May | June 2019

News in Brief
Headshots of OJJDP Administrator Caren Harp and Children's Bureau Associate Commissioner Jerry Milner

OJJDP and Children’s Bureau Blog and Video Highlight Federal and Local Partnerships To End Child Abuse

In a joint blog and video, OJJDP Administrator Caren Harp and Children's Bureau Associate Commissioner Jerry Milner discuss how both agencies are partnering to promote the safety and well-being of children and families in recognition of National Child Abuse Prevention Month and throughout the year.

The blog and video highlight the efforts of OJJDP and the Children's Bureau to promote community partnerships and support efforts to address and prevent child abuse and neglect.

Administrator To Convene OJJDP Restorative Justice Working Group

Restorative justice encompasses a wide range of practices and approaches that focus on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large. These practices have expanded rapidly and now involve multiple models and approaches, including victim-offender conferences; group conferences, which can include family members, friends, and others in the community; and “peacemaking circles,” a process adapted from ancient tribal conflict-resolution rituals. “When properly defined and practiced, restorative justice programs can guide effective youth interventions, repair harm to victims, and enhance public safety,” said OJJDP Administrator Caren Harp. “However, the juvenile justice field generally operates without an agreed-upon definition of restorative justice or a plan for implementation.”

To offer expert assistance to the field, Administrator Harp has organized a working group of leading restorative justice advocates and practitioners. The group will meet several times over the next 2 years, with the goal of producing a user-friendly guide that contains definitions, principles, and implementation guidelines to help jurisdictions gain a better understanding of restorative justice and commit to putting restorative justice programs into action.

The Office has created a mailbox that the public may use to submit comments, suggestions, and ideas on the topic of restorative justice. The feedback may inform the working group discussion and the planned restorative justice guide. A Restorative Justice In Focus webpage that offers information about restorative justice practices, the working group members, and links to helpful resources will be released shortly.

The first meeting of the working group will be held July 15, 2019, at the Office of Justice Programs in Washington, DC. For more information, contact OJJDP.

OJJDP Roundtable: Implementing Systemwide Juvenile Justice Improvements

In 2017, OJJDP launched the Juvenile Justice Systems Improvement Promising Practices Initiative. ICF Incorporated, LLC, received a grant award to synthesize, collect, and interpret the outcomes, models, and best practices of previously funded OJJDP projects. The initiative aims to inform the juvenile justice field about promising practices and lessons learned from the states through roundtable discussions and the development of resources and tools to support states, local governments, and communities in improving outcomes for youth.

As part of the initiative, OJJDP held the second of four expert roundtable discussions at the Office of Justice Programs in Washington, DC, in early April. The discussion focused on OJJDP’s Multicomponent Systems Improvement projects, which have provided training and technical assistance to help states implement legislation mandating changes across the juvenile justice system. The changes are designed to enhance public safety, reduce recidivism, maximize cost savings, and strategically reinvest those savings in juvenile justice programs that have been shown to be effective.

Roundtable discussion participants represented a range of agencies and included OJJDP staff members Gwendolyn Dilworth, Sanzanna Dean, Julia Alanen, and Jeff Slowikowski. Panelists included Rachel Bingham, Executive Director for the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts; Susan Burke, Former Director of the Utah Division of Juvenile Services; Ruth Rosenthal, Associate Manager for the Pew Charitable Trusts; and Tessa Upin, Deputy Director of Juvenile Justice Initiatives for the Crime and Justice Institute. These participants, along with ICF’s project team—representatives from Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform and a seven-member panel of juvenile justice experts—facilitated discussions on how best to lead and sustain multicomponent juvenile justice system improvements in the states.

In group discussions and breakout sessions, participants highlighted why it is important to do the following: create a shared statewide vision for system improvements, explain the reasons for system change, build line staff buy-in, ensure fidelity to evidence-based programs and best practices, engage stakeholders for support, and identify “champions” within organizations to promote systems change. Participants also emphasized the importance of using data to identify areas for system improvement, monitor implementation and progress, and sustain promising practices over time.

The third roundtable, to be held July 9, 2019, will focus on system improvement efforts in the areas of community supervision and the reduction of out-of-home placement for youth. The final roundtable, which will take place October 1, 2019, will discuss legal issues in the juvenile justice system, including the age of criminal responsibility and the full continuum of care required to meet the legal needs of justice-involved youth, from charging to reentry and reintegration.

National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association Holds Annual Conference

National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association logoThe National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Association, together with its state and local member programs, supports and promotes court appointed volunteer advocacy on behalf of abused and neglected children. CASA volunteers help ensure that these children do not get lost in the legal or social service systems and that they are placed in safe, permanent homes.

On June 1–4, 2019, staff and volunteers from the association’s network of nearly 950 programs gathered for a national conference in Atlanta, GA. The attendees also included social workers, judges, staff of youth service agencies, researchers, and corporate leaders. The conference theme was “Better Together: Building Stronger Families To Change Children’s Lives.”

The event featured presentations and discussions on a range of topics, including birth-parent and foster-parent partnerships, the intersection of child welfare and immigration, trauma-informed systems of care, the Family First Prevention Services Act, mitigation of the effects of addiction within the family system, support for grandparents who are raising grandchildren, and advocacy for children with incarcerated parents.

“OJJDP is proud to support the CASA model,” said James Antal, head of the Office’s Special Victims and Violent Offenders Division. “CASA volunteers work with legal and child welfare professionals, educators, and service providers to ensure that judges have all the information they need to make the best decisions for each child. They see the child through the entire court process, until the case is closed and the child is in a safe, permanent home.” In 2018, OJJDP supported state and local CASA programs in 49 states and the District of Columbia, and these programs served more than 233,000 abused and neglected children.

Two Programs Rated “Effective” by OJJDP Model Programs Guide

Great Life Mentoring is a one-on-one mentoring program in which youth referred from a community mental health agency receive support from adult volunteers with whom they spend 2–3 hours weekly on positive community activities. The program is rated “effective.” The intervention was shown to be associated with a statistically significant increase in global functioning and a lower likelihood of an unplanned and client-initiated ending of treatment.

Also rated effective is Criando con Amor: Promoviendo Armonía y Superación (CAPAS), a parent-training program for Latino immigrant parents whose children exhibit mild-to-moderate behavioral problems. This program includes two versions of a culturally adapted parenting intervention. Both versions of the intervention were found to have a statistically significant impact on improving parenting practices, compared with the control group. Only the enhanced intervention had a positive, statistically significant effect on child internalizing behaviors. Neither had a statistically significant effect on externalizing behavior.Gangs in Schools thumbnail


OJJDP’s National Gang Center Releases Gangs in Schools

Gangs in Schools discusses how to create a school safety plan to prevent and disrupt gangs in schools. Developing a comprehensive plan that identifies effective, evidence-based strategies to address gang issues in the school environment requires the involvement of law enforcement, school administrators and staff, and other key sectors of the community.

The OJJDP Comprehensive Gang Model highlights a holistic approach that involves all agencies and organizations within a community that are responsible for addressing gang-related crime and violence. An effective response begins with the coordination of prevention, intervention, and suppression efforts guided by appropriate information-sharing protocols. This establishes shared responsibility for tackling gang-related problems in schools.

Read the bulletin.