Agencies would foster youth’s innate potential, take concerted efforts to help remove the stigma and collateral consequences attached to justice system involvement, and also prepare youth to become positive leaders in their communities.
(Neelum Arya, “Family-Driven Justice,” Arizona Law Review, 2014)
Growth-Focused Youth Justice Case Management (GFCM) is a practice framework for Juvenile Probation Officers which supports them in organizing and carrying out their duties and responsibilities in a manner that facilitates youth growth. Most youth mature or grow out of offending as a function of normal development,a process known as desisting from offending. A key challenge for Probation Officers is working effectively with youth whose growth has stalled or become arrestedand youth whose growth, though not arrested, is less than optimal. In both cases, previous developmentally harmful experiences are often causative or correlating risk factors.
Youth with arrested or poor development are at heightened risk for chronic and serious offending. While chronic and serious offending does sometimes require restrictive measures of control, behavior change by complying with restrictive measures is more likely to be temporary. An additional approach is to deal with youth in a manner that accelerates their growth and in so doing helps them form identities with which offending is incompatible. Desistance research confirms that this can actually be done. The GFCM framework is based on this research, as well as positive development and brain development research
The GFCM framework guides Probation Officers in producing powerful growth experiences for youth through their interaction with them. Fostering and accelerating youth growth can be achieved when youth have powerful positive developmental experiences. This doesn’t always happen in the justice system.
We know, for example, that experiences associated with typical formal processing of youth have not demonstrated a crime control effect. In particular, youth that begin their offending early and judge the justice process to be illegitimate are not swayed into compliance by their interactions with authorities. We also know that outcomes are poor for youth that have a negative perception of Probation Officers (e.g., negative behavior, use of restrictions). In other words, the youth’s experience in the justice system needs to be focused on their potential, their growth. So how do we do this while still dealing with serious offenses and the imperative of community safety?
Up to 90% of justice-involved youth report exposure to some type of traumatic event. On average, 70% meet criteria for a mental health disorder with approximately 30% meeting the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
(Dierkhising et al., 2013)
Probation Officer’s core practices or primary ways of interacting with youth support four critical adolescent developmental tasks associated with forming a positive identity.
Why It Matters:
By supporting developmental tasks, the Probation Officer’s interaction accelerates the youth’s growth.
Youth’s participation in building the case plan is a natural and integral part of how the Probation Officer interacts with youth.
Why It Matters:
The case planning process itself becomes a growth experience for the youth, consistent with the evidence-based principle of making every contact or interaction an opportunity for change
Focus shifts from only dealing with what youth have done to also moving them toward who they can become; from only managing risk to also realizing possibilities.
Why It Matters:
The overall experience of justice involvement in general and of the case plan in particular is what the youth can move toward (i.e., approach motivation and approach goals) as opposed to what they must move away from (i.e., avoidance motivation and avoidance goals). Behavior rooted in approach motivation increases psychological well-being, whereas avoidance motivation is linked to lower well-being and higher levels of anxiety, anger, and frustration.