Juvenile Probation Officers Call for New Responses to Teen Drug and Alcohol Use
A national group of probation officers is recommending that juvenile justice leaders take 10 steps to break the cycle of teen drug use and crime. The officers, part of the Reclaiming Futures program funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, issued their call to action in a new report, Juvenile Probation Officers Call for New Responses to Teen Drug and Alcohol Use and Dependency.
“We know teen alcohol and drug use is linked to juvenile crime. Yet, few alcohol-and-drug-involved teens in the system get the help they need,” said Laura Nissen, Reclaiming Futures national program director. “Reclaiming Futures offers these young people more treatment, better treatment designed for their age group, and greater access to services beyond treatment such as mentors and jobs that will help them flourish in the community and stay out of trouble.”
The report, written by a group of juvenile probation officers with extensive experience in juvenile justice, outlines practical steps for other officers to follow in order to make changes in their own juvenile justice systems. The findings are based on the Reclaiming Futures model tested in 10 communities during the past five years. The ground-breaking approach screens each teen that enters the juvenile justice system for drug and alcohol problems, assesses the severity of their drug and alcohol use, and provides prompt access to a treatment plan coordinated by a service team. Reclaiming Futures also connects teens with employers, mentors, and volunteer service projects.
The report offers 10 recommendations for juvenile justice practitioners who want to adopt the Reclaiming Futures approach, such as: collaborating with mental health providers, alcohol and drug treatment professionals, school administrators and community partners; knowing which services are available and appropriate for drug-involved youth; tailoring interventions based on the teen’s strengths, risk and needs; supporting staff to continue to learn about effective substance abuse treatment; promoting funding for family advocacy, wrap-around services and mentoring; and collecting and sharing data to help all agencies involved in this effort.
Juvenile Probation Officers Call for New Responses to Teen Drug and Alcohol Use and Dependency can be read in its entirety at www.reclaimingfutures.org.