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Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Collaboration for Change (NCMHJJ) (Delmar NY)

This brief "discusses an effort in Texas to divert youth with suspected mental health needs away from juvenile justice processing. The Front-End Diversion Initiative (FEDI) uses specialized juvenile probation officers to link these youth and their families to community services and divert these youth from adjudication within the juvenile justice system." Sections cover: FEDI introduction; the issue of juvenile offenders' mental health challenges; juvenile justice processing of youth with mental health needs; the role of the juvenile probation officer and specialized supervision; the innovation of using Specialized Juvenile Probation Officer (SJPOs) as a pre-adjudication diversion strategy; the FEDI model; results and lessons learned; and looking forward. It appears that those youth participating in FEDI were significantly less likely to be adjudicated than those youth who were under traditional supervision.

Diverting Youth Cover

Many types of traumatic experiences occur in the lives of children and adolescents from all walks of life. Often, the after-effects of these experiences – persistent, post-traumatic stress reactions – play a role in the legal and behavioral problems that bring youth in contact with law enforcement and the juvenile justice system … Using a trauma-informed approach, juvenile justice systems can improve outcomes for justice-involved youth by: Better matching youth with trauma services that can reduce the impact of traumatic stress; Improving general conditions of confinement; [and] Preventing the harmful and inadvertent “re-traumatization” of youth." Sections cover: what psychological trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are, and how these affect youth and families; survival mode in youth with PTSD; why youth who are involved in the juvenile justice system are especially at risk for problems with traumatic stress; what constitutes trauma-informed services within juvenile justice systems—universal screening, assessment, and trauma treatment interventions; what also contributes to a trauma-informed perspective—creating trauma-informed environments, and collaborating across systems; what the benefits and challenges of a trauma-informed juvenile justice system are; guidance from the field for youth and families, juvenile justice systems, and examples of programs; and additional resources.

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