Hello. I am Liz Ryan, the Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, or OJJDP.
Today, I want to talk about the importance of listening—specifically, listening to young people. I believe the juvenile justice system exists to put young people on the right path—not to perpetuate their involvement in the justice system, and certainly not to harm them. By focusing on helping youth, we can simultaneously hold them accountable for their actions and improve outcomes.
The best way to effectively reach young people is to listen to them. This starts with asking youth what they need—and listening to what they say.
As Administrator, I have three priorities—treat children as children, serve children in their communities with their families, and open up opportunities for system-involved youth. In these and all our efforts, we will focus on pursuing racial equity and fairness and centering impacted youth and families. A first step to fulfilling these goals is to ensure that the youth voice is solicited, heard, and amplified.
In June, we began holding listening sessions with practitioners in the juvenile justice field. I wanted to hear firsthand about their professional challenges and successes. I also wanted to learn from them how best to implement our three priorities. The sessions are still under way, but already the feedback has been invaluable.
I intend to hold the same types of conversations with youth. I want to speak directly with young people about their lived experiences with the juvenile justice system. I will hold both in-person and virtual listening sessions, and these will include youth currently in detention, as well as those who have left the system. I plan to attend these meetings with an open mind—ready to learn.
It is my goal for OJJDP to include youth involved in the juvenile justice system and their family members in all our initiatives.
We recently launched the Youth and Family Partnership Working Group. This internal working group will develop recommendations, establish best practices, and assess our efforts. We want to ensure that the programs we fund address the needs of youth and families they serve.
When we listen, we learn, and when we learn, we can better lead. That’s why all of us at OJJDP are ready to listen to young people and their families.