Core Value: Family Engagement

Families care about their youth. An effective juvenile justice system respects families, acknowledges their perspectives and expertise and fully engages families as partners in positive youth outcomes.

Policy and practices must be founded upon intentional, respectful engagement of families.

  • All youth – even older youth – are very likely to remain in or return to their families or extended families when they leave the juvenile justice system. Communicating with, engaging families intentionally and respectfully and utilizing the assets families have to offer is critical to preventing youth from entering or penetrating the juvenile justice system.
  • For youth who are detained or incarcerated, constructively engaging the youth’s family is critical to expediting release and achieving positive outcomes when youth return home.
  • Keeping family members in contact with and engaged constructively with youth who are incarcerated is critical. A range of strategies for informal and formal communications, updates, visits and structured family-focused programs for youth in detention or youth centers is critical to positive outcomes.

Scarce fiscal resources should be directed to evidence-based programs which not only engage families but also increase family functioning.

  • Developing individualized caseplans which articulate and intentionally build upon the strengths in the youth’s family – as well as address family needs or risks, when possible – will foster positive outcomes and reduced recidivism.
  • Engaging families during caseplanning and throughout the juvenile justice system, including incarceration and aftercare stages, will produce the best outcomes.
  • Assessment tools and caseplanning must provide a profile of the role family, community and peers play in a youth’s positive and negative attitudes, values, priorities and behavior and constructive plans to build on strengths and address needs of the family in relation to the youth.

Some families will need services – sometimes intensive services – to meet the needs of juvenile-justice-involved youth and Illinois must develop the capacity to deliver these effective, family-focused services.

  • Illinois must develop and sustain a network of evidence-based, family-focused services such as (but not limited to) Functional Family Therapy (FFT), MultiSystemic Therapy (MST), Family Integrative Therapy (FIT) and Multidimensional Therapeutic Foster Care (MTFC) to meet the needs of these families, reduce risk of reoffending and re-incarceration and to build positive outcomes for youth, families and communities.