“Treatment” is one of the key aspects of the juvenile justice system. Though youth development centers are the most restrictive, intensive dispositional option available to North Carolina’s juvenile courts, YDCs by definition are secure facilities aimed at providing education and treatment services to prepare committed youth to successfully transition to a community setting. Rehabilitative services in a youth development center are offered within a programming approach called the Model of Care. This approach makes use of therapeutic interactions – based on the value-based therapeutic environment model of care used by the Methodist Home for Children – to teach students prosocial behaviors, where in the past they may have turned instead to inappropriate or antisocial behaviors in response daily life occurrences.
Consistency is key for the system to work. To properly treat children in the juvenile justice system, each staff member with whom students come into contact must consistently follow the model. The Model of Care is rooted in the principles of effective programming promoted by the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. These principles stipulate that to maximize effectiveness, juvenile justice facilities must engage youth in structured therapeutic activities at least half of waking hours; must incorporate research findings establishing that committed juvenile delinquents learn best by “doing” (rehearsal and role play, as opposed to counseling and instruction alone); must use a cognitive behavioral approach; and must deliver programming with fidelity, staying faithful to how it was designed. Major studies have shown a strong relationship between high program fidelity and reduced recidivism.
North Carolina’s YDC directors and facility operations leadership took the first step toward improving program fidelity last month, through participation in a four-day training and planning session, or advanced Model of Care Supervision Management Training. This course was coordinated and delivered by Juvenile Justice staff, in partnership with leadership from Methodist Home from Children. The learning principles driving each Model of Care programming component were reviewed, standard operating procedures were revisited and tools and resources designed to ensure program fidelity were discussed in depth. YDC directors left energized and equipped with an action plan and tools designed to keep Model of Care programming at their facility on track.
“The strong spirit of collaboration between YDC directors experienced throughout the retreat will ensure a consistent approach to Model of Care amongst all North Carolina facilities,” said Jim Speight, director of Facility Operations for Juvenile Justice. “The Methodist Home’s staff was eminently helpful, providing the type of hands-on training that is critical to day-to-day success. Overall I am encouraged and excited that Model of Care within our YDCs is in capable hands and will only continue to improve the futures of our committed youth.”