Section 6: Reentry
3 Hours

Lecture Topic TOPIC: REENTRY

The Importance of Continuity of Programming and Services

Use SlideUse Slide #24: The Importance of Continuity of Programming and Services

So there are, then, a great many things that need to be addressed in the context of reentry and aftercare planning in these cases, and many different types of programming that should be considered for these youth throughout the process, including: offense-specific, mental health, health, family, educational, vocational, and life skills. It’s essential that the services provided in the different settings (residential or institutional, community) have consistent theories and approaches, and complement and support one another.52 Therefore, beginning early during the reentry and aftercare planning process—and continuing thereafter—staff in all settings must be working together to ensure continuity of care, and that the services provided to youthful sex offenders either anticipate the interventions that are to come or build upon previous programs.

In addition, every effort must be made during the planning process and thereafter to prevent and avoid delays in services as these youth move from one level of care to another, or from a residential or institutional facility to the community. It can be particularly helpful to schedule appointments in the community prior to release to avoid time gaps in programming and to help to facilitate information sharing among providers in the different settings.

Utilizing the Whole Continuum

Use SlideUse Slide #25: Utilizing the Whole Continuum

Planning Early to Avoid “All or Nothing”

Ideally, jurisdictions have a comprehensive continuum of programming and services that is used to manage youthful sex offenders and to address their (and their families’) risk levels and needs over time.53 It might range from community-based options like specialized supervision and nonresidential programs, such as alternative living, day treatment, and outpatient treatment, to residential programs, including group homes, halfway houses, transition or step-down facilities, and moderate and secure care placements. Closely supervised furloughs may be a component of the more secure facilities in order to provide youth (and their family members) who are close to release with opportunities to familiarize themselves with and become acclimated to the reductions in structure that are associated with less restrictive placements.

For each juvenile sex offender who ends up in a secure placement or residential program, the reentry and aftercare plan should include the necessary and anticipated programs and services on the continuum that will be used, and strategies should be designed to move the youth down in the level and intensity of care in a measured and incremental way over time. This gradual—rather than abrupt—reduction in service intensity is crucial because it provides each youth with the time, support, services, and supervision necessary to adjust to the more limited structure of each step in the process.

We’ve talked throughout this presentation and the training about the kinds of issues and considerations that might guide decisionmaking about a youth’s readiness to step down to a lower level of care and custody. These decisions are obviously very complicated, multi–faceted, and challenging. Early and comprehensive planning is critical so that all involved parties are aware of what needs to be done in order to support the reentry and aftercare process, who is going to do what, and when each task or activity is going to be accomplished.

Use SlideUse Slide #26: Responding when Problems Arise

Responding when Problems Arise

As discussed in a number of other sections of this training, including the one on supervision, things sometimes go awry in these cases. Unfortunately, juvenile sex offenders and their families don’t always comply with the expectations that we set forth. Consequently, during the reentry and aftercare planning process, we must assume and anticipate that there will be times when juveniles need to be moved “up” instead of “down” on the continuum of programming, services, and interventions.

In the supervision section, we talk about the fact that not every juvenile sex offender can or should be removed from the community whenever any concern or problem behavior—no matter how minor—arises. When we think about responding to a problem, we must remember the importance of the success focus that we talked about earlier—and that we should be working with these youth to develop and practice appropriate coping skills, modify their inappropriate behaviors, and maintain their placement in the community. There are certainly times (for example, in cases of repeated non-compliance, very high risk activities, and new criminal behavior) when removing a juvenile from the community is necessary. In general, however, we should be addressing as many problems and concerns in the community setting as possible.54

Use SlideUse Slide #27: Critical Factors to Consider

During the supervision session, we emphasized the importance of having a variety of community-based options and responses between the two “extreme” ends of the continuum—something as serious as a revocation and return to institutional or residential placement, and something as minor as an official reprimand. These intermediate options and responses may include:55

We’ve also highlighted a number of factors that have been identified in the contemporary literature and in practice across the country that may impact decisions about when and how to increase the level and intensity of programming and services in response to a problem or concern. They include:56

Once again, it’s tough to understate the importance of parents and caregivers in terms of how we respond to problems and concerns. Their high level of engagement and motivation, and their demonstrated capacity to support treatment interventions, supervision strategies, and other services may, for example, make it possible to leave a youth who is having difficulties and who is not in compliance with his aftercare plan in the home with only a relatively minor “bump up” on the continuum. The absence of such support may require a far more intensive response. As such, the inclusion of support and caregivers in the reentry and aftercare planning process and in an ongoing way thereafter—and our early efforts to assess and address family–related risk factors in the context of the plan and in our interventions—are vital.

Summary                  

Early (ideally, starting at intake into a residential or institutional facility), proactive, and comprehensive planning is, therefore, integral to promoting and supporting the successful reentry and aftercare of youthful sex offenders.

This kind of planning guarantees that these juveniles’ multiple needs—and the many potential barriers to the transition process—are identified and addressed quickly.

One of the challenges that I introduced a little while ago that can negatively impact the planning process is the fragmentation that is fairly common between the agencies and stakeholders in some jurisdictions who are involved in this important work. Let’s talk briefly about a viable solution to this fragmentation—collaboration, a key issue that we discussed in the Introduction and the other sections of this training.

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