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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Ind. Courts - "Mahoning County Juvenile Justice officials lend a hand to judges in Indiana"

That is the headline to a lengthy editorial today in the Akron Legal News. A few quotes:

Should a teenager who has been abandoned by his/her parents and steals food from a local grocery store out of need be treated the same as a young person who robs a business to get money to buy the latest video game?

More juvenile court systems are taking such factors into account when determining the appropriate punishment for young offenders.

In 2012, representatives from the Mahoning County Juvenile Justice Center, the Mahoning County Children Services Board as well as other service providers began meeting with those from the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University to implement the Crossover Youth Practice Model, in which young people involved with both the child welfare and the juvenile justice systems are identified so they can receive targeted services to help them get their lives moving in a positive direction. * * *

Since 2011, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University and the Ohio Department of Youth Services have worked to bring the Crossover Youth Practice Model to 12 Ohio counties, but Mahoning County has been particularly successful in implementing the model.

When a new law went into effect in Indiana on July 1 requiring the adoption of a crossover youth model in the state’s juvenile courts, it was only natural that the Indiana judges might look to Mahoning County Juvenile Court officials to help them set up their program.

“Our law provides a framework for identifying a young person who is both delinquent and in the child welfare system,” said Henry County Circuit Court Judge Mary Willis, who together with her colleague Allen County Superior Court Judge Charles Pratt helped to draft House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1196 dual status child legislation. “Once the youth has been identified, we convene a team, based on the judge’s discretion, of several possible participants designated in the statute, share information and formulate a plan with a designated lead agency that makes recommendations on how to move forward.”

For example, Judge Willis said the child and family might be referred to an informal adjustment program without the formal filing of a petition or referred to necessary mental health services.

In August, Judge Willis and several other Indiana judges paid a visit to the Mahoning County Juvenile Justice Center.

The trip was arranged by the Georgetown University Center for Juvenile Justice Reform and the national foundation, Casey Family Programs. United Parcel Service founder Jim Casey established Casey Family Programs in 1966 to help improve the safety of vulnerable children and their families and reduce the need for foster care.

“We had been working with the Indiana judges to find an appropriate venue where they could learn more about the Crossover Youth Practice Model,” said retired Texas senior district court Judge Robin Sage, a judicial consultant for Casey Family Programs.

“One of the reasons we selected Mahoning County was because it has a good mix of urban and suburban areas and it is closer in size and demographics to many of the Indiana counties.”

In all four Indiana judges took part in the visit, including Judge Willis, Clark County Circuit Court Judge Vicki Carmichael, Allen County Superior Court Judge Charles Pratt and Elkhart County Juvenile Court Magistrate Deborah Domine. Retired Judge Robin Sage and Casey Family Programs’ Senior Director of Judicial Engagement Christopher Wu also made the trip. * * *

“We estimate that about 20 to 30 percent of our court-involved youth fit into the crossover model,” said Judge Willis. “Our definition by statute is a bit broader than other places in the country since we include youth alleged to have been in both systems, even if no adjudication has occurred.”

Judge Willis said while the law has taken effect across all 92 counties in Indiana, five counties (Tippecanoe, Elkhart, Allen, Clark and Henry) are piloting programs.

“Each county has a handful of cases, so far,” said Judge Willis. “In addition to the five pilots taking place, Marion County is conducting its own program to gather information from an academic perspective.

“If not for Mahoning County, we would have had to reinvent the wheel,” said Judge Willis. “They shared many of their forms with us like the memorandum of understanding they use when convening a team.

“I believe that if we can get the right kid into the right system from the beginning it will not only make a big difference to that child, it will also have a much larger positive impact on the next generation in that child’s family,” said Judge Willis.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 15, 2015 09:11 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts