Years of practical evidence and a growing body of research demonstrate that family members and other caring adults play a critical role in the lives of young people involved with the juvenile justice system. There is increasing awareness of the fact that youth who maintain positive relationships with loved ones while incarcerated are more likely to address treatment needs while in placement, and they are less likely to be involved with the justice system after returning to the community. Strong relationships with family members and other caring adults are protective factors against delinquent and criminal behavior. Further, many adjudicated youth who are placed within supportive households fare better than those who are incarcerated.
Despite its importance, achieving meaningful family engagement in juvenile justice is not always easy. This NDTAC N&D InFocus program examines ways in which families and justice agencies can work together to foster better outcomes for youth involved with the system. This program shares emerging research in this area and discusses how it is impacting policy and practice. It also features the experiences of young people and families who have been involved with the system and highlights their work to increase family–justice partnerships.
- NDTAC Toolkit: Facility Toolkit for Engaging Families in Their Child's Education at a Juvenile Justice Facility [PDF]
- NDTAC Guide: Family Guide to Getting Involved in Your Child's Education at a Juvenile Justice Facility [PDF]
- The Impact of Family Visitation on Incarcerated Youth’s Behavior and School Performance: Findings from the Families as Partners Project (Vera)
- Close to Home: Building on Family Support for People Leaving Jail (Vera)
- Why Ask About Family? A Guide for Corrections (Vera)
- Families as Partners: Supporting Incarcerated Youth in Ohio (Vera)
- Piloting a Tool for Reentry: A Promising Approach to Engaging Family Members (Vera)
- Setting an Agenda for Family-Focused Justice Reform (Vera)
- Families Unlocking Futures: Solutions to the Crisis in Juvenile Justice [PDF] (Families for Justice)
- Joint CMCS and SAMHSA Informational Bulletin: Coverage of Behavioral Health Services for Children, Youth, and Young Adults with Significant Mental Health Conditions [PDF] Provides guidance on the use of Medicaid funds for peer-to-peer parent and youth support, including for youth and families involved with the juvenile justice system
Meet Our Guests
Ryan Shanahan is a Senior Program Associate with the Vera Institute of Justice’s Family Justice Program. Ryan joined Vera in 2009. She works with corrections departments, juvenile justice agencies, and faith- and community-based organizations to support them in adopting family-focused and strength-based approaches to their work. Ryan led the FYI project to develop standards for juvenile justice agencies on family engagement as well as Vera’s work with Ohio’s Department of Youth Services. Before joining Vera’s Family Justice Program, she was a project director at Family Justice, where she helped develop tools that allow staff at juvenile justice agencies and community-based organizations to learn about the social support of youth and their families. Ryan holds a PhD in Women’s Studies from the University of Maryland where she also received her MA. Ryan holds a BA from the University of Connecticut.
Grace Bauer is the co-founder and co-director of Justice for Families. She is a respected leader and a trusted confidant for families seeking justice across the country. Grace is the mother of three children from Sulphur, Louisiana whose first exposure to the juvenile justice system came as the parent of a court-involved youth who, at age 14, was sent to a notorious juvenile correctional facility where he was abused and mistreated. Grace became a passionate advocate for juvenile justice reform. Grace helped organize other parents to form, and eventually direct, the Lake Charles chapter of Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC). Grace became the Co-Director of FFLIC and under her leadership the group quickly became known as the nation’s leading parent organization campaigning for greater fairness, reduced incarceration, improved services and better conditions of confinement in juvenile justice. Grace joined the Campaign for Youth Justice in 2008, where she worked to unite the parents and allies of children in six targeted states to change laws and practices that result in children being prosecuted and confined as adults. Grace also led the development of the National Parent Caucus, a national network of family members who have joined together to end the misguided practice of trying, sentencing and incarcerating children as adults.
Tracey Wells-Huggins’ is the founder and director of Renewed Minds CDC, Inc. She is a registered nurse with more than 15 years of experience and she is currently a Nursing Supervisor at the Oceanview Center for Rehabilitation. Tracey’s work in the social services includes being a member of the National Parent Leadership Team and a Professional Facilitator for Parents Anonymous, motivational speaker, member of the Cumberland County Youth Services Advisory Council, and the Chairperson of both the Cumberland County Healthy Communities Coalition and the Young Women's Action Alliance. Recently, Governor Christie appointed her to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Advisory Committee. Tracey is now on a mission to help “at promise” youth and young adults realize their natural-born “inner resolve to be a success.” Since the incorporation of Renewed Minds in 2008, she has provided programs, seminars and motivational speaking engagements to thousands of youth, young adults and stakeholders in various aspects of social service across the country. She remains committed to providing a forum that promotes self-examination and personal accountability.
Shabazz Boozer is an independent consultant working in coordination with Renewed Minds CDC Inc., Justice for Families, and other like-minded organizations. He is currently a Criminal Justice major working toward his undergraduate degree. Shabazz has participated in community organizing and young leaders training and shared his story with thousands of people across the country. Today Shabazz is serving as an outlet to young people involved with the justice system, giving back to the community that helped him overcome the challenges in his life, and ensuring others do not have to go through what he went through alone.