a planning grant from the Center for Health Program Management, we developed this program over the last year that will offer intensive care management for up to 50 youth and their families at any given time and provide them with wraparound services.”
The Probation Department was one of four recipients of $400,000 grants for the Positive Youth Justice Initiative which is being managed by the Center for Health Program Management and is funded by three California health foundations: Sierra Health Foundation, The California Endowment and the The California Wellness Foundation. The grant recipients were announced publically today at a Sacramento kick-off event.
The children targeted by the grant are referred to as “crossover youth” because they have crossed over from involvement with the child welfare system—which intervenes when homes are abusive or neglectful—to the juvenile delinquency system because of unlawful behavior. These youth typically have the worst outcomes of any who enter juvenile hall. They generally don’t attain standard or higher education, they face employment barriers and they frequently use mental health services.
Nationally, 75 to 93 percent of children who enter the juvenile justice system are trauma victims and find little support to address these experiences. The kids are often disconnected from family or other social networks, lack education and face poverty.
To help this group keep from reoffending, Probation is using evidence-based practices and is leading a local collaborative of 12 different agencies that touch the lives of the children.
Among the County agencies in the collaborative are Child Welfare Services including Foster Care youth, Behavioral Health Services, the District Attorney’s Office, Public Defender’s Office, and Juvenile Court. Others in the community include the Children’s Initiative, San Diego Unified School District and the San Diego Workforce Partnership.
San Diego’s pilot project will work with crossover youth between the ages of 13 and 17 who reside in the 92105 and 92113 ZIP codes who are supervised by the Probation Department. The pilot program will be supported by two probation officers, a youth and family counselor and an alcohol and drug specialist.
“We are thrilled to partner with San Diego County as they lead the charge for juvenile justice reform in California. Their willingness to focus on the healthy development of system-engaged youth will enhance their individual prospects for a healthy, productive life while improving public safety for us all,” said Chet Hewitt, president and CEO of Sierra Health Foundation and the Center for Health Management.
Hewitt said the initiative was developed to ensure children in the juvenile justice system receive the support, guidance and structure they need to move beyond the trauma and neglect most experience prior to being engaged in the justice system.
The Positive Youth Justice Initiative includes these four elements:
- Investment in Youth – Counties are investing in the kids’ health, social and educational development that includes mentorship and career development opportunities.
- Treatment of Trauma – Key County staff are trained to identify and treat root causes of issues such as violence, neglect and abuse that affect children and can lead them astray.
- Systems Changes – Counties are changing local juvenile justice policies and practices to sustain long-term improvements.
- Wraparound Services – Counties are forming partnerships among many agencies to provide youth and their families with individualized and comprehensive care.
Without these services, the children often stay in the criminal justice system.