In 2012, Justice For Families released “Families Unlocking Futures: Solutions to the Crisis in Juvenile Justice.” Based on over 1,000 surveys with parents and family members of system-involved youth and 24 focus groups nationwide, the report presented a body of data that had never been captured or examined before. It aimed to correct misperceptions about youth and families that are involved in the juvenile justice system; demonstrated the need for families’ active participation in redesigning juvenile justice systems; and exposed glaring flaws in the system that burden, alienate and exclude families from every juncture in the juvenile justice system. Since the release, J4F has successfully used the report to help shape public opinion about families of youth and change policy and practice to reflect the critical need for genuine family voice at all decision-making points in juvenile justice.
Families are a youth’s primary emotional, social, cultural and spiritual resource. Therefore, we cannot maximize youth success or achieve our public safety goals without meaningfully engaging their families. Family advocacy experts define family engagement as “a meaningful partnership with families and youth at every level of the agency and system.” It’s important to note that meaningful engagement happens when families are truly valued, and when they are appreciated as experts and critical stakeholders in the shaping of positive outcomes. This is not limited to families as experts on their own children and the benefits to engaging them at the individual case-level; it also includes drawing on the experiences and expertise of families throughout all the stages of system reform. In our research and experience, we have found that meaningful family engagement and partnerships are the key to sustainable and broadly felt change in juvenile justice systems, benefitting the young people, their families, the staff who work with them, and ultimately, their communities as a whole.
Justice For Families has developed working partnerships with many of the nation’s leading experts on juvenile justice reform to develop tools and strategies that will help juvenile justice systems embrace and operationalize the core concepts of meaningful family and youth partnerships. The tools and resources from the “Partnering For Success Series” were developed with funding provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI). Our staff and families complement this formal expertise with many years of direct personal experience with positive juvenile justice reform efforts and a distinctive expertise in engaging and partnering with families.
The tools are provided at no cost; however, we do ask that you provide us with your name, email address, title and the agency/organization that you work with. We are requesting this information in order to find out who is using the tools and to be able to share new tools as they are developed. In addition, Justice For Families provides technical assistance to agencies including training of staff, an assessment of current policy and practice and consultations.
Tools for Download
Focus on Youth and Family – A Guide for Conducting Focus Groups with Youth and Families Impacted by the Juvenile Justice System.