Proper Preparation Critical to Juvenile’s Reentry Success

Author: Gary Skinner, Director of Social Work for Juvenile Justice

The North Carolina Juvenile Justice Section is continually increasing and improving opportunities available for juveniles to return to their communities following commitment in youth development centers. The importance of proper reentry was heightened over the past 17 months when the age of youth potentially housed in juvenile hustice facilities was raised to 18. This change meant older teenagers and young adults involved in non-violent offenses could receive more focused and age-appropriate rehabilitation and reentry services.

On an average day, about 150 juveniles reside in North Carolina’s YDCs: locked, secure facilities that are the most restrictive, intensive dispositional option available to juvenile courts. Youth are admitted to these facilities only if the court has determined they pose a potential danger to the community, or who have a lengthy delinquency history. Young people stay at a YDC for an average of 14 months, depending on their positive engagement and progress with rehabilitation activities. In recent years, fewer youth have needed to be committed to a YDC: In 2020, 43 fewer youth were admitted to a YDC than in 2019, a drop of 22%.

Since a goal of Juvenile Justice s to prepare a juvenile for success at home and in the community, planning for release and reentry begins early in the juvenile’s YDC commitment. Youths in YDCs interact daily with staff focused on providing treatment, education and skills development. Staff members also meet formally each month with the juvenile, their parents, and a team of professionals to plan for the youth’s reentry into the community.  

A reentry plan may include family therapy, additional support to complete their education, partnering with a mentor around a specific area of interest, or enrollment in another residential program to help the young person develop more skills or get more education to be a productive family member and adult.

Each week, about three youths leave YDCs and matched with programs and services to assist in developing the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors which lead to good outcomes. Many partners across the state work effectively with juvenile court counselors to teach and support youth leaving YDCs to be successful in many areas.

North Carolina’s juvenile justice system – as well as children, families and communities throughout the state – reap the benefits of the many professional and evidence-based programs and services that empower youth. Information about the partnering programs and services that help youth successfully reenter their community can be found in the Juvenile Justice Service Directory, found here

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