North Dakota has struggled to track and support youth who get in trouble and are the subject of abuse and neglect investigations. This week, it announced a new venture to improve on that measure.
Youths involved in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems will now be supported through the Dual Status Youth Initiative, which will entail the participation of the courts, corrections and family services.
As part of the initiative, a new memorandum of understanding has been put in place between the North Dakota Supreme Court and North Dakota Department of Human Services to allow for secure data sharing through a newly created technology infrastructure.
“It took the ability of stakeholders to collaborate on issues such as definitions, data sharing, policies and practice in order to move toward a shared vision,” said Cory Pederson, chair of the Dual Status Youth Executive Committee, in a release about the new initiative.
Other aspects of the Dual Status Youth Initiative include bringing together a team of people who have relationships with a dual status youth to make decisions with the child’s family in an effort to improve outcomes. This team-based approach is also part of the state’s recently-launched Family Centered Engagement Model in Burleigh, Grand Forks, Mercer, McLean, Oliver, Sheridan and Stutsman counties.
“I commend the group for recognizing that if children and families are going to have the best long-term outcomes, system reforms are imperative, though challenging at times,” said Lisa Bjergaard, director of the Division of Juvenile Services at DOCR, in a press release. “The evaluation of the initiative will be critical to continuing our work to improve practices.”
The initiative has been created after the release of a study last year that offered recommendations on inter-agency collaboration for systems to better serve youth. The report, completed by the RFK National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice, unearthed trends in the state’s dual status population.
The study identified 240 dual status youth, who had accrued a total of 1,201 charges (about 5 per youth). Three-quarters of the dual status youth were in foster care.
There were 41 youth who were charged for crimes in a foster care setting, but the vast majority of those took place in congregate care settings – either a psychiatric facility or a group home or residential program.
Three quarters of these youths were arrested for the first time at 14 or younger, and nearly 70 percent of them had parents who had been arrested, incarcerated or both.
Several trainings on the initiative have been held for county and juvenile court case managers and supervisors. Development of an online training is in process.
Greacen Association will conduct an evaluation of the new Dual Status Youth Initiative in order to monitor outcomes and ensure the successful implementation of the initiative.