A foundation-funded initiative to reform juvenile justice in several California counties is progressing despite inconsistent buy-in from county leaders, according to an evaluation released this month.
The Sierra Health Foundation launched the Positive Youth Justice Initiative (PYJI) in 2012 with a goal of reforming California’s juvenile justice practice and policy at the county level.
The first year evaluation released this week lists several accomplishments common to all of the counties involved:
- Improvements to their ability to collect data on crossover youth
- Planned or implemented training to educators, probation and other providers to foster healthy development rather than punitive sanctions and confinement
- Modified referral processes and some have increased “warm handoffs” between the multiple agencies involved in these young people’s lives
- Expanded access to wraparound services for crossover youth
“As a foundation that launched this initiative three years ago for a specific population, we are encouraged to see the broader acceptance and nationwide discussion to advance developmentally appropriate juvenile justice practice for all system-engaged youth,” said Sierra CEO Chet Hewitt in a statement about the evaluation.
The evaluation found that all recipients have made progress putting their implementation plans into practice. However, the various counties are progressing at different paces based on their unique set of circumstances.
The report identified the most common challenge counties face in implementation has been “achieving widespread support for PYJI from all levels of staff, completing contracts and hiring necessary staff to begin implementing PYJI elements, and improving capacity for data collection and sharing.”
PYJI focuses on crossover youth, those with histories of neglect, abuse, trauma and involvement in the child welfare system and who currently are involved with their county’s juvenile justice system. The Foundation, along with its community partners, aims to change how local systems view, screen, and provide services to crossover youth and their families.
“PYJI is built on the premise that when young people engaged in juvenile justice systems return to a healthy developmental path, our communities gain productive citizens and as a result are far safer,” Hewitt said.
Six counties received $75,000 planning grants in 2012: Alameda County Probation Department, Sacramento County Probation Department, San Diego County Probation Department, San Joaquin County Probation Department, Vallejo City Unified School District (Solano County), and Yolo County Probation Department.
Eligibility was based on county poverty levels, location in state, local political will and juvenile incarceration rates, among other factors.
The planning grants were used to design a program to treat juveniles in grantees’ respective counties — incorporating trauma treatment, wrap around services and positive youth development.
Four of the six counties received implementation grants of $400,000 in January 2014 — Alameda, San Diego, San Joaquin and Solano.
The implementation grants enabled recipients to test a series of reforms designed to address the needs of youth involved in the juvenile justice system.
Sierra Health Foundation has announced the results of the first year evaluation of the Positive Youth Justice Initiative (PYJI) and specifically the work of their grantee partners.
The evaluation was conducted by a third party, Resource Development Associates out of Oakland. It was designed to assess the extent to which systems changed how they work to support the youth under their jurisdictions during the first year of implementation.
To see the foundation’s full report, click here.
Judith Fenlon is the Money and Business Editor of the Chronicle of Social Change.