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REDUCE OUT-OF-HOME PLACEMENTS

Change practices and incentives so that children and young people are not removed from their families and placed in foster care, group homes, residential treatment centers, youth prisons or detention centers or other types of congregate care.

Every child needs a safe place to live.

During the development that take place in childhood and adolescence, positive experiences in nurturing communities and homes form a solid foundation for lifelong well-being. Sometimes – due to things like parental drug use or neglect, involvement in the juvenile justice system or behavioral challenges – children are removed from their homes and families and placed in out-of-home placements like youth prisons / detention centers, residential treatment or mental institutions. This experience creates toxic levels of stress that destabilize the foundation supporting a child’s healthy cognitive, physical, emotional and social development. Rather than disrupting development with out-of-home placements, we can achieve better outcomes for our young people and our neighborhoods by creating healthier environments at home and in our communities.

Many communities require government agencies to use the “least restrictive alternative," yet maintain an institutional bias for young people with complex needs, such as exposure to trauma, mental health challenges, addiction, disconnection from school, family instability, inequality and poverty.. Placement out of the home still occurs too often, despite evidence that removal from one’s family is traumatizing, expensive, and leads to other poor outcomes later in life, including diminished resilience. Worse, youth often languish in congregate care facilities much longer than necessary, contributing to additional, unnecessary toxic stress that negatively affects their well-being.

While fewer kids are in institutional settings today than in recent years, communities can reduce their use of institutional placement and family separation even more aggressively through implementing community-based programs with capacity to provide intensive support to families in need.

Bright Spots are examples of how high-need youth have been safely and successfully supported in their homes and with their families in jurisdictions around the country. Consider these stories from around the nation:
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  • While 442,995 children were removed from their familiesand placed in some type of foster home setting including congregate care in 2016, we can reduce that number going forward by investing in families through intensive support provided by community-based organizations.
    Source, Childrens Defense Fund, The State of America's Children, 2017
  • With increased support to community-based programs, we can reduce the number of young people in some type of justice-related placement, like residential treatment center, detention center of youth prison currently estimated at 47,303 on any given day.
    Source: OJJDP Census of Residential Placement, 2015

REDIRECT DOLLARS

Make more responsible use of our resources by reducing out-of-home placements and redirecting funding to communities to support young people as they develop and realize their potential.

Every taxpayer deserves for their dollars to be spent wisely.

Most states and local government agencies with the authority to remove a young person from their home devote the majority of their budgets to institutional placements and a small portion to community-based programs.
These investments in out-of-home and institutional placements, such as shelters, detention centers, state correctional facilities and residential treatment centers, drain the community of dollars to fund community-based programs and supports that can benefit all members of the community – whether involved in systems or not. Many young people in out-of-home placements return to neighborhoods without the resources that build and restore well-being, like youth mentoring and afterschool programs, grocery stores with healthy and affordable food, health and mental health services, and job opportunities.
Redirecting dollars towards investment in communities means that families who need intensive, tailored supports in their homes can receive it, and taxpayers will pay less and benefit more.
Bright Spots are examples of how high-need youth have been safely and successfully supported in their homes and with their families in jurisdictions around the country. Consider these stories from around the nation:
  • States devote the largest share of their juvenile justice resources to youth confinement and spend a small portion of their budgets on non-residential community-based programs. For example, in its 2015 Data Resource Guide, the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice noted that the commonwealth spends only 3.4% of its total budget on community-based programs.
    Source: Beyond Bars
  • Gaps in the behavioral health system of care lead to an over-reliance on costly inpatient and residential treatment, rather than utilization of more cost-effective home and community-based services. At nearly $29,000 per child, residential care constitutes the highest average expense among all behavioral health services.
    Source: Center for Health Care Strategies, Inc. (2014)

EXPAND COMMUNITY-BASED ALTERNATIVES

Create a continuum of family-focused, neighborhood based, flexible, individualized services that include services for youth and families most at risk of separation regardless of where they live.

Every young person should have access to what they need to thrive.

Youth with very complex needs should not be placed out of the home simply because the services they need do not exist in their communities. Our society must provide all youth with access to the conditions and experiences that build healthy lives
While no one program, service or support can meet the wide array of youth and family needs, each community can map its assets (resources, strengths) and challenges (needs, gaps in services) to develop a continuum of care that meets the needs of all community members, including youth and families at greatest risk of being separated and placed out of the home.
These services should be:
  • Accessible, coordinated, accountable, individualized, family-focused, strength-based, culturally competent, and be youth and family-driven.
  • As intensive as necessary, flexible, creative adaptable to changing needs and circumstances.
  • Opportunities for young people to give back to their communities to recognize their gifts.
  • Coordinated through multiple public systems.
Bright Spots are examples of how high-need youth have been safely and successfully supported in their homes and with their families in jurisdictions around the country. Consider these stories from around the nation:
  • Stat 1
  • Stat 2

REDUCE RACIAL AND ETHNIC DISPARITIES

Implement culturally competent community-based programs for youth of color so systems can achieve greater racial equity.

Every young person should have an equal opportunity to reach their full potential.

Research shows that the negative stereotypes we absorb through our culture and media result in hidden beliefs that lead us to make flawed snap judgments. This implicit bias shapes the way we react to people and it’s one reason why data show that youth of color are treated differently, more severely and are more likely to be separated from their families in every system. Even as trends have led to fewer young people placed out of their homes, disparate treatment of youth of color persists due to implicit bias.
One very direct way to eliminate the disparity and reduce the number of institutionalized youth of color is to implement culturally competent programs. Program staff who live in the youth’s communities are familiar with the challenges and strengths of the community and are far more likely to relate to and connect with the youth and their family and understand social mores. This approach returns power back to the community and affirms different cultural experiences.
Bright Spots are examples of how high-need youth have been safely and successfully supported in their homes and with their families in jurisdictions around the country. Consider these stories from around the nation:
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  • In 22 states, the percent of black children in foster care is TWO TIMES the percent of black children in the overall child population
    Source, Children's Defense Fund, The State of America's Children, 2017
  • Nearly a fifth of black boys and young men disconnected from school and work are institutionalized.
    Source: More than a Million Reasons to Hope

IMPROVE COMMUNITY SAFETY

Redefine public safety as something characterized by safe places in the community that provide the opportunity for positive connection, growth, health and play, which allow them to thrive.

Everyone deserves to live in a safe community.

When we think about safe communities, opportunities to enjoy green spaces, go for a walk or get safely to and from school come to mind. In too many communities though, public safety is defined by police and other law enforcement strategies. Increasing public safety for these communities means transforming them from places that need police intervention to safe places where young people can engage in play, explore their strengths and interests, and neighbors can be in community with one another.
We can realize safer communities through innovative and sensible investments in community programs, including programs that allow residents to contribute to bettering their neighborhoods, like community gardens, farmers markets and neighborhood beautification. Other examples of ways to improve community safety include mentoring programs, engagement with Departments of Parks and Recreation and programs designed to meet the strengths, interests and needs of young people in the community, including those with complex needs.
Bright Spots are examples of how high-need youth have been safely and successfully supported in their homes and with their families in jurisdictions around the country. Consider these stories from around the nation:
  • Bright Spot 1
  • Bright Spot 2
  • "In a given city with 100,000 people, we found that every new organization formed to confront violence and build stronger neighborhoods led to about a 1 percent drop in violent crime and murder…the explosion of community organizations that took place in the 1990s likely played a substantial role in explaining the decline in violence."
    Source: Uneasy Peace, by Patrick Sharkey
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INCREASE SUCCESSFUL OUTCOMES FOR YOUTH

Connect young people to the services, supports and adults that help them develop intellectually, socially and emotionally so they can improve their skills and realize their goals.

Everyone benefits when young people do well.

Whether young people succeed is determined by many factors, including community resources, family stability and access to resources and opportunities. Young people’s success elevates us all, but no one achieves success in isolation.
To succeed, young people need what we all need: to achieve competency, autonomy and a sense of belonging. We can achieve this by making sure all young people have a quality education, safe homes and places to recreate with their friends, connections to caring adults who can help them navigate through difficult challenges or uncertain times, community-based services that help them identify and develop their strengths and address challenges, and access to information about pathways to careers and labor market information.
Bright Spots are examples of how high-need youth have been safely and successfully supported in their homes and with their families in jurisdictions around the country. Consider these stories from around the nation:
  • Bright Spot 1
  • Bright Spot 2
  • Stat 1
  • Stat 2