County Implements Pilot Program for At Risk Youth

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Sep. 18, 2014 (San Diego) During the county board of supervisors meeting, it was announced that the county is rolling out a program to more effectively deal with crossover youth. County Chief Probation Officer Mack Jenkins defined them as “a dependent youth who at some point has been charged with a delinquent act and is at risk of penetrating deeply into the juvenile justice system.”

The program will apply to youth from zero to 17 years of age, and it is a five-year demonstration project.

What makes San Diego unique in the state is that our county already has a team approach between Child Welfare and Corrections. This makes the multidisciplinary approach that takes a probation officer, a youth and family counselor and a substance abuse specialist working on cases.

When a youth enters the system, personnel on both Corrections and Child Welfare review the case. There are four possible outcomes to this initial evaluation. The youth might be sent straight to diversion programs and stop all contact with the system at that point.

The other three are also assessed with juvenile court. The youth might be assigned to just a probation officer, a child advocate officer, or both. It is the last situation where we are talking of these at very high-risk youth.

According to deputy director Debra Zander-Willis, of Child Welfare, the County received technical assistance from Georgetown university, since this is a change in how you work with these minors. These minors have been exposed to trauma, and working with them, with that understanding, is critical.

The program is also expected to find youth who were commercially sexually exploited, who otherwise would have been missed. The services provided, the county hopes, will rehabilitate the youth, and be a lifetime effect. This will lead to productive adults.

On the short term it has a few other beneficial effects. It will reduce arrests at group homes for assault. It increases diversion opportunities for youth, to avoid becoming entrenched in the system.

As one participant in the program put it in a video shown to the supervisors, his probation officer is the hard hand, while his social worker is far more understanding and a gentler guiding hand. This allows him to get on the straight and narrow and think of a bright future.

This young man also said that without the program he would be dead, or in the streets. He is also making plans for the future, perhaps working with other youth in similar circumstances.

The pilot program will first be rolled out in mid city, southeastern and central city in the core San Diego Region. The program will grow to scale and will be rolled out to the rest of the county in time.

The funding is coming from a federal grant.

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Categories: County of San Diego, policy

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  1. Report on Gang Prevention and Intervention Given to Committee | Reporting San Diego
  2. Youth Diversion Pilot Expanded by County to All County | Reporting San Diego

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