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San Francisco's community approach towards "wrapping" high-needs youth

Last month, members of CJCJ's Wraparound team had the honor of presenting to juvenile justice leaders from select California counties at the Sierra Health Foundation's Positive Youth Justice Initiative  (PYJI) Speaker Series.  Juvenile Justice Clinical Supervisor, Margaret Hitchcock and Wrap Rehabilitation Counselor, Randell Lewis, were joined by CJCJ's Executive Director, Daniel Macallair, San Francisco Deputy Director of Juvenile Probation, Allison Magee, and Statewide expert on EPSDT and Wraparound funds, Joseph Harrington.  As one of California's model counties, the San Francisco collaborative was invited by Sierra Health Foundation to discuss its community-based wraparound approach  towards serving high-needs youth. 
This wraparound model would not be effective without the collaboration between the San Francisco Probation Department, Public Defender's Office, other county departments, and community-based nonprofits.  As a result of this collaboration, San Francisco has seen a dramatic reduction in recidivism since implementation of the Wraparound program in 2009.  

Recidivism rates
 for San Francisco youth upon returning from out-of-home placements dropped from approximately 80% to 35% from 2009 to 2010, and fell to approximately 20% by 2011.

This is proof that intensive and individualized case management involving existing formal and informal community networks, rather than strictly confining youth in facilities where they have little to no connection to their community, more effectively serves San Francisco's most vulnerable justice-involved youth and their families.   

The Wraparound team's unique approach to each case is what makes it so successful.  It is the Wrap Rehabilitation Counselor's job to connect the youth to the wide array of services and supports available in their community in order to build the structure in his/her life they did not have prior to being incarcerated or placed in a treatment facility.  Linking their needs with the specific treatment areas to address, as indicated during their intake assessment and reassessments, ensures youth are receiving services specific to each youth's unique set of strengths, needs, and circumstances. Randell Lewis explained, "We want to 'beef him [the client] up with all the things he needs, but not just all the things we think he needs.  Instead, we ask Bobby [the client], 'what do you like to do?'"  For example, if the youth's immediate goal is obtaining employment to support his/her family versus enrolling in college, the Wrap Rehabilitation Counselor will work with local supports to access an internship or first-time job for the youth.  If the youth has difficulty managing anger and a history of getting into fights, the counselor can help the youth enroll in a physical activity that the youth has expressed interest in, such as a neighborhood basketball league.  Engaging in group sports can provide the youth with a positive outlet to release his/her emotions while facilitating prosocial relationships and team-building skills with peers.

Client involvement in their own treatment plan is paramount as it gives them ownership and motivation to succeed.  When the family and other role models are involved, it not only enhances their drive but improves client sustainability because now they have the opportunity to model positive behavior to their family those closest to them. 

Finally, what makes the San Francisco approach a model approach is the dedication of the Wrap team.  Randell Lewis concluded, "Once we have 'wrapped' this family, we may find it's not perfect. It's trial and error. It's always regrouping and saying where did we go wrong on this? ...You don't just step back and say, 'This didn't work.' You keep driving, because you're walking alongside this youth. ..You are modeling consistency."

Keywords: crossover youth, Emily Luhrs, Positive Youth Justice Initiative, PYJI, San Francisco, Wraparound

Posted in Blog, Model Local Practices

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