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The Youth in Custody Certificate Program seeks to promote a juvenile justice system that:

  • Is comprehensive and collaborative,
  • Is therapeutic,
  • Is trauma-informed,
  • Uses the least-restrictive option that is necessary for the safety of the youth and the community,
  • Is community-based,
  • Is individualized and developmentally appropriate,
  • Engages families and communities,
  • Is research-based, and
  • Is outcome-driven.

Each of these principles will be woven throughout the curriculum of the program. The curriculum will focus heavily on the change process that is needed to move forward reforms for youth in the custody of the juvenile justice system after case disposition. Case studies and other interactive learning techniques help participants apply the learning to situations they are likely to encounter. The curriculum includes the following modules:

Culture Change and Leadership
Culture change is a key component of reform. To successfully change the culture of juvenile justice systems and associated partners, strong leadership is required, especially when leading fiscally and politically contentious reforms such as closing facilities, placing juvenile offenders in the community, and more. One full day is devoted to the topics of culture change and leadership. This module discusses the following topics as they apply to better serving youth in the custody of the juvenile justice system:

  • The importance of a clear vision, mission, and guiding principles that articulate the philosophy of the agency and the framework in which all staff should operate.
  • Strategies to engage all levels of staff in the change process, including soliciting their buy-in and support, as well as effectively training them on new practices and skills needed to implement the reforms well. This includes discussing staff recruitment and retention strategies, as well as promoting workforce efficacy.
  • Collaborative leadership skills for working across systems and with communities.
  • Internal and external communication strategies and constituency-building skills to support and sustain system changes.
  • The role of leadership in developing trauma-informed systems.
  • Strategies for promoting accountability.

Family Engagement
The value of family and youth engagement in the rehabilitation process cannot be underestimated. This module encourages participants to explore their own assumptions about the families of the youth with whom they work and analyze the challenges associated with effective family and youth engagement. Strategies are presented for improving how engagement occurs in the juvenile justice system. This module approaches this topic from a positive youth development and trauma-informed perspective.

Reliable and valid assessment instruments are vital for the juvenile justice system to serve youth appropriately, and as a result, reduce the risk of recidivism and promote positive youth outcomes. One module of this program is dedicated to the importance of risk and need assessments, individualized treatment planning and coordination of care, and the matching of youth to placement and services that address their risk and needs. Beyond ensuring these tools are available, this module addresses the challenges associated with the proper use of assessment tools to make connections to appropriate services and placements. This module examines how decision-making tools can positively impact the disproportionate representation of minority youth in the juvenile justice system.

Treatment, Services, and Reentry
To successfully rehabilitate the most high-risk youth offenders and reduce recidivism, an array of services and placement options must be available to meet their varied needs both while in residential placement post disposition, and upon return to the community. This module discusses:

  • How to build capacity to develop the array of services and placements required by youth in juvenile justice custody. This module focuses on effective group treatment practices and strategies for addressing substance abuse and mental health treatment needs. This topic includes a discussion of the need to address the treatment needs of the youth's family and how family engagement is critical to effective treatment, services, and reentry.
  • The elements of trauma-informed care and best practices that create safe and healthy conditions in residential centers and community placements.
  • Best practices for working with youth in residential settings. For example, this module discusses the need to move from large to small institutions, redesigning the physical look of facilities, exploring the "geography of the system" to ensure that youth have placement and treatment options close to their own community, both working with service delivery staff and leadership development, and adopting effective treatment practices.

A huge part of successful rehabilitation and reduction of recidivism is a comprehensive, fully accredited, best practices-oriented educational program within a juvenile justice setting. This module discusses:

  • Comprehensive programming in juvenile corrections that meet state, national, and professional standards.
  • Long-term consequences associated with inadequate education and support.
  • How to build capacity to develop the array of services and placements required by youth in juvenile justice custody, and education programming in the context of comprehensive services and trauma-informed practices.
  • Educational and vocational supports that are critical

Expert Panel
A panel of leaders that have successfully reformed or supported the way the juvenile justice system serves youth in custody is featured to provide participants real-life examples and an opportunity to ask questions of those who have done what they are seeking to do. Practical considerations of this work will be discussed, including a particular focus on financing mechanisms that can support a realignment of juvenile justice services.

Each module focuses on practices for youth in the post-adjudication custody of the juvenile justice system (i.e., in secure residential placement), but connects to practices that must be in place at the front end of the juvenile justice system, as well as at the reentry stage. A common theme throughout the program is that for any one piece of the juvenile justice system to be as effective as possible, all components of the system must be working well. We set out a vision for participants that details what an ideal system looks like so they have a model to strive towards and can place their efforts within a larger context.

Instructors for the program will include, among others:

  • Tim Decker, Director, Missouri Department of Social Services' Division of Youth Services
  • Kelly Dedel, Juvenile Justice Consultant, One in 37 Research, Inc. 
  • Peter Leone, Professor and Director, Special Education Program, College of Education, University of Maryland
  • Monique Marrow, Juvenile Justice Consultant/Trainer, Center for Juvenile Justice Reform, University of Connecticut, and University of Kentucky Center on Trauma and Children
  • Michael Sanders, Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Consultant
  • Ryan Shanahan, Senior Program Associate, Family Justice Program, Vera Institute of Justice
  • Michael Umpierre, Esq., Juvenile Justice Consultant and Senior Research Fellow, Center for Juvenile Justice Reform
  • Gina Vincent, Associate Professor and Director of Translational Law
    & Psychiatry Research in the Center for Mental Health Services Research in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School


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Center for Juvenile Justice Reform •McCourt School of Public PolicyGeorgetown University • 3300 Whitehaven St NW Suite 5000 • Box 571444 • Washington, DC 20057
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