Report Outlines New Therapeutic Approach Coming to L.A. County Juvenile Detention Facility

A new report outlines a roadmap and summary of the “L.A. Model,” a collection of therapeutic-based practices aimed at improving care for youth in Los Angeles County juvenile detention facilities.

The new approach is expected to be at the center of a much-publicized renovation of one of the county’s 12 juvenile detention camps in Malibu, now dubbed Campus Kilpatrick. The new facility is slated to open in April 2017.

The L.A. Model is designed for high-risk youth, who are ordered to attend a juvenile hall or camp like Kilpatrick as a result of a Camp Community Placement Order from juvenile court.

“The juvenile justice system in Los Angeles County has been broken for too long,” according to the authors of the report, who cite “outdated, institutional, and sometimes harmful camps” in L.A. County.

Using the L.A. Model, the Kilpatrick campus offers a chance to “bring L.A.’s juvenile justice system into the 21st century.” The new approach calls for a facility based on small group arrangements in a therapeutic environment with an emphasis on creating a culture of care and respect among all staff and youth.

Overseen by the Probation Department, Campus Kilpatrick will serve as a pilot program for the new therapeutic approach, with the goal of extending the model across all the county’s juvenile detention facilities.

Released by the Children’s Defense Fund, the report offers a summary of practices and programming related to the L.A. Model, as well as recommendations for supporting its implementation. More than 100 stakeholders worked for two years to identify the key attributes of the L.A. Model.

The 10 key elements of the model include the following:

  • Multi-disciplinary team planning occurs with collaboration across agencies and at all levels.
  • Programming is engaging and meaningful for youth and staff with a focus on skill-building, mental health, healing, and personal growth. It consistently and meaningfully includes families and community members as critical partners.
  • Families are engaged early and often, treated with respect, and seen as partners in the treatment and aftercare process. Aftercare and reentry are the core drivers of case planning from the day of arrival, in order to build a continuum of care and to support stability when back in the community.
  • The small-group care model includes cohort consistency, a focus on relationships, homelike living spaces, and shared responsibility for daily activities, self-care and ordinary maintenance of shared spaces.
  • Safety, both psychological and physical, is a priority for staff and youth and is promoted through a variety of positive mechanisms integrated into daily interactions and activities.
  • Academic achievement and engagement are critical to each youth’s program, and input from education providers is a fundamental element of case and reentry planning.
  • Probation and all other staff are mentors and are consistently integrated into program delivery. Support for staff mental health and wellness is provided as an integral component of the L.A. Model.
  • Approach to programming is individualized, strength-based, and developmentally appropriate, meeting youth where they are in the process of change and focusing on empowerment, problem-solving, and the promotion of protective factors.
  • Data is continuously collected and analyzed in order to drive decision-making, guide case planning, support continuous improvement, and evaluate implementation and effectiveness of activities/programming.

Read the full report here.

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