Section 5: Supervision
2 Hours

Lecture Topic TOPIC: COMMUNITY SUPERVISION OF JUVENILE SEX OFFENDERS

Avoidance Versus Approach Goals

The inclusion of supervision conditions—whether standard or specialized—is an important part of a supervision plan for youth, particularly as a way to reduce the likelihood that they will end up in situations where they’re more likely to engage in inappropriate or problematic behavior. But restrictions and prohibitions are only part of the equation. If our goal is to ensure that youth who have committed sex offenses become positive, productive individuals, the use of supervision conditions by themselves obviously will not be sufficient.

In other words, the development of a supervision plan must extend beyond these “avoidance goals”—we cannot simply tell youth what they cannot do. As I mentioned a moment ago, identifying strengths and assets, rather than focusing only on what’s wrong with a youth, is an important part of developing a supervision plan, because it can have an impact on a youth’s engagement and motivation. Just think about how de–motivating it would be to be told only what you are not allowed to do, what you must avoid, and what you should stop doing. It can result in youth feeling helpless, hopeless, and frustrated, and it might even cause them become more resistant and rebellious.

The bottom line is that supervision officers should also include “approach goals”18 —those things that are likely to promote their positive growth, maturity, improved quality of life, and success in the community—as part of a formal supervision plan. They can do this by helping youth think about where they’d like to go in life, how they’d like to be different in a positive way, and then develop goals and strategies that match these positive and prosocial needs and desires.19 Including approach goals as part of supervision plans—consistent with the rehabilitation–oriented or success–oriented approach to supervision—does not mean that we aren’t holding sexually abusive youth accountable for their behaviors. Approach goals are about helping a youth lead a healthy and productive life and to meet his needs without harming others.

Use SlideUse Slide #15: Examples of Approach Goals

Here are a few examples of common approach goals that can be used with juvenile sex offenders to encourage them to work towards improving the quality of their lives, which at the same time can keep them from engaging in problem behaviors:

Treatment providers, school officials, and other professionals can be very helpful in establishing approach goals for supervision plans that can complement the work that is being done in other areas of the youth’s life.

What are some other examples of approach goals that could be incorporated as part of a supervision or case management plan?

(ALLOW FOR AUDIENCE RESPONSES.)

Use SlideUse Slide #16: Collaboration Enhances Supervision Planning

Collaborating to Inform Initial and Ongoing Supervision Planning

At this point, it should be fairly evident that developing a comprehensive and individualized supervision plan cannot be accomplished by a supervision officer alone. Because a wide range of information is needed about these youth, their families, and even the victims of these offenses, and because so many others play a role in managing these youth, multidisciplinary and multi–agency collaboration is vital.20 Ideally, to make sure all of the “bases are covered,” multidisciplinary case management teams share responsibility for developing and implementing these plans. Team members should include a supervision officer and treatment provider and others as deemed necessary, such as school personnel, family therapists, and victim advocates.

And involving the juvenile and his parents or caregivers is a key part of the process, because it promotes their investment and ownership and ensures that the supervision plan is truly individualized. Supervision officers should think of parents or other caregivers as “experts” on their children; they probably know them better and have more information about them than anyone else. In the next section, we’ll talk a little bit more about engaging parents and caregivers in the overall supervision process, but for now, suffice it to say that they are critical collaborators when developing supervision plans.

Collaboration is also critical for supervision planning because of the fluid nature of these plans. Remember, as the risk, needs, and circumstances of these youth change over time, so should their supervision or case management plans. When a supervision plan is initially developed, some juvenile sex offenders will be placed on a high or intensive level of supervision and monitoring, and some will be placed under a less intensive level of supervision. Ideally, these decisions are based on the assessed level of risk and needs of an individual youth.

And as we discussed during the assessment section of this training, there are some specific assessment tools designed specifically for juvenile sex offenders that can assist with these determinations.21 Not only can this increase the accuracy of decisionmaking, it can help supervision agencies with using their limited resources more wisely. That is, instead of supervising all juvenile sex offenders in exactly the same way, high risk youth with greater needs should receive more intensive supervision than those who are lower risk and have fewer needs. In fact, research is pretty clear that outcomes are better when we deliver interventions that are commensurate with the level of risk posed by individuals.22 It’s difficult to further reduce the risk of an already low risk youth. And interestingly enough, the research shows that if we provide high intensity interventions to low risk individuals, they don’t necessarily benefit from them—and at times even have poorer outcomes.23

Over time, however, the level of supervision should probably change in one direction or the other. When concerns or needs are identified, supervision intensity may need to be increased. Similarly, when a youth has consistently demonstrated the ability and willingness to adhere to the expectations we have outlined and has progressed sufficiently in treatment, a reduction in supervision intensity may be appropriate. But only by sharing and comparing specialized assessment data and other information from multiple sources and across multiple contexts will supervision plans remain up–to–date, fully responsive, and maximally effective.

One Agency’s Approach

Use SlideUse Slide #17: Matching Supervision Intensity with Level of Risk and Needs

I’d like to talk briefly about how one agency—the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice—has developed guidelines that local jurisdictions throughout the state can use in the case planning process. The guidelines suggest a continuum of supervision intensity with youthful sex offenders.

The department places every juvenile sex offender who is on community supervision into a high, moderate, or low risk category. Each risk category has associated with it different levels of supervision, from 1 to 5. Timing is a consideration as well. As time goes by and as these juveniles comply with the expectations associated with treatment and supervision (and, presumably, as their risk levels and needs decrease), their supervision levels are also lowered.24

Use SlideUse Slide #18: High, Moderate, or Low Risk?

The high, moderate, or low risk determination at the outset of supervision is a structured process that is outlined in policy. The information sources and data used to guide decisionmaking include many of the things that we’ve already discussed, such as:25

The results and outcomes of all of these are combined in a structured fashion to yield the risk determination.

Use SlideUse Slide #19: Accompanying Contact Requirements

The contact requirements associated with the five levels of supervision are as follows.26

Officers are required to make most—but not all—of these contacts. Treatment providers and other collaterals can be responsible for a small proportion of them in some cases.27

And juveniles can move “up” and “down” in supervision level based on changes in their risk, needs, and circumstances. These decisions are made collaboratively, with input from the treatment provider and others.28

(ALLOW FOR AUDIENCE RESPONSES.)

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