Reclaiming Youth Futures in Kentucky

The following post by Tara Grieshop-Goodwin, deputy director if KYA, was featured on the Reclaiming Futures blog. To see the original post, visit http://www.reclaimingfutures.org/blog/.

Many things make me proud to call Kentucky home – beautiful horses, great college basketball, and friendly people. But behind the rolling hills, the thrilling games, and smiling faces, are several things that raise concern about my great state. Kentucky frequently ranks at the bottom of the pile on health, economic well-being and other measures of how children are faring. One disconcerting mark in particular is the frequency with which youth end up being locked up for things like skipping school or running away from home. Kentucky has the 2nd highest rate in the nation of doing so.

This brings me back to feeling proud – proud in how local communities and state leaders are responding to the need for changes to how we currently handle youth charged with status offenses in Kentucky. Lawmakers are looking at options on the legislative front. Communities across the state are trying to address the needs of youth in different ways that don’t result in the child being locked up.

When Kentucky Youth Advocates (KYA) convened a group of interested stakeholders a couple of years ago, one thing was clear – there was broad agreement that a guide to help communities work through a way to work with youth charged with status offenses, often with complex needs, would go a long way towards reducing the use of lock up with this population. The Reclaiming Futures model was soon raised as an option, because of its success in Kentucky and its thorough approach to identification, assessment, and service coordination. Kentucky partners Kari Collins and Michelle Kilgore are former project directors and current national coaches with the Reclaiming Futures initiative. Having worked on the implementation in the two Kentucky sites, they knew the strength of the framework and how well it worked with Kentucky’s infrastructure.

With assistance from Kentucky partners and the Reclaiming Futures National Program Office, KYA modified the framework to focus on youth charged with status offenses. The framework builds on the national model while using the Kentucky context and existing structures.

The Kentucky Reclaiming Futures framework identifies the critical stages of implementing a successful plan for youth who have been or are at risk of being charged with a status offense. The framework consists of six stages that direct how the juvenile justice system, other youth serving agencies and organizations, and the community can work together to reduce the secure detention of youth charged with status offenses and work toward positive outcomes for these youth and their families.

Click here to view Reclaiming Futures in Kentucky: Applying a proven framework for an effective community and judicial response to status offenses and other complex needs of youth in rural and urban settings.

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