OJJDP held two of its most important conferences—the Tribal Youth National Conference and the State and Tribal Relations Assistance Division National Training Conference—concurrently December 13–15, 2022, in San Diego, CA. The shared location was part of OJJDP’s effort to encourage greater collaboration between state officials and Tribal communities on strategies to keep Native youth out of the juvenile justice system.
Organizers offered sessions developed for both audiences, including a panel discussion on ways Tribes and states can collaborate to provide alternatives to youth incarceration, a session highlighting Tribal best practices for supporting young people who are healing from trauma, and joint networking and social events. Together, the conferences drew more than 450 attendees.
OJJDP Administrator Liz Ryan offered opening remarks at the Tribal Youth National Conference, underscoring the importance of Tribal representation on state advisory groups. “OJJDP believes that a Tribal presence on [state advisory groups] is vital to keeping Native youth safe,” she said. “I will continue our efforts to strengthen relationships between states, Tribes, and Native communities to ensure that Native voices are heard, recognized, and empowered.”
“OJJDP does not and will not take a one-size-fits-all approach to our Tribal work and programs. We will rely on your insights to ensure that the services we fund incorporate, honor, and celebrate Indigenous values while meeting Tribal needs.”
—OJJDP Administrator Liz Ryan at the OJJDP Tribal Youth National Conference
Hosted by OJJDP’s Tribal Youth Resource Center, the youth conference emphasized opportunities for young people to reinforce connections to Indigenous traditions and strengthen their identities as Native people. The event included nearly 40 sessions and activities for organizations serving Tribal youth, including OJJDP-funded Tribal youth programs and juvenile Tribal healing to wellness courts. A special track led by the National Native Children’s Trauma Center introduced principles of trauma-informed care for professionals serving system-involved Tribal youth. Native youth, including Tribal Youth Resource Center ambassadors, participated in discussions about issues they face, the needs of Native LGBTQ+ and Two-Spirit youth, and strategies for cultivating Tribal youth leaders.
At OJJDP’s fifth annual State and Tribal Relations Assistance Division National Training Conference, sessions addressed implementation of the Title II Formula Grants program and the core requirements of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974, as amended. In opening remarks, Administrator Ryan noted the broad representation of state advisory groups and designated state agencies, with officials from 48 states, Washington, DC, and 5 territories in attendance. “We can better serve all young people when every state and territory is committed to achieving the core protections,” she said.
Other conference topics included OJJDP expectations for state compliance with the core requirements, compliance monitoring, and data collection and submission. Tribal Youth Resource Center youth ambassadors participated in a panel discussion on ways young adults can help to transform the juvenile justice system, and justice-involved youth participated in several other sessions.
OJJDP Associate Administrator Dr. TeNeane Bradford told attendees about her plans to visit states and observe best practices. She also gave an update on division activities, including:
- Approval of every state’s revised compliance monitoring manual.
- Ongoing efforts to enhance technical assistance to help states reduce racial and ethnic disparities.
- Fiscal year 2021 and 2022 Title II Formula Grants awarded to states and territories.
In concluding remarks, Administrator Ryan noted that the United States codified youth rights in the justice system just 50 years ago. That core belief—that youth differ from adults and need their own system of justice—has never wavered, she said.
“Our work will not be complete until we achieve OJJDP’s vision of a nation where all children are free from crime and violence, and youth contact with the justice system is rare, fair, and beneficial,” Administrator Ryan said.