Juvenile Justice caseworkers manage cases for "best case" outcomes and "case closed" status. When they are assigned a client, the case worker monitors and supports that youth from their first offense through juvenile court, detentions and residential or other out-of-home placements. The progress of a youth through the juvenile justice system is often long and arduous from intake, booking, and registration to court action, fines, detention, sentencing, probation, and residential placement. Frequently, these same youthful offenders are "cross-over" cases that have come to the attention of both child protective services and juvenile justice case workers.
Imagine a 13-year-old arrested after being caught shop lifting and taken before the judge. No matter how sullen and insouciant the child may appear, this is still a 13-year-old mind and psyche that must now navigate the massive adult monolith that is our system of justice. In addition, this 13-year-old is often from a broken home or has been abused by its natural parents and is trying to navigate life from a traumatized perspective.
Enter the juvenile justice case worker. In the past, the case worker may have typically helped the child enter a plea, then contacted the child's family and handed the case over to an attorney of their choice. This is no longer the way juvenile justice case workers do business. Now, case workers not only shepherd juveniles through their initial court appearance but stay with the client all the way through the system to detention, probation, and residential placement. In other words, they stay with the client until the case achieves the coveted "case closed" status.
To be effective in achieving the best possible outcome for the youthful offender, the case worker is required to track a wide range of services supporting the juvenile's physical, emotional, and social development. This “cradle to grave” support initiative is a highly complex administrative task requiring coordination among various agencies, data sharing, progress tracking, goal setting, and critical status evaluation. This level of outcome focused support requires advanced professional training for case workers.
The Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University
The Center supports and educates leaders across systems of care to advance a balanced, multi-system approach to improving outcomes for, and promoting the positive development of, youth at risk of juvenile justice involvement. The center provides national leadership in identifying and highlighting the research on policies and practices that work best to reduce delinquency and achieve better outcomes for this nation’s children. A particular focus of the Center is on youth known to both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, also referred to as “crossover youth.”
The Center’s Goals:
- An overall reduction in recidivism, a reduction in the severity of new crimes, and an increase in the time before recidivism.
- An increase in cases being dismissed or diverted and a reduction in sustained juvenile petitions.
- An improvement in crossover youth living at home and a reduction in detention and congregate care.
- An improvement in pro-social behavior.
Phase 1 - Arrest, Identification, and Detention - Decision-Making regarding charges:
Addresses the handling of a case beginning with the point of arrest. The protocols developed in partnership with the jurisdiction will outline a process for identifying crossover youth (detained or non-detained) at the earliest point possible in the case and establish cross-system collaboration at the front-end of system engagement. It also emphasizes the early engagement of family and immediate information sharing for the purposes of case planning and support for the youth.
Phase 2 - Joint Assessment and Planning:
Explores case assignment across the systems for court processing, exploration of court docketing options, and utilization of collaborative joint assessment and coordinated case planning processes across systems. The emphasis in this phase is on a variety of case management functions to be performed in a collective manner.
Phase 3 - Coordinated Case management and Ongoing assessment - Planning for Youth Permanency, Transition, and Case Closure:
Focuses on permanency and case closure. It enhances the long-term planning that occurs throughout the case thus improving outcomes for crossover youth. It also stresses the importance of engaging community supports to ensure a safe transition from the system for all youth.
Juvenile Justice case workers are focused on “best-case” outcomes and “case closed” status for every youth in their care. This is a “long game” that requires a level of professionalism and dedication that puts these dedicated workers in a class by themselves. They are doing “God’s Work”.
If you enjoyed reading this blog, then don't stop here! You can read more about Juvenile Justice/Child Welfare on our blog. Enjoy our content? Then please subscribe for instant, weekly or monthly updates!