A critical component of Kentucky’s recent juvenile justice reforms – the implementation of Family Accountability, Intervention and Response (FAIR) teams – got underway this month when Christian County’s FAIR team met on October 16th and began hearing cases. The FAIR teams were created in SB 200 with the intent to frontload services to youth in need and their families to help them get back on track in school and not end up in the court system. The numbers on children that were getting involved with the juvenile justice system showed that many youth had underlying issues. These issues can be better addressed with community-based services early on when needs are recognized, instead of waiting until the problem intensifies and ends up in court. Providing services holds the most promise for getting youth back on track, since intervention in Juvenile Court can greatly increase the chances of a youth being involved in the criminal justice system as an adult.
Each judicial circuit or district will establish FAIR teams, comprised of a multidisciplinary group whose primary role is to take a case-by-case look at each child referred to them by the Court Designated Worker. Together, they utilize an enhanced case management process to develop a plan of services for the children and their families. When youth and/or family needs are addressed through services, they can be more effective and less costly than juvenile justice interventions. These teams will play a critical role in connecting youth and families to services and getting involved early when the situation can be addressed without court intervention.
The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) identified ten judicial circuits or districts as pilot sites. As of the October Juvenile Justice Oversight Council meeting, community partner meetings had occurred in seven of those ten sites. Part of the purpose is to identify FAIR Team members for that jurisdiction. Community services and resources are also being identified, as well as solutions to overcome barriers to accessing those services. Some barriers include a lack of treatment and substance abuse services in rural communities, limited access to transportation for some families, and difficulty in navigating the services such as insurance, payment processes, etc.
The AOC reported that by the end of the year, FAIR teams will be hearing cases in most of the identified pilot sites. Research clearly shows the value of proactive interventions with children and youth to guide them down a path to being productive members of society rather than the path of future criminal justice involvement. The thoughtful rollout and planning for the implementation of the pilot sites suggests the FAIR teams will achieve the goals of better outcomes for youth, support for families, and long-term improvements in public safety.