Research Shows Positive Impact of Family Involvement

Posted by Kim Godfrey
September 04, 2015

Performance-based Standards (PbS) is excited to share new research that shows how juvenile residential facilities can create and embed family-focused policies and practices to institutionalize the active and meaningful involvement of family members and result in positive outcomes for both youths and their families.

Analyzing PbS data collected in April 2015 from nearly 100 correction programs, Researcher Caitlin Cavanagh, MA, found:

  • More youths’ reading and math scores improved if their parents reported that they were kept up to date on their child’s education while he/she was at the facility; and
  • Parents feel most prepared for their child to come home when they have understood the treatment plan, helped develop it and feel they can comply with it. Parents are most likely to be involved in their child’s treatment plan when they can visit their child at the facility and they feel their opinions are valued by staff.

The findings are detailed the PbS Issue Brief entitled: The Impact of Family Involvement on Youths’ Success.  

While the findings make sense and perhaps sound simple, the analysis includes several facility practices that offer the field some tangible ways to improve how facilities can engage and partner with families. For example, we know parents’ support is key to youths’ academic success whether the youth is living at school, at home or in a facility, but don’t know the most effective ways to keep parents involved when a youth is locked up. Interestingly, the research showed that instead of relying on visits and phone calls to stay up-to-date on their child’s education, parents were more likely to be kept up to date if they also reported knowing whom to contact within the facility about their child’s well-being, suggesting open channels of communications are the key.

The research was conducted as part of PbS’ work promoting the only national standards to challenge residential facilities to strengthen and support the connection between youths and their families and social supports. PbS established the national standards and outcome measures to assess implementation of policies and practices as part of its Family-Youth Initiative, a joint project with the Vera Institute of Justice, Family Justice Program started in 2011. Research completed by Vera additionally showed that youths with connections to family were less likely to act out while in custody and more likely to succeed when released.

We are seeing many changes in the deep-end of the juvenile justice system that recognize the significance of the parent-child relationship and the need to ensure it continues and is enhanced by a youth’s experience at a residential facility. We need to continue to capture those changes with research and data to sustain and integrate the policies and practices that work.