Southwest Utah Youth Center-Long Term Named Finalist for the 2017 Barbara Allen-Hagen Award

Posted by Patricia Rafferty
July 24, 2017

Performance-based Standards (PbS) is pleased to announce Southwest Utah Youth Center-Long Term (SUYC) in Cedar City, UT as one of the finalists for the 2017 Barbara Allen-Hagen Award in the correction category. The facility was selected as a finalist for their improvement plan to increase family engagement.

Research shows the importance of family contact with youths in custody in reducing recidivism and the State of Utah and SUYC are dedicated to strengthening positive family interactions. Analyzing data following the April 2015 data collection, the SUYC team determined that certain measures of interaction between staff and youth with families were indicating they had room for improvement. They decided to focus on inviting family members and social supports to more facility events and increasing the rate of contact between staff and families.

To reach their goals, the team at SUYC started the discussion during staff meetings. Working with the PbS Blueprint and staff feedback, they decided to implement a quarterly event for family members and social supports. Dedicated to a collaborative process, the staff engaged the youths and their families in realizing this goal. Staff started by developing the rules and expectations for clear parameters in hosting events. Staff sent information about each event to the family members and social supports ahead of time so they were fully informed of the agenda and expectations. Youths were tasked with designing the invitations, addressing envelopes and compiling guest lists – in addition to working with staff to decide each theme and activity. With a clear interest in continuous improvement, staff ask families to take a brief survey following each event to provide some insight on the experience and share what they would like to see next time.

The success of the events could not have been realized without some creative solutions. The facility is located in a rural area across the state from some of the youth’s families, so the team strategically hosts events either the day before or the day of a parole hearing so families have a better chance to attend. Youths have been given the opportunity to invite another prosocial support if family or close social supports cannot attend.

The team plans to sustain the process by ensuring youths are very involved in planning each event. The team relies heavily on youth’s input as to what they most enjoy doing with their families to ensure a good time is had by all. Past family nights have included a board game extravaganza, a fancy holiday celebration meal, staff and youth talent show/lip sync contest and several inter-facility sporting events with a barbecue.

The team at SUYC describes the key to their success as undoubtedly the collaboration between youths, staff and families. Youths and staff hold each other accountable for various aspects of planning and the youths build confidence and are empowered to reach their goals. The facility has been successful engaging families and strengthening bonds through family events. Facility Director Jill McKinlay said, “Families seem very relaxed and are spending some quality time with their youth. Often times I see both youth and their family members laughing and enjoying themselves. Also, if a youth doesn't have a family member that can attend, staff have been good to let the youth invite a volunteer or family home evening couple, clergy etc to come in their place, or staff have just interacted with the youth so they feel appreciated.”

The PbS Barbara Allen-Hagen Award was established in 2007 to honor Barbara Allen-Hagen and her retirement from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). Her dedication to improving the quality of life in facilities for young offenders has helped drive PbS to its current success. The award is given to a correction, detention/assessment and community program who best exemplify PbS’ commitment to treating all youths in custody as one of our own by developing and implementing strategic plans to change practices that results in positive outcomes for youths, staff and families.

Winners of the award will be announced the night of the ceremony on Oct. 26, 2017. Stay tuned for more blogs about the finalists.

SUYCvolleyball
An inter-facility sports program volleyball game with invited guests

SUYCfamilynightbbqFamily Night Barbecue buffet line

SUYCfamilygamenightYouths with families and social supports at a Family Game Night