Lurie Children’s Hospital Launches Pilot Program to Help Curb Youth Violence in Chicago

News release from Strengthening Chicago’s Youth at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. TASC is proud to be a partner in this initiative.

(Chicago) –  Strengthening Chicago’s Youth (SCY) at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, together with Cook County Juvenile Probation Department, TASC, the Illinois Collaboration on Youth and 10 community-based service providers, launched the Juvenile Justice Collaborative project. Up to 50 young people, ages 12 to 18, will be referred to the Collaborative to receive appropriate mental health and other services instead of spending time in the juvenile justice system.

“Everyone is asking for solutions to the city’s violence problem, and this initiative is a start,” said SCY Director Rebecca Levin, MPH. “Instead of putting these young people in detention, we want to keep them at home and give them the services that they need to get on a path to success.”

In the Juvenile Justice Collaborative, young people will be referred to a centralized intake and referral home which will assess their needs and risk level, and then be placed with the appropriate community-based provider. During the 6-month pilot program, referrals will come from probation officers. Examples of youth that could be referred include those who are arrested for car theft, drug possession or fighting. Re-arrests, school attendance and health status will be monitored and measured, and the program will be continually improved. In the future, the program could be expanded to accept referrals from other sources.

“We are pleased to support the launch of the Juvenile Justice Collaborative,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “I have long advocated for, and invested in, alternatives to detention for our young people. The Collaborative offers a coordinated approach to curbing youth violence and it couldn’t have come at a better time.”

The 10 community service providers involved are Aunt Martha’s Youth Service Center; BUILD, Inc.; Heartland (Human Care Services); Lawrence Hall; Maryville Academy; New Life/Urban Life Skills; SGA Youth & Family Services; UCAN; Youth Guidance; and Youth Outreach Services.

“These are our children, and we can pave a better path for them as a team and as a community,” said Hon. Timothy C. Evans, Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, who oversees the Juvenile Probation and Court Services Department. “The partnership with Lurie Children’s Hospital, and the credibility it brings to the table as a Chicago institution, is an excellent addition to our probation department’s community-based diversion efforts. This program fits perfectly into our mission as a juvenile justice system.”

The Juvenile Justice Collaborative model is built on an extensive body of research regarding the most promising strategies to interrupt the trajectory of youth violence. As gaps in service level and location are identified, targeted youth service providers will be recruited to join the Collaborative.

“Too often our young people cycle repeatedly through the justice system without getting the help they need; this approach provides a positive alternative to place them in programs that will help set them on a path to future success in life,” said Kimberly Foxx, Cook County State’s Attorney.

The Juvenile Justice Collaborative is supported in part by the Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation; Cook County Justice Advisory Council through a grant from the Illinois Department of Human Services; Michael Reese Health Trust; Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois; The Crown Family; and The Albert Pick, Jr. Fund. Past support provided by Polk Bros. Foundation.

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Parental Addiction Treatment Improves Child Welfare Outcomes: TASC President Pam Rodriguez at Capitol Hill Briefing

(Chicago) – TASC President Pam Rodriguez shared highlights of Illinois’ successful Recovery Coach program at a December 3 Capitol Hill briefing focused on issues and solutions in child welfare reform.

In partnership with the offices of U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-IL), Children and Family Futures hosted the briefing, entitled The Elephant in the Room: Access to Substance Abuse Treatment—A Cornerstone of Child Welfare Reform. With an audience encompassing Congressional staff, policymakers, and child welfare advocates, the briefing highlighted the role of substance use disorders in the child welfare system and what works to better serve affected children and their families.

Rodriguez presented lessons and outomes from Illinois’ Recovery Coach program, which addresses substance use disorders among parents whose children have been removed from custody due to substance-related maltreatment. The program began in 2000, funded through a Title IV-E waiver granted the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). TASC has provided services for the Recovery Coach program since its inception in Cook County in 2000, as well as in Madison and St. Clair counties since the program expanded in 2007.

Links between childhood maltreatment and delinquency. There is growing understanding of the connection between child maltreatment and later delinquency, and the crossover of children who are involved in both child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Young people involved in these systems face a host of complex challenges, which may include trauma, educational difficulties, mental health conditions, sexual abuse, and the instability of group homes or foster care placement.

TASC works with DCFS to help stabilize children in care and reduce young people’s likelihood of becoming involved in the justice system.

Intensive outreach and case management. Through the Recovery Coach program, TASC works with the parent, child welfare caseworker, and alcohol/drug treatment agency to remove barriers to treatment, engage the parent in treatment, provide outreach to re-engage the parent if necessary, and provide ongoing support to the parent and family through the duration of the child welfare case.

As Rodriguez explained in the briefing, the program draws on research pointing to the complex needs of parents involved in child welfare and justice systems. For example, a 2014 needs assessment report by the Center for Children and Family Futures for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention synthesized hundreds of Family Drug Court surveys, stakeholder interviews, and more than 2,500 technical assistance requests from all 50 states.

Among Family Drug Courts, services for parents were consistently identified as priorities. Systems must recognize and respond to complex and multiple needs arising from trauma, dual-diagnosis, and domestic violence; responses include engagement and retention strategies, recovery supports, and serving parents in medication-assisted treatment (MAT). The report also found that sustainability of funding and cross-system knowledge emerge as consistently-cited needs among jurisdictions and stakeholders.

Rodriguez noted that the Recovery Coach program’s success comes from not only the direct services to parents, but also the understanding of and attention to the cross-systems issues that influence outcomes. Further, the program provides a response to the opiate crisis that is affecting child welfare systems.

“With the rise in heroin use across the country, even more children are being removed from their homes and placed in foster care,” said Rodriguez. “By working with systems to address complex issues around addiction, programs like Recovery Coach and Family Drug Courts make it possible to safely return many affected children.”

Effectiveness and cost savings. A 2012 in-depth program evaluation by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign showed that parents with a TASC recovery coach were more likely to access treatment, and children whose parents had recovery coaches were more likely to be safely reunified with their parents.

Furthermore, children whose parents had recovery coaches were significantly less likely to be associated with a subsequent juvenile arrest.

In addition, according to the March 2015 semi-annual progress report released by DCFS, the Recovery Coach program has generated more than $10 million in savings for the State of Illinois since the program began in 2000. These savings come from significantly higher rates of family reunification, resulting in fewer youth in the system, as well as quicker reunification, resulting in fewer days spent in foster care.

TASC is a statewide, independent case management and care coordination agency in Illinois, annually serving 27,000 individuals referred by criminal justice, juvenile justice, and child welfare systems.

Revision of Automatic Transfer Law Achieves Common Cause for Illinois Juvenile Justice Reform

OP-ED: During the 2015 spring legislative session, bi-partisan cooperation and compromise led to agreed upon changes to the Illinois criminal code, creating a fairer and more effective justice system for youth.

Accomplishments include a new reform, House Bill 3718, sponsored by State Representative Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) and State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago), which addresses one of the most critical issues in juvenile court—the treatment of children as adults in court.

In early August, Governor Bruce Rauner signed this bill into law, eliminating the automatic transfer of juvenile cases based solely on charges brought against them, and expanding judicial discretion to try juvenile cases in juvenile courts.

The new mandate, an initiative of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, expands the requirement of review by a juvenile court judge to examine relevant factors before transferring some cases to adult court. Specifically, the law, which takes effect on January 1, 2016, requires a juvenile court hearing in all cases involving children 15 and younger and in cases of older youth charged with particular crimes.

Currently, a prosecutor can automatically transfer a child to adult court—with no appearance before a juvenile court judge required—simply based on the charge lodged against them. As of January 1, for all children under 16, an individual review of the circumstances of the case as well as consideration of the rehabilitative services available in the juvenile court system will be required.

The automatic court transfer law has disproportionately affected children of color.

According to a report released by the Juvenile Justice Initiative, between 2010 and 2014, 580 children were transferred to adult court in Cook County, and of those, only 4 were white. In addition, 6-16 percent of the children transferred were later re-charged with a lesser offense that would have triggered no automatic transfer, but they remained in adult court. An earlier version of the report indicated that of the 257 children transferred between 2010 and 2012, more half of those convicted were either recharged before trial or plea or eventually found guilty of lesser offenses.

Moreover, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey of research included a study finding that children tried in adult court had 34 percent more re-arrests than their counterparts tried in juvenile court, and other studies supported this finding. Further, the report indicated that strengthened transfer laws are “counterproductive to reducing juvenile violence and enhancing public safety.”

The reforms authorized by the legislature and approved by the Governor are in much better alignment with these findings.

By reducing the scope of the automatic transfer law, a legal relic of the 1980s, the Governor and lawmakers have endorsed the merit of judicial review and discretion on child transfer to adult court while preserving the authority to transfer a child and, in some instances, will still allow automatic transfer.

Next year, juvenile judges will individually consider transfer decisions for children ages 15-17 who are charged with armed robbery, aggravated vehicular hijacking, and unlawful use of a weapon on school grounds. Children age 15 and younger charged with any crime will be entitled to judicial review. Youth ages 16-17 charged with serious offenses like murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault, and aggravated battery with a firearm will still be automatically transferred to adult court.

The new law seeks to restore some sense of legal decency and justice in the Illinois juvenile justice system that has been for far too long operating on automatic pilot when it came to decisions that bore on the future of an entire generation of principally African-American children.

By taking this critical step, the Governor and the legislature have jointly determined that in the Illinois juvenile justice system, the priority must be fairness.

Pam Rodriguez, president and CEO of TASC, is a member of the Governor’s Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform.

Anthony Harden, TASC Youth Services Administrator, Receives IADDA Award for Distinguished Service

Anthony Harden, recipient of IADDA’s 2014 C. Vincent Bakeman Memorial Award, is congratulated by his wife, Gloria, and TASC team members. Left to right: Alisa Montgomery-Webb, Gloria Harden, Anthony Harden, Maxie Knighten, Alicia Kusiak, and Janelle Prueter.

Anthony Harden, recipient of IADDA’s 2014 Dr. C. Vincent Bakeman Memorial Award, with (left to right): Alisa Montgomery-Webb, TASC Youth Reentry Services Administrator; Gloria Harden; Maxie Knighten, TASC Juvenile Justice Services Team Leader; Alicia Kusiak, TASC Director of Cook County Services; and Janelle Prueter, TASC Vice President of Operations.

(Chicago) – Recognized for his tireless advocacy on behalf of youth and families in need of health services, TASC Youth Services Administrator Anthony Harden was honored September 4 by the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association (IADDA).

Harden received the 2014 Dr. C. Vincent Bakeman Memorial Award at the association’s annual conference in Lisle. IADDA presents the award each year in memory of Dr. Bakeman, a pioneer in the field of addiction prevention and treatment who envisioned a society where all people have equal access to these essential health services.

“Just to be nominated for the Dr. C. Vincent Bakeman Memorial Award is an honor,” said Harden, “but to be selected is humbling and overwhelming.”

Paying tribute to the award’s namesake, he said, “Dr. Bakeman’s vision and legacy are consistent with our mission at TASC, as well as with our partners here at IADDA – to educate the public that substance abuse is a health issue.”

Harden offered that Dr. Bakeman’s commitment to equal access to substance use treatment is closer to being realized, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. For example, TASC provides application assistance for individuals detained at the Cook County Jail, which “not only for the first time gives many access to health insurance for their general well-being, but also access to treatment for substance abuse and mental health issues,” said Harden. “This is how we honor the leadership and legacy of Dr. Bakeman – by advocating, not just treatment for those who could afford it, but also treatment for everyone in need.”

He added that he would be remiss not to mention Dr. Bakeman’s insistence in advocating for all cultures, in particular for people of color.

“Years ago I heard Vince speak in Springfield at the Black Caucus convention,” recalled Harden. “He stated that one of the best models to address substance abuse is the 12-step program – but that it was designed for white, middle class, employed men. He advocated for communities of color to develop their own culturally-specific approaches and provide treatment and services to their own within their own communities. In other words, we need to make 12 steps inclusive; we need to make them fit who we’re serving – the unemployed, females, the homeless, the uninsured and the disfranchised. I think Dr. Bakeman would be proud of how far we have come today. But the work is not finished and I have no doubt my colleagues will not rest until it is so.”

TASC President Pamela Rodriguez presented the award to Harden, honoring his dedicated service and compassion for clients and staff.

“We are so proud to recognize your work, Anthony,” said Rodriguez. “Your heart goes into everything you do, and we see that in your quiet leadership and steady purpose in giving kids in the justice system a fair chance to succeed.”

“As Anthony’s colleague and friend, it is a pleasure to recognize his many achievements,” added TASC Executive Vice President Peter Palanca, who served as IADDA board chair from 2010 to 2012. “Anthony cares profoundly about creating opportunities for youth so they can grow up safely and participate in society in healthy and meaningful ways.”

Harden extended appreciation to his colleagues, many of whom were in attendance to celebrate his accomplishments, and his wife, Gloria, for her unwavering support. Thanking IADDA board members and CEO, Sara Howe, as well as TASC’s executive team for their advocacy on behalf of clients, families, and staff, Harden offered special appreciation for his juvenile services team, led by Maxie Knighten. “They are the true frontline soldiers and without them none of this is possible.”

With more than 20 years of dedicated service at TASC, Harden leads the agency’s services for the Juvenile Drug Court in Cook County, as well as TASC’s programs in partnership with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. He serves on several committees and boards, including the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Executive Committee, the Austin Community Coalition for Healthy Lifestyles, and the UIC PHAT (Preventing HIV/AIDS Among Teens) Community Advisory Board.

Established in 1967, IADDA is a statewide advocacy organization that represents more than 50 organizations across Illinois that provide substance use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery services. TASC is a member agency of IADDA.

 

Law Diverting 17-Year-Olds Facing Felony Offense to Juvenile Court Advances Rehabilitation

TASC President Pamela Rodriguez

TASC President Pamela Rodriguez

(Chicago) – A new law permitting 17-year-olds charged with felony crimes to be tried in juvenile rather than adult court is a key Illinois juvenile justice reform that emphasizes rehabilitation of youth over more strict punitive measures, says a top Illinois justice advocacy group.

The law, House Bill 2404, signed by Governor Pat Quinn on July 8 directs 17-year-olds charged with felonies to juvenile courts where rehabilitative services are available.

“This bill treats young people as evidence suggests we should, offering a rehabilitative approach consistent with national trends that reflect a growing understanding of youth development,” said Pamela Rodriguez, president of the Center for Health and Justice at TASC.

“Handling youth who have offended in juvenile court will shrink the risk that 17-year-olds, charged with a felony, will become entrenched in the criminal justice and correctional systems and boost the chance that they will emerge as assets to their community,” Rodriguez added.

The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission, of which Rodriguez is a member, released an impact study earlier this year urging Illinois to join the 38 other states that steer 17-year-olds charged with felony offenses to juvenile court.

“We applaud Governor Quinn for recognizing the merit in the bill. Diverting 17-year olds from adult felony courts and the Illinois prison system, which are ill-equipped to look after the needs of youth, will help them get back on track and yield costs savings through prevented incarcerations,” Rodriguez said. “Juvenile court provides a win-win for both the youth and taxpayers.”

Rodriguez also spotlighted the efforts of the law’s sponsors, Illinois House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago) and State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago).

“Thanks to Representative Currie and Senator Steans’ leadership, they were able to secure broad, bipartisan support for the legislation,” said Rodriguez. “The political consensus in Illinois stands behind juvenile justice reform.”

The bill takes effect on January 1, 2014.

ABTC, TASC Open Renovated Reentry Home for Juveniles in Douglas Park

(Chicago, IL) – Alternative Behavior Treatment Centers (ABTC) and Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC) have opened the Douglas Park Transitional Living Program for youth. The program is designed to facilitate safe community reentry for youth who have been in detention by helping them build pro-social living skills and reconnect with their families or positive support networks.

Home Depot volunteer Phillip Richard completes installation of floor tile.

Located at 1335 S. California Avenue in Chicago, the 10-bed, juvenile justice transitional living program will serve young people from ages 15 to 21. The project is a public-private partnership made possible by grants, in-kind product donations and volunteer resources from the State of Illinois, The Home Depot Foundation and The Home Depot.

“We are grateful to the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services for helping to develop this program,” said Robin McGinnis, founder and CEO of ABTC. “We are also so appreciative of the work that volunteers from The Home Depot have done to renovate this home to help get kids safely back into their community. There’s no way we could have done this without their support.”

“All of us at The Home Depot are very honored to work on this project,” said Andy Christiansen, store manager for the Mundelein Home Depot, noting that volunteers have donated more than 500 hours to create a home-like living environment for the youth in the program. “We especially want to thank our volunteers and 11 stores within our district that have been working hard to make this happen.”

Pamela Rodriguez, president of TASC, added that a safe living environment is crucial for young people who are trying to establish a positive life. “We know that young people need safety and support, and sometimes they haven’t experienced a stable living environment until they come to a program like this. From here, we can help them establish their footing as they restart their lives on a more positive path.”

ABTC graduate Cavelle Lewis speaks with Univision reporter Erika Maldonado at opening of the Douglas Park Transitional Living Program for youth.

ABTC was founded in 1995 as a non-profit adolescent treatment agency to work with youth identified as difficult to manage and in need of residential care. Today ABTC operates numerous programs along a continuum of care for children, adolescents, families, and adults located throughout Illinois.

TASC has a 35-year history of promoting social justice and advocating for alternatives to incarceration. The agency serves nearly 20,000 adults and adolescents annually in criminal justice, juvenile justice, and family health programs across Illinois.

(Photos by D. Baille)