Innovation Network Team Profiles

Text over forest: meet the teams of the Innovation Network working to address crisis and transform systems.

Learn more about the goals of the diverse array of teams from across the country participating in the Innovation Network.

Fairfax County, Virginia Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court Team

Fairfax County recognizes the critical importance of investing in initiatives that strengthen our workforce in the youth justice system. Our ability to effectively serve our communities and promote positive outcomes for youth largely depends on the dedication, expertise, and stability of our workforce. Recent challenges with employee hiring and retention have exposed vulnerabilities to the advancement and sustainability of our youth justice transformation initiatives. By participating in the Innovation Network, Fairfax County, working in collaboration with other jurisdictions, hopes to strengthen our workforce, now and in the future, by identifying the factors contributing to the decline of workers entering the youth justice field and developing strategies to enhance recruitment, streamline hiring processes, establish effective retention strategies, promote professional growth and development, and increase employee engagement. 

Harris County, Texas Juvenile Probation Department Team

Our interest in participating in the Innovation Network stems from the recognition of the need for continuous improvement in our youth justice system to recruit and retain talent and serve as a catalyst for staff to reach their highest potential.  We aim to be a supporter of staff and change through leading by example.  As the largest juvenile probation department in Texas, we would also like to share our innovative strategies with other jurisdictions.

Due to our interest in learning about strategies to assist with staffing challenges, we are motivated to collaborate with and learn from other jurisdictions, share best practices, and stay at the forefront of innovative solutions in the fields of youth justice and staff recruiting and retention initiatives. Our goal is to work with other jurisdictions to develop ideas for retaining and recruiting staff to enhance the effectiveness of our workforce, improve rehabilitation outcomes, and create a more sustainable and supportive work environment through the adoption of new methods and technological advancements.

We are also interested in receiving information that will help us to connect the dots from our department’s overall goals and philosophies to the actual services provided to both our staff and youth.  

Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice Team

The DJJ application team believes our work is important and worthwhile. Our goals in participating in this opportunity are to:

  • Collaborate and learn strategies to improve the quality of the workplace, particularly for employees in JJS and JJS Supervisor positions. We seek to make daily shifts less stressful and allow employees to be free of the stress of forced overtime and enjoy their personal lives. Increasing the quality of the workplace will increase staff buy-in to DJJ’s broader mission.
  • Adequately prepare to open an additional facility in early 2025. As such, we are seeking to and open that center sufficiently staffed without jeopardizing staffing at our closest facility.
  • Create staffing stability within the facilities. All departments in our facilities perform better when we have staffing consistency within the facilities, which impacts consistency for youth.

Minnesota Department of Public Safety Team

The Minnesota Governor’s Children’s Cabinet’s Youth Justice Transformation project, facilitated by the Haywood Burns Institute and Annie E. Casey Foundation, culminated in a series of recommendations related to needed systems and policy reform, which were inspired by input from community and systems leaders.  Recommendations fell within the following categories: Data Collection and Transparency​, Community Engagement​, Policy and Practice​, Funding​, and Leadership Alignment.

  • These recommendations align with those of JJAC, as well as the legislatively created MN Working Group on Youth Interventions.  While multiple experts and advisory bodies agree these innovations are urgently needed, state-level workforce lacks the comprehensive team capacity to fulfill these obligations and actualize the associated goals.  
  • This T.A. support would build off the momentum generated by the Youth Justice Transformation Initiative and compliment the ongoing efforts of JJAC.

New York Office of Children and Family Services

In partnering with the Innovation Network, OCFS hopes to gather insight, best practices, and strategies to improve the overall efficacy and impact of its recruitment and retention strategies. In the last four years, especially with the impacts of the pandemic, OCFS has taken ad-hoc and responsive approaches—but lacks the kind of direction and strategy borne of the opportunity to reflect, plan, deliver, and test. OCFS’ single most pressing issue is recruiting and retaining DJJOY staff to support increasing youth numbers, and OCFS recognizes that it does not have all the tools or resources to establish the kind of workplace culture where staff feel roundly supported or seen. 

Programming and services rely on adequate staffing. Retention is notoriously poor in facilities, impacting the continuity of care for the youth DJJOY serves. Each attrition reflects lost agency investment; deeper inability to make supervision ratios; a disappearance of knowledge, energy, talent, and experience; an increase in cynicism about the value of juvenile justice work; and exploitable system vulnerabilities. Taking account of all the strategies OCFS has put in place to positively impact recruitment and retention, and still, finding no significant increase in staff numbers relative to the influx of youth, feels like a losing battle. In working with the Innovation Network, OCFS looks to bring more creativity, structure, and planning to workforce efforts.

Ohio Department of Youth Services Team

ODYS is excited to participate in the development and implementation of impactful strategies in both retention and recruitment. 

  • The agency has improved applicant rates and is eager to share what’s working.
    • With increased applicant rates, there are more found who are unsuited to work with this high-need population. Solving turnover is among ODYS’ highest priorities as it hinders the agency’s ability to roll out more innovative trauma-responsive practices. 
  • Goal 1 – Learn how to utilize effective recruitment strategies for better fitting candidates. 
  • Goal 2 – Develop and implement a continuous improvement cycle for personnel retention.

Utah Juvenile Justice and Youth Services Team

  • Establishing Short-Term Strategies to Mitigate the Workforce Shortage
    • We have been working on establishing short-term strategies to recruit new staff by connecting at community events, finding new ways to publish our job postings and asking staff members to refer people who may be interested. Guidance from an initiative such as this will enhance our efforts and provide a more consistent, proven approach. 
  • Transforming Systems to Create Innovative Staffing Strategies 
    • We need help telling our story to legislative partners- so they see the connection between investing in juvenile justice staff, and improved outcomes for youth, families, and public safety. 
    • Help in establishing juvenile justice as a valued profession in Utah. 
    • Help in the creation of a certificate program with our university partners. 
  • Strategies to improve recruitment
    • Develop a more formal framework for our recruitment work group. Improved structure and strategies will create more sustainable and effective recruitment. 
  • Establishing better ways to retain staff
    • We would like to improve the opportunity for staff to advance within our system and elevate the quality work found within facilities. 

Washington Department of Children, Youth, & Families, Juvenile Rehabilitation Team

Our interest in participating in the Innovation Network stems from our deep commitment to providing high-quality care, programming, and support for the youth and young adults we serve. We firmly believe in the transformative power of education, programming, and trauma-informed practices in empowering young individuals to reach their full potential. 

Through participating in this opportunity, our team seeks to leverage innovative strategies and best practices to build our agency’s capacity and further enhance our ability to support staff who deliver care, as well as interventions, and opportunities for growth of the individuals we serve. Specifically, we wish to increase our ability to recruit and sufficiently staff positions, improve retention rates, improve staff mental and physical resilience, provide staff with increased opportunities for growth and professional development, equip staff with more knowledge, skills, and resources to better serve young people, and improve outcomes for our workforce, as well as those under our care.