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Strengthening Our Future: Key Elements to Developing a Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice Diversion Program for Youth with Behavioral Health Conditions

Published Dec 21, 2015, National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice

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Diverting youth from the juvenile justice system to effective community-based services and supports will require systems that recognize and respond to trauma-related disorders. These include the front-end gatekeepers and decision makers (i.e., probation departments and courts), as well as the full array of community agencies that can provide healing, treatment, and support to youth and their families.

This report is intended to offer a description of a trauma-informed juvenile justice diversion approach with examples of how some states are beginning to address and implement trauma-informed systems of care for youth and their families. It begins with a discussion of trauma and its effects on youth, especially those with behavioral health conditions. This is followed by a discussion of the types of trauma-related disorders, the behavioral manifestations of trauma that youth may display, and a summary of factors that affect the severity of trauma-related disorders. The report then describes nine key elements of a trauma-informed approach within the context of juvenile justice diversion. Case examples are included from each of the states participating in the 2014-15 Policy Academy–Action Network Initiative.

This initiative, coordinated by the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice (NCMHJJ) and the Technical Assistance Collaborative (TAC), was jointly funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (Foundation). As part of SAMHSA’s Strategic Initiative on Trauma and Justice and the Foundation’s Models for Change Initiative, this effort focused on improving policies and programs for diverting youth with behavioral health conditions from the juvenile justice system to appropriate community-based services and supports. 

Categories: Mental/behavioral health

Uploaded Mar 29, 2016


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

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