Closing the Gap between Juvenile Justice Systems and Families

Posted by Kim Godfrey
September 10, 2013

More good news about closing the gap between juvenile justice systems and families: Justice for Families (J4F) met with Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) Administrator Robert Listenbee and his team in June and the result was an agreement to develop guidelines and a national level committee to recognize and elevate the significance of families in juvenile justice. I look forward to the forthcoming report and next steps.

As you can imagine, this is very exciting to Performance-based Standards (PbS) and our Family-Youth Initiative (FYI). FYI is the only national effort in youth facilities to overcome the historic disconnect and distrust between facilities and families by providing a blueprint for best practices to integrate and deepen family connections with residential rehabilitation programs. After about two years’ work with our partners at the Vera Institute of Justice, Family Justice Program, we have amazing results:

  • National standards developed by families leaders, including J4F, facilities leaders and researchers that place family engagement at the same level of importance as other facility operations (safety, order, security, programming, health/mental health, justice and reintegration);
  • Outcome measures reflecting engagement, family-facility relationships, contact and communications, family inclusion and participation in treatment and reentry planning; and
  • The PbS Family Survey asking families about their perceptions of the facility, their child's safety and treatment, visiting and communications and their relationships with staff.

I'm very proud to say that PbS has collected more than 1,000 surveys to date from families whose children are in facilities across 15 states who are voluntarily administering the surveys. And true to PbS, the facilities are using the information to create change: reading the feedback from the family survey, facilities have created family councils, opened and extended visitation times and initiated innovative approaches to integrate families into their child's rehabilitation.

And remember, PbS' community-based residential programs have been surveying families and using their feedback to improve connections since 2008!

Congratulations to so many who have worked on this issue for years. The momentum is here for sweeping change – let's climb aboard!