Community Connections for Youth (CCFY) is a New-York based nonprofit organization, located in the Bronx. The mission of CCFY is to mobilize indigenous faith and neighborhood organizations to develop effective community-based alternative-to-incarceration programs for young people. CCFY believes that increasing local community capacity to work with youth in the justice system is the key to reducing youth crime and delinquency, and improving long-term life outcomes for youth. The CCFY approach focuses on strengths and assets for youth and a commitment to increasing the positive forces in a young person’s life.
From the CCFY website:
The work we describe as building community capacity for juvenile justice reform includes the following elements:
System Engagement: providing expert consultation for juvenile justice agencies on ways to reduce reliance on the juvenile justice system by strengthening partnerships with communities.
Community Capacity Development: training grassroots faith and neighborhood organizations to effectively engage youth in the juvenile justice system.
System – Community Partnerships: facilitating system-community partnerships that are research-based and data-informed to divert youth from deeper juvenile justice system involvement by deepening their connection to the local community.
CCFY believes that reducing overreliance on the juvenile justice system can only happen when strong community networks are mobilized to care for youth and hold them accountable. This requires engaging community stakeholders closest to the problems, which includes faith and community leaders in affected neighborhoods, family members of system-involved youth, and the young people themselves. CCFY champions an approach that is restorative, strengths-based, and treats young people, their families and communities as assets in the juvenile justice reform process.
Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. (YAP) is a national nonprofit organization that works to keep youth safely home and out of residential placements. The mission of YAP is to support families and communities and to engage partners in the broader human services system to reduce the reliance on institutional placement.
From the YAP website: “Our mission is to engage human service systems so that they rely less on institutional care and to invest more in supporting families and neighborhoods. We currently work with child welfare, juvenile justice, behavioral health, disability and education systems to develop and offer community-based alternatives for the highest risk children, young people, young adults and families. Our staff seeks to capitalize on the strength and resources of families and communities, including identifying and engaging the informal natural helpers that are found in every community to support the highest risk youth and families.”
YAP currently operates programs in 18 States and 100 local communities throughout the U.S. as well as four countries. The program serves approximately 12,000 families annually. It provides incarceration alternatives for young people in New Jersey and New York, gang intervention programs in Texas and South Carolina, and a variety of other youth programs in Chicago, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and Newark. The YAP approach is to establish permanent connections for youth and young adults who often lack positive, community supports.
Juvenile Justice Alternatives Program
YAP provides a community-based alternative to placement program for youth justice departments across the country. The program is strength-based and family-focused and it serves adjudicated juvenile offenders whose behavior and social circumstances put them at risk of placement in residential facilities. Eligible youth are those deemed by the courts to be in need of residential care. The program follows an innovative advocacy/wraparound model that includes a comprehensive mix of highly individualized services for youth and their families. The goal of the program is to decrease the occurrence of juvenile crime and enhance community safety by increasing opportunities for success, improving the quality of life for youth and families, and facilitating community empowerment.
Clients referred to YAP receive individualized services from trained advocates that are tailored to the strengths and needs of each client and their family. Their no-refuse intake policy ensures that even the highest risk individuals are admitted into YAP program. The staff at YAP includes advocates recruited from the same neighborhoods as clients to improve relationships and to foster youth involvement in the community. Advocates work with clients up to 30 hours each week to support their acquisition of skills, competencies and connections. Advocates are available round the clock for crisis management.
In 2009, the Washington, DC Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) launched a new initiative (then called the “Lead Entity and Service Coalition Initiative” and later “DC YouthLink”) to coordinate the efforts of the Department with community-based organizations providing services to court-involved youth. The goal of the initiative was to supervise youthful offenders in the least restrictive method consistent with public safety and to build the efforts of agencies around the principles later articulated in the 2010 report, Positive Youth Justice.
The DYRS was led at the time by executive director Vinny Schiraldi (who later became Probation Commissioner in New York City), and chief of staff Marc Schindler (who later became the director of the Justice Policy Institute). Along with research manager Barry Holman and other senior staff at DYRS, they set out to reform and redirect the agency and to build its efforts around a more consistent, developmentally informed approach. The DYRS leadership approached Jeffrey Butts, then at the Urban Institute, and suggested that he assemble the literature on positive youth development and conceptualize a new approach to youth justice. That effort resulted in the Positive Youth Justice model.
Since the departure of Schiraldi and Schindler from DYRS, the agency continued to build on its efforts to incorporate the lessons of the PYJ model. New directors, Neil Stanley in 2011 and Clinton Lacey in 2014, soon made DYRS into one of the nation’s leading agencies in the use of developmentally appropriate youth justice programs and services. The PYJ Model serves as the agency’s central organizing mechanism for overseeing the work of its community-based service delivery partners, and each year the agency publishes a performance report that highlights the positive accomplishments of DYRS clients.
PYJ in Practice
From the Washington Post, August 20, 2013:
Of the many theories out there for improving outcomes for troubled youth, the city’s juvenile justice system has been testing one in particular: Would young offenders who are given the skills and opportunity to perform paid work return to the streets? “Young people can change,” said Neil A. Stanley, director of the D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services. “They do best when they’re close to home, receiving locally based, rigorous supports and services.”
Located in New York City, exalt is modeled on an award-winning, best-practice designated program developed by Founder/Executive Director, Sonja Okun, at CASES, New York’s oldest alternative-to-incarceration agency. exalt was established to serve youth at all junctures along the spectrum of criminal justice involvement. The comprehensive program was designed to inspire significant and positive behavioral change, allowing youth to better recognize the importance of their own self-development, including completing their education.
exalt sees personal transformation as a process driven by intrinsic motivation to create lasting behavioral change. With that belief, the program staff developed an approach that caters to youths’ desire for change while acknowledging the barriers they face. The program seeks to equip youth with a foundation for long-term behavioral change through a structured, supportive program with an approach that aligns with the established and respected Stages of Change model. The programmatic approach at exalt aligns with research on the best methods for moving participants from contemplating change to action.
Rite of Passage is a leading national provider of programs and opportunities for troubled and at-risk youth from social services, welfare agencies and juvenile courts. For over 25 years, R.O.P. has developed and operated a continuum of programs based on the needs of youth and their placing agencies. The programs offered by R.O.P. include community-based services, day schools, academic-model facilities, gender-specific treatment and secure facilities. With an emphasis on evidence-based practices and positive skill development, combined with a supportive therapeutic approach, R.O.P. is highly respected by industry experts and researchers.
One of the unique features of R.O.P. programs is their consistent and positive use of physical activity and sports. Sustained physical activity – within a positive coaching and mentoring milieu – has a strong impact on health and well-being, for youth at risk of justice involvement or recidivism as well as any other person. Physical discipline can systematically nurture character building, teamwork, goal-setting, and perseverance. As a leading residential program, Rite of Passage, incorporates regular exercise into their youth development model for court-involved adolescents.
Operating multiple residential facilities and community-based programs across the United States, the core tenets of the R.O.P. approach include the recognition that programs must provide youth with the skills and opportunities for change, interventions must be appropriate to the developmental needs of adolescents, and young people can learn life lessons that are mutually beneficial to self and community. Rite of Passage began as an alternative to youth incarceration and focused upon counseling and athletics as a means for building self-esteem and a personal history of prosocial achievement. More recently, Rite of Passage has implemented evidence-based practices and a restorative justice approach to accompany athletic, academic, and vocational achievement.
Students at a Rite of Passage school in Arizona produce their own campus news announcements, and in doing so learn marketable skills in video production, editing, and public speaking. See one of the recent broadcasts below.
Relationship building is central to engaging youth in positive roles and productive social activities. Youth development interventions are unlikely to be effective without a strong focus on social development. A Boston area initiative called Roca, Incorporated, addresses the needs of low-income and/or immigrant youth who are at risk for involvement in criminal justice, gangs, youth pregnancy, or school attrition.
The program focuses on relationships between young people and their families. Roca uses a High-Risk Youth Intervention Model that employs sustained relationships to support young people in believing that education, employment, and civic responsibility are valid pursuits in the struggle to resist cycles of impoverishment and community violence.
The Roca motto is “Truth, Trust & Transformation.” All three rely on strong relationship ties. Young people are engaged in dialogue about their own challenges and those faced by their communities. Over time, trust is established between young people. Intensive mentoring leads to a new way of life supported by new competencies and skills, academic development, and eventual employment.
Evaluation studies demonstrate that ninety-six percent of program graduates maintain pro-social relationships with adults, ninety-eight percent avoid recidivism, and eighty-four percent continue their education or are employed.