An Illinois program that supports youth involved in both child welfare and juvenile justice systems earned this year’s Council on Accreditation (COA) Innovation Practices Award.
One of 76 applicants for COA’s award, Regenerations is a program of Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois to support current or former foster youths as they exit out of juvenile or adult prison to be successful and avoid re-offending.
Regenerations Since its inception in 2006, nine out of 10 participants in the program have avoided re-incarceration, and all youth in Regenerations are placed outside of residential care into the homes of relatives or foster parents. Youth ages 12-22 are eligible for the program, and are provided advocacy, education, therapy and vocational training services to prevent re-offending.
“There was a large hole and an under-served population that was being dealt with in an inappropriate way,” said Lutheran President Mike Bertrand, in an interview with Accreditation Guru, an organization that helps others throughout the accreditation process. “At the time in Illinois, we had an extensive amount of youth either in juvenile or adult prison being kept past their release date because there was no program or place for them to go … We create individualized services for each youth in terms of what they need.”
The program typically works closely with relatives of the youth to maintain and support the placement of the youth in their home.
“Our success in deflecting youth from residential placement has largely relied on relatives,” Bertrand said. “Not all youths are placed with relatives. About half are placed with licensed foster parents that we recruited and trained and take through the state’s licensing process.”
All caregivers are trained to work with youth who have experienced the juvenile justice system and each youth is provided with financial education, job training, education and other supports as needed to keep them from re-offending.