Local Reform Efforts

Supporting LGBTQ Youth (LGBTQ)

Washington State Team (2017 LGBTQ)

The Washington state team participated in the Supporting LGBTQ Youth Certificate Program in October 2017 and seeks to increase support for LGBTQ youth through their Capstone Project. Prior to attending the Certificate Program, the Center for Children and Youth Justice (CCYJ) conducted a comprehensive research study to examine the experiences of LGBTQ youth in WA’s child welfare and juvenile justice systems. The study showed that Washington’s systems involved LGBTQ youth, like systems involved LGBTQ youth across the nation, are overrepresented in these systems yet marginalized,  experience significant mistreatment, and commonly experience poor outcomes, such as homelessness. To address these findings, CCYJ engaged hundreds of stakeholders across Washington in designing the Protocol for Safe & Affirming Care. Published in January 2017, the Protocol serves as a framework for youth-serving professionals to work with system-involved LGBTQ youth. As part of their Capstone Project, the WA team planned to improve the outcomes and well-being of LGBTQ youth by implementing the guidelines outlined in the Protocol in three pilot sites: Children’s Administration Spokane Office, Spokane County Juvenile Court, and King County Juvenile Court. In addition to county-level juvenile courts, the team also partnered with the Children’s Administration, CCYJ, community-based LGBTQ organizations, and an external evaluation partner to support project implementation.

Through their Capstone Project, which continues and has expanded in scope, the WA team aims to collect more accurate SOGIE data, build safe and more affirming environments for LGBTQ youth involved in the systems, and connect youth to appropriate services. As of Fall 2019, they have completed not only the implementation of Protocol for Safe & Affirming Care, but also an online resource map of six counties. The interactive online map includes information such as available community programs, shelters, and other healthcare and employment resources. Evaluation of the project shows that youth-serving professionals rated the trainings positively, reported an increase in knowledge regarding LGBTQ issues and services available, and reported feeling prepared to discuss sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (SOGIE) with youth. However, the evaluation also found that few professionals reported actively using the protocols set forth in the guidelines. Additionally, there is a need to develop policies to consistently collect and utilize SOGIE data. The team is continuing their effort to facilitate trainings around LGBTQ issues and lay the foundation for further integration of safe and affirming care in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. In 2020, the team has lined up seven additional sites to launch a revised SOGIE data collection process.

Multnomah Education Service District & Oregon State Teams (2017 LGBTQ & RED Cohorts)


After completing both the 2017 Racial and Ethnic Disparities and the 2017 Supporting LGBTQ Certificate Programs, the Multnomah Education Service District (MESD) and the Oregon Youth Development Council (YDC) collaborated to address disparity issues around race, sexual orientations, and special education needs through their Capstone Project. The two teams found that LGBTQ+ youth suffer micro-aggressions in school after returning from Yamhill County Juvenile Detention facility, while students receiving special education are overrepresented in juvenile detention. As a result, they partnered with nine school districts to develop the Affirmation Creates Equity Project (ACE), with the goal of supporting marginalized youth leaving the detention facility.

In order to ameliorate the issues of disproportionality and disparity, the Capstone teams created a new position of Transition Specialist, provided trainings for educators, established regulations,  and initiated partnerships. The Transition Specialist is trained in supporting survivors of sex trafficking and plays a significant role in connecting organizations, school districts, administrators, and counselors to help youth navigate the successful reentry into school after exiting the detention facility. ACE staff also participate in weekly meetings to ensure collaboration among juvenile departments in Yamhill and Polk county and MESD and juvenile corrections counselor staff. In addition, the ACE Project established objective guidelines for restorative justice, while the Protocol for Safe and Affirming Care, a guide for professionals, volunteers, and caregivers in Oregon’s child welfare and juvenile justice systems, provided framework for care to LGBTQ+ youth.

Since December 2016, the ACE Capstone Project has served 264 students in Yamhill and Polk counties. Overall, ACE has facilitated school-justice partnerships to ensure that all youth can successfully reenroll in school after leaving the Yamhill County Juvenile Detention facility. ­­In the future, the MESD and YDC Capstone teams will partner with Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties to collect and analyze data from anonymous youth of all sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions (SOGIE) to implement more supportive services for these groups.

Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Juvenile Justice (RED)

Kentucky Team (2017 Cohort)

The Kentucky Team participated in the Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities Certificate Program in 2018. Spearheaded by Rachel Bingham from Kentucky’s Administrative Office of the Courts, and Pastor Edward Palmer, a community activist and certified diversity trainer, the team seeks to address the overrepresentation of youth of color in the state’s Juvenile Justice System. In particular, Ms. Bingham and Pastor Palmer partnered with system leaders in Christian County as a pilot site to address disparate treatment on a local level. Through their Capstone Project (an action plan for local reform efforts), Christian County took a multidisciplinary approach to bolstering culturally-responsive wraparound services, engaging the community and minority families, and implementing trauma-informed care practices.

Expanding upon the Senate Bill 200 in 2014 and the School Justice Partnership initiative in 2015, the Kentucky Team started by developing a service map that identifies resources as well as service gaps within Christian County’s systems of care. Partnering with schools and local service providers, the team utilized the service map to improve students’ access to assessment, treatment, and case planning, focusing on removing barriers for minority families. The team also created opportunities to facilitate open conversations around race. For example, Pastor Palmer held a series of racial healing conversations within the faith-based community. Furthermore, he worked with partners to identify leaders within the African American community to collaborate on reform efforts.

To lay the foundation for a trauma-informed, culturally-responsive culture within youth-serving agencies, the Capstone team collaborated with Christian County leaders to develop and implement a training curriculum across law enforcement, education, child welfare, and juvenile justice. Through these partnerships, they created new policies to support best practices.

As a result of these reform efforts, Christian County has begun to see promising preliminary outcomes. For example, the team has seen a decrease in the number of complaints filed against African American youth, from 51 percent in 2018 to 46 percent in 2019. There has also been a decrease in the number of minority youth detained. In 2018, African American youth made up of 74 percent of youth detained at intake; in 2019, the percentage went down to 63 percent. In courts, there is a lower rate of judicial overrides for minority youth, from 60 percent in 2018 to 40 percent in 2019. While African American youth are still underrepresented in diversion and overrepresented in the justice system, the team continues to work with Christian County to collect data, evaluate their progress, and scrutinize their policies.

Alachua, FL Team (2015 Cohort)

Alachua County FL Team 2

The Alachua, FL team attended the 2015 RED Certificate Program, and developed a Capstone Project to reduce the number of arrests and increase the number of diversion referrals for youth of color. Since the Certificate Program, the team has created new policies and practices to encourage the use of civil citation instead of arrest, developed programs to assist and engage communities, and held trainings for law enforcement officers and key partners on trauma awareness, de-escalation techniques, racial disparity and disproportionality, and community engagement skills. The team’s Capstone Project centers around three main programs: 1) Student to Successful Citizens Program; 2) Police/Student Dialogue Program; and 3) Communication and Self-Esteem Program.

Modeled after Judge Steven Teske’s work in Clayton County, GA, the Student to Successful Citizens Program helps to identify at-risk youth and develop a service plan with a multi-disciplinary team to provide necessary services such as therapy, tutoring, mentoring, parenting classes, conflict resolution classes, and wraparound services. Police/Student Dialogue is a program that allows college-aged young adults, particularly youth of color, to discuss current events with law enforcement officers. This program offers opportunities for communication and better understanding between youth and police. The Communication and Self-Esteem Program helps youth ages 11 to 24 on probation and in detention to improve social-emotional skills through other community-based programs (e.g., mentoring programs).

These programs have all produced promising results so far. The Capstone team developed an MOU with the school board to handle school misconduct and misdemeanor offenses, and worked with schools to create a center to provide in-school suspension as an alternative to out-of-school suspensions. There has been an improved perception and interaction of police and youth, and the arrest rates have been much lower following implementation of the Capstone Project. From 2014 to 2015, Alachua County has seen a 44% reduction in arrests of black youth and a 28% reduction in arrests of white youth. There has also been a 79% reduction in school arrests from 2014 to 2016.

Johnson County, IA Team (2013 Cohort)


The Johnson County, IA Team attended the 2013 RED Certificate Program with the goal of reducing racial and ethnic disparities in disorderly conduct charges in their local schools. They developed a Capstone Project that included 1) re-defining protocols for when school staff contact law enforcement for students’ problem behaviors; 2) implementing a uniform set of graduated sanctions for in-school behaviors to limit law enforcement intervention; and 3) creating a community-based diversion program to address students’ problem behaviors.

The team has experienced significant success in implementing their Capstone Project. Since inception of the diversion program, there were a total of 33 referrals (25 African American, 2 Latino, 6 White) from both school and non-school arrests, and all have successfully completed the program. Since their partnership with the schools, Johnson County has also seen a reduction in school-based arrests. In 2012, there were 40 arrests in schools for disorderly conduct, of which 30 (75%) were African American youth. In 2014, there were 18 arrests for disorderly conduct, of which 9 (50%) were African American youth. In two years, school arrests have reduced by 61 percent, and arrests of African American youth has reduced from 75 percent to 50 percent.

The development of this “first-of-its-kind-in-the-state pre-charge” diversion program was recognized in the local newspaper in 2014.

School-Justice Partnerships (SJP)

Mount Vernon, NY (2017 Cohort)

After attending the 2017 School-Justice Partnerships Certificate Program, the Mount Vernon, New York Capstone team decided to rebuild their support system for high school students in long-term suspension programs of five days or more as their Capstone Project (or local reform effort). Although an alternative program for students in long-term suspension had previously existed in Mount Vernon, it was not connected to an official reintegration process for youth returning from periods of suspension, placement, or incarceration.

As of 2019, the Mount Vernon Capstone team is in early stages of project implementation. When keeping a student at school is not an option, school staff now meet with the student and parent(s) to establish a student code of conduct contract for suspension. Instead of providing just two hours of instruction per day in a local library during the suspension period, the team creates an alternative educational setting with full days of academic and social-emotional support, recreational services, and possible post-secondary skill acquisition. The alternative school instructors will also be in constant communication with the students’ teachers to ensure material continuity. After the student returns from suspension, the school creates a reentry plan and holds a reintegration circle with the parent(s), student, and school officials. These measures ensure students’ successful reentry into school and provide support to prevent further infractions with the school system. In order to test the outcomes of their work, the Mount Vernon Capstone team plans to take measures on graduation rates, incarceration rates, grades, attendance, and dean interactions. In addition, the team will examine qualitative data, such as wraparound services, teacher support, probation, parent feedback, and student feedback.

Spokane County, WA (2016 Cohort)

Spokane County, WA 1

Spokane County, Washington participated in the School-Justice Partnerships Certificate Program in 2016. Since the program, the Spokane Capstone team launched Project READY (Reducing Exclusionary Actions and Disparities for Youth) to reduce schools’ reliance on exclusionary discipline actions and address disparate treatment of minority students. During each year between 2012 and 2015, Spokane Public Schools suspended or expelled approximately eight percent of students, which is a significantly higher rate than the state average. In order to stop the school-to-prison pipeline, the Capstone team partnered with feeder schools in the Spokane Public School system and broadened community collaboration.

The Spokane team dedicated workshops and roundtables to addressing broad-spectrum issues by utilizing trauma-informed approaches and working with youth involved in the juvenile justice and foster care systems. In addition, the team collaborated with partners to provide culture-responsivity trainings, including topics on Native American families and LGBTQ+ youth. In terms of community engagement, the Capstone team promoted the Police Activities League, which provides a natural trust-building opportunity between probation officers and youth. They also supported community forums to bridge the communication gap between police and communities of color. To support homeless youth, Spokane County staff engaged in a “100-day Challenge” to house 100 homeless youth in 100 days.

Through these reform efforts, the Spokane Public Schools’ suspension rates have dropped 31 percent. School-based arrest has decreased as well, from 800 arrests in the 2015-2016 school year to 100 in the 2016-2017. However, researchers still find that students qualifying for free and reduced-price lunches, as well as students qualifying for special education, remain disproportionately suspended. While project READY expanded community and staff trainings to address implicit bias, the Spokane County Capstone team continues to involve students and youth experiencing disparities in problem-solving and early intervention strategies.

Hamilton County, OH (2015 Cohort)

Hamilton County, OH 1

The Hamilton County, OH team attended the inaugural 2015 SJP program and is working to increase the use of positive interventions instead of exclusionary practices for youth in schools. Through their Capstone Project, the team has successfully instituted a diversionary court in February 2016 for youth involved in disorderly conduct and truancy cases in the Northwest Local School District (NWLSD). As of January 2017, the team has expanded the diversionary court meetings from twice a month to four times a month. In the 2016-2017 school year, a total of 194 youth are involved in the diversionary court. 64 youth have been dismissed from the program. Of these 64 youth, 48 (75%) of them have successfully completed the program.

To strengthen behavioral health services for students, the team has formed partnerships with three local mental health or social services providers to offer services such as individual therapy in schools and mentoring programs, as well as begun drug treatment partnerships to allow students to enter treatment in lieu of expulsion. In addition, there is now a NWLSD social worker who has access to the juvenile court system database. The social worker is able to monitor youth who are involved in both child welfare and juvenile justice systems, and work with both systems to develop service plans for these youth.

Recognizing the importance of agency culture change and staff buy-in, the team has also been working diligently to train their staff. So far, over 70% of the NWLSD staff has been trained in restorative justice practices, and the leadership is currently looking to develop trauma-informed training.

Youth in Custody (YIC)

Bexar County, TX Team (2017 Cohort)

After attending the 2017 Youth in Custody Certificate Program, the Bexar County, Texas team centered their Capstone Project on supporting youth in secure residential care to transition back into the communities. They focused their effort in a specific local facility, the Krier Center, building readiness for meaningful academic and employment opportunities for youth. In particular, the team created academic, vocational, technological, and life skills programs with support from the County Juvenile Probation Department, East Central Independent School District, County District Attorney’s Office, and other community-based partners.

Through their Capstone Project, the Bexar County team has expanded career and technical education options for residents by partnering with Goodwill Industries of San Antonio and Alamo Workforce Solutions. In 2018, Goodwill has taught fifty-seven class sessions in ten new courses to help residents build career-related knowledge and skillsets. Through these courses with Goodwill, residents can obtain Texas Food Handlers certification, TABC certification, and OSHA-10 certification. These certifications allow residents to be job-ready when they re-enter the community. In addition, the Career and Technical Education Specialist, a newly created position at the Krier Center, ensures each youth receive individualized educational and/or career services. The passing of House Bill 2442 supported the team’s effort in individualizing residents’ schedule, allowing a smoother transition between academic and therapeutic programming, as well as a better teacher-student ratio (from 1:12 to 1:8). The changes in students’ daily schedule reduced the behavioral incidents from 276 to 148 per semester.

Furthermore, the team has strengthened the Krier Center’s youth and family engagement efforts. For example, staff at Krier Center now work closely with parents to plan Parent-Teacher-Facility Nights. As a result, there was a 90% increase in parental participation from September 2017 to September 2018. Since January 2019, we have seen a further increase to 96% parent participation in Family Skills groups in addition to Parent-Teacher-Facility Nights. They also bolstered their orientation process for youth and parents, began to provide family feedback forms, and started to include families in the Krier Center’s Admission, Review and Dismissal Meetings.

The significant reduction in frequency of behavioral incidents, increase in the number of students receiving additional credits through credit recovery, and positive youth feedback are some encouraging preliminary results. In the future, the team plans to expand the number of classes further, partner with local community colleges, and develop relationships with potential employers for apprenticeship opportunities, so that youth leaving the Krier Center can more successfully transition back into their communities.

Texas Juvenile Justice Department Team (2015 Cohort)

The Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) team participated in the 2015 YIC Certificate Program. They developed a Capstone Project focused around individualizing youth’s activities and improving treatment services for youth in facilities. With the goal of helping youth in custody better transition and reintegrate into the community, the team reviewed facility education policies and developed two pilot programs for youth with a GED or high school diploma. These pilot programs provide youth with opportunities to engage in the community, seek off-campus employment, and receive more intensive treatment based on their unique needs. The TJJD team built the pilot programs based on a multi-disciplinary approach that focused on addressing youth’s protective and risk factors. In the pilot programs, youth can participate in “student councils,” learn practical life skills such as cooking, painting, and using power tools, and receive job readiness training (e.g., interview and resume-writing lessons).

While the Capstone Project is in its nascent implementation phase, it has facilitated improvement in interagency collaboration and led to success for youth who have gone through the pilot programs. Preliminary TJJD data showed that youth’s participation in the Capstone Program at one facility is associated with 53 percent average decrease in behavioral incidents. Staff also reported an increase in youth engagement as a result of the pilot programs. The team’s work was featured at the American Correctional Association (ACA) Conference in Boston in 2016.

Sacramento, CA Team (2013 & 2014 Cohorts)

Sacramento Probation

To improve outcomes for youth in custody, Probation Department leaders in Sacramento attended the 2013 and 2014 YIC Certificate Programs. Participation in these programs led to the development of a facility-wide culture card, a Positive Behavior Motivation Program, and a Special Needs unit that includes a one-of-a-kind multi-sensory de-escalation room at the Sacramento County Youth Detention Facility (YDF). The 2013 Capstone Project shifted the historically punitive and correctional approach within the detention facility to one that cultivates positive, pro-social behaviors. To promote sustainable culture change, the Probation Department sought the help of staff at all levels and disciplines to establish a vision statement and a set of foundational beliefs centered on teamwork, communication, empathy, and growth. The staff created a “culture card,” which has been utilized in daily meetings to implement the principles and core beliefs from their vision statement. This shift improved staff’s work satisfaction and relationship with detained youth, reduced staff’s need to use force, and served as a foundation for the subsequent incentive and rewards program for YDF youth. The program, named the Positive Behavior Motivation Program, allows youth to earn points and redeem lost points for pro-social behaviors, earn “Honor Status” for positive behaviors, and requires direct and timely explanation by staff around the provision of incentives to youth.

The goal of the 2014 Capstone Project centered on creation of a therapeutic housing environment for youth at YDF. As a result of the Capstone, all staff at the facility received Think Trauma and Multi-Sensory De-escalation Room (MSDR) training. Think Trauma provides training for juvenile justice professionals to create a trauma-informed residential setting for youth in custody. The MSDR, although originally designed for youth with special needs, has since been expanded to include a second room for all youth in the facility. Both MSDR rooms include colorful murals on the walls, padded furniture and mats, and objects for mindfulness and distress tolerance activities. The facility also offers over 50 programs for youth, including mentoring, religious services, music, gardening, library, swimming, construction training programs, and an on-site Boys and Girls Club. These programs offer youth social support and skill training, emphasizing and preparing youth for their transition into the community once they are released.

As a result of these efforts, Sacramento YDF staff has seen a decrease in the use of room confinement, from an average of 17 hours in 2011 to about 1.7 hours in 2016. In addition, the number of behavioral incidents at YDF has decreased significantly, from 649 incidents in 2010 to 140 incidents in 2016.