By Anna Clough, Director/Lead for Juvenile Healing to Wellness Courts, Tribal Youth Resource Center
Although there has been a steady decline in juvenile arrests and violence in Indian country in recent years, substance use—including alcohol and opioid misuse—by Native Americans remains prevalent. Over the last half decade, I have seen a growing interested in tribal juvenile healing to wellness courts from tribes that are looking for opportunities to expand and enhance their youth services.
These courts provide individualized, restorative, and culturally grounded case management services, which include treatment, intensive supervision, and referral to community resources. By fostering close collaborations among a multidisciplinary team of stakeholders—including the judge, attorneys, treatment provider, case manager, probation officer, child welfare representative, and education provider—tribal juvenile healing to wellness courts have proven to be a powerful mechanism for supporting youth involved with the juvenile justice system.
OJJDP's Tribal Youth Resource Center provides free training and technical assistance to help tribal communities plan, develop, and implement tribal juvenile healing to wellness courts. The center's resources and training helps communities access and implement evidence- and practice-based approaches to improve outcomes for youth. An example of such training is the recently concluded webinar series titled Developing Effective Program Processes To Support Youth Treatment. During the training, participants examined substance use by tribal youth and its impact on communities, and case management models and treatment services for youth.
Our training curriculum covers a wide variety of topics that may arise as part of the work within a juvenile wellness court. In fiscal year 2020, we conducted a virtual six-part learning series for communities in the process of establishing a wellness court. Topics included how to develop the team, select the right participants, and promote positive behavior change. The participants also learned about phased case planning, case management and community supervision, and best practices and promising approaches of successful courts.
These trainings are bolstered by strategic planning resources and ongoing learning opportunities that cover topics such as how to develop an advisory committee and/or circle, mission and vision, logic model, and communication plan for the wellness court; and considerations for program data collection and evaluation. We also link tribal grantees and interested communities to resources and tools to support community engagement and long-term court planning.
The tribal juvenile healing to wellness court is one of many approaches aimed at promoting the health and safety of tribal members. Preventing youth from entering or moving further into the juvenile justice system and supporting communities striving to address substance use are integral to our mission at the Tribal Youth Resource Center.
"Our primary mission is to enhance opportunities for indigenous communities to expand their capacity to protect our most sacred asset—youth. It's humbling to see the commitment from our elders to support prevention and intervention initiatives with the potential to help our youth achieve lasting changes."
Participate in the annual Tribal Healing to Wellness Court Virtual Enhancement Training on June 21–25, 2021.
The Tribal Juvenile Healing to Wellness Court Handbook is available on the OJJDP website.
Alaskan communities interested in learning more about tribal juvenile healing to wellness courts may visit The Resource Basket, an OJJDP-funded training and technical assistance provider that supports Alaska Native youth and community connections.
The OJJDP Tribal Youth Resource Center YouTube Channel includes archived training materials on tribal juvenile healing to wellness courts.
Points of view or opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.