Family Involvement – the Impetus for System Change?
|July 1, 2011||Posted by M. P. under Children and Family, Juvenile Delinquency, Program Model, Youth Development||
Children removed from homes and communities by the child welfare system or due to involvement in the juvenile justice system have their family relationships interrupted and their connectivity to positive influences (friends, a teacher, a coach) weakened. These separations will affect a child’s sense of stability and may impede their ability to successfully transition into the independence and responsibility required of late adolescence and early adulthood. How to best address this issue, including empowering communities to advocate for the safety, accountability and success of their children, has been a topic of much discussion and analysis.
In the paper, Safety, Fairness, Stability: Repositioning Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare to Engage Families and Communities by Joan Pennell, Carol Shapiro and Carol Wilson Spigner (with commentaries by Kordnie Jamillia Lee and Trina Osher), the authors suggest changing the approach to one of family and community engagement. In this approach, the traditional roles of the system players, the family, the youth and affected parties are replaced with more equitable relationships and opportunities for feedback and involvement by all.
The authors’ vision for a different, more family-centered method of intervention with endangered or troubled youth is pulled from system of care and restorative justice models. Both utilize practices that fit with the family engagement approach, an approach the authors posit would lead to increased partnerships between system entities (and a reduction of competing goals), service plans that meet the needs of the child and can continue within the community and accountability and acceptance back into the community without a lengthy absence.
Family engagement is seen as a viable starting point to begin the long-term goal of community-system partnership building. A partnership where, with funding, training and advisement, communities will be better able to address the needs of their families and youth within their schools, clinics, churches and associations rather than send them away when crises occur.
Resources on this topic, including this paper and a publication on Pennsylvanian’s use of family involvement models, are available at the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute website.