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Training to Enhance Family Involvement in Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Justice System Now Available

The Center for Juvenile Justice Training and Research is launching a statewide effort to provide training for juvenile probation officers who desire to utilize strategies to expand family involvement in their work and in the system. The Family Involvement in Juvenile Justice (FIJJ) curriculum, which was developed with the guidance of the Family Involvement Committee of the Pa. Council of Chief Juvenile Probation Officers, was completed in 2011. The curriculum offers practical instruction on the emerging practice of family engagement and involvement in juvenile justice. Twenty participants successfully completed training to become trainers for the FIJJ Curriculum, the first of its kind in the nation for juvenile probation officers. They are now ready to deliver training in teams of family advocates and juvenile justice practitioners in their counties, regionally, and, if needed, across the state. There were eight family advocates and twelve juvenile justice practitioners trained. The practitioners included seven juvenile probation officers, three providers, and two staff from the Bureau of Juvenile Justice, Pa. Department of Public Welfare.

The juvenile probation departments represented were Adams, Allegheny, Northampton, Philadelphia, Westmoreland, and York. Family advocates were from the Allegheny Family Network, Mental Health Association in Pa., Parents Involved Network (PIN), Mental Health Association in Southeastern Pa., and Pa. System of Care Network. The authors have aligned the curriculum contents with the 2009 Family Involvement in Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Justice System monograph findings. It is also aligned with Balanced and Restorative Justice principles and Pennsylvania’s recently established

Juvenile Justice System Enhancement Strategy (JJSES), which rests on two interlinked foundations: the best empirical research available in the field of juvenile justice, and a set of core beliefs about how to put this research into practice. The JJSES State Leadership Team has identified the FIJJ Curriculum as a key component of this initiative.

The Curriculum was piloted with the full staff of three juvenile probation departments (Westmoreland, Wyoming, and York) in spring 2011. Recommendations from the pilot participants were incorporated in to the current version. The Curriculum was recognized as a Strategic Innovation by the John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change Initiative in 2011.

The FIJJ Curriculum has demonstrated significant positive attitude shifts through the pre- and post- assessments that are administered to participants. For example, pilot participants “agreeing very much” that “The benefits of family involvement in the court process outweigh the drawbacks” rose from 51% to 79%. This training session is largely experiential, with a combination of lecture, discussion, interactive exercises, and a planning session. The training is intense, but also fun. Upon completing the 1 ½ day training, participants will be able to understand family involvement’s place within juvenile justice and be able to develop action plans for further involving families in their work and their juvenile court. Nine hours of continuing education credit are earned by juvenile probation officers completing the training.

For those that wish to coordinate local training sessions, Susan Blackburn at the CJJT&R is the contact for additional information and /or scheduling a training session. CJJT&R has approved instructors who are familiar with the standardized training curricula and, in many cases, helped to develop the materials.

Upon request for training in a particular agency or region, the CJJT&R will locate interested and available trainers on the topic and will forward their names and contact information to the sponsoring agency. The sponsoring agency will then contact the trainers directly to develop contracts and determine travel arrangements. CJJT&R will provide technical assistance to/for the trainers and will provide training certificates to participants who complete the training.

To arrange for this training, contact Susan Blackburn at 717-477-1411 or by email at least three months in advance of when you hope to hold the training. CJJT&R is sponsoring a training session on the FIJJ Curriculum in State College on October 3-4,

2012. To register for this training session visit the JEMS website at

Reform areas: Mental health

States: Pennsylvania

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Models for Change is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, website operated by Justice Policy Institute.