Recommendations

In order to successfully develop, implement and sustain a program to identify American Indian youth with behavioral health conditions and keep them from progressing deeper into the juvenile justice system, there are a number of key considerations that tribes must attend to. The recommendations provided are based on cross-site learnings and experiences of the four tribal nations participating in this initiative.

These recommendations are not presented in a particular order that is meant to imply that the implementation process is always linear, with one step following another; rather, these recommendations are intended to describe key considerations that tribes should discuss as part of the development process.

    • Convene a cross-systems collaborative work group to focus on diversion for youth with behavioral health disorders. Consider inviting representatives from: Tribal Council, schools, law enforcement, court personnel (judges, prosecutors, and public defender), probation, juvenile detention, community-based mental health and substance abuse service providers, family and children’s services, elders, cultural or historical departments, and other interested community partners.
    • Invite mid-level managers from the tribe, particularly those who will be responsible for implementing the juvenile justice diversion strategy, to participate in development of the program.
    • Develop a shared vision statement that will guide the juvenile justice diversion efforts and that can be shared by all who are involved.
    • Build collaborations with tribal partners – local, state and federal – to increase the likelihood of program success and sustainability.
    • Identify key leadership at multiple levels – tribal council, department heads, and mid-level managers – necessary to support and sustain juvenile justice diversion planning and implementation.
    • Designate a work group leader who is responsible for convening regular planning meetings, building strong working relationships with all necessary partners, and overseeing the strategic planning process. This work group leader should be someone in a mid-level management position or above.
    • Revise tribal code, if necessary, to allow for juvenile justice diversion.
    • Establish a culturally sensitive and relevant juvenile justice diversion process.
    • Create opportunities for youth and families to participate in the program planning process, especially those with past juvenile justice and relevant service system experience.
    • Develop written policies and procedures that clearly spell out what the diversion process is and how the desired outcomes will be achieved. [Note that this may include formalizing informal diversion processes, collaborations, and resources that are already in place.] Policies and procedures should:
      • Define the target population and set eligibility criteria for the juvenile justice diversion program.
      • Specify screening and assessment processes that will be used to identify mental health, substance use, and other related needs.
      • Identify community-based resources, services and supports that will be provided to youth and families, as well as processes for making these referrals.
      • Protect the rights of youth participating in the juvenile justice diversion program.
    • Identify or hire staff – usually a single juvenile probation officer or case manager – to oversee the juvenile justice diversion program who is responsible not only for implementation, but for identifying funding to sustain the program.
    • Provide ongoing education and training to juvenile justice staff and community providers on what diversion is, why it is important, and what the goals of the program are.
    • Reward success – it is critical to acknowledge when a youth successfully completes the diversion process.
    • Address the issue that brought the youth to the juvenile justice system in the first place.
    • Identify expected outcomes for youth and families. For example:
      • Complete term of justice supervision
      • Participate in behavioral health treatment services and/or other community-based services and supports
      • Attend school and/or obtain employment
      • Increase in family involvement (use family survey to measure)
    • Define success for the overall program. For example:
      • Increase cross-agency collaboration
      • Decrease in recidivism for youth that participate in program
      • Decrease in school discipline
      • Increase school attendance
      • Increase youth and family engagement in services
      • Improve youth and family satisfaction
    • Identify or hire staff – usually a single juvenile probation officer or case manager – to oversee the juvenile justice diversion program who is responsible not only for implementation, but for identifying funding to sustain the program.
    • Responsibilities for staff may extend beyond program implementation and day-to-day program management to include working with tribal elders, tribal council, and community members to ensure that the juvenile justice diversion program is culturally sensitive and appropriate for tribal youth.
    • Designate a small portion of the juvenile justice program manager’s job to grant writing and other outreach activities focused on identifying ongoing funding. Have a business plan in place that can be referenced when seeking funding from new sources both within the tribe and outside of the tribe.
    • Provide youth and families with access to a full continuum of culturally appropriate services and supports, including:
      • Behavioral health services and supports (including crisis/mobile services)
      • Physical health/medical services
      • Housing services, if needed
      • Education and/or employment services
      • Youth leadership
      • Life and independent living skills
      • Parenting skills (for youth, if necessary)
      • Arts and recreation
      • Peer mentorship/support services for parents
    • Arrange for or provide transportation to and from services for youth and families that have no other means to otherwise access services.
    • Seek alternatives – such as telehealth – when local services are not available.
    • Create opportunities for youth and families to engage in the diversion process in a meaningful way. For example, when developing the diversion agreement and treatment plan, collaborate with the youth and family to identify needs, set realistic goals and refer what services and supports in the community are necessary and most appropriate. Get input from the youth.
    • Invite individuals that would not be traditionally defined as family (e.g., an “aunt” who is actually a long-time friend of the youth and family) to participate in the specific diversion program or to participate in the overall process.
    • Provide access to a family advocate whenever possible or, at a minimum, materials that provide information on the diversion process – rights and responsibilities – so that families can advocate for themselves.
    • Develop wraparound treatment plans that provide a holistic view on addressing the needs of the family – services and supports for the youth in contact with the juvenile justice system, their caregiver(s) and, when necessary, other children living in the home.
    • Provide incentives for the family to participate in the diversion program and in services required as part of the overall process (e.g., a gift card to a local store).
    • Engage youth and families in their home and in the community (e.g., schools, community events).
    • Develop or link to youth leadership opportunities so that youth can connect with other youth and become active, engaged members in their community.
    • Use various methods and networks to build community support for the diversion program. For example:
      • Community events
      • Tribal council meetings or events held to communicate with constituents
      • Newspaper articles, op-ed, and success stories
      • Radio and/or closed circuit television
      • Social media
      • Tribal webpages
    • Develop a logic model based on the clearly defined program objectives as the foundation for the program evaluation.
    • Identify indicators or measures for each program objective, and create mechanisms to collect the data necessary to respond to each indicator or measure.
    • Establish databases to collect the data. Be sure to establish procedures that private/sensitive information about the youth and their family is protected.
    • Enter into data sharing agreements with partner agencies so that all relevant information regarding stated program outcomes can be measured.
    • Communicate the results of the program evaluation with program partners on a regular basis.
    • Take an inventory of existing resources to identify those available to support implementation of the diversion strategy. Resources may include:
      • Staff: Identify or hire one person – usually a juvenile probation officer or case manager – to oversee the juvenile justice diversion program who is responsible not only for implementation but for identifying funding to sustain the program.
      • Services: Conduct a survey to identify all community-based and residential services and supports available for tribal youth. Be sure to make certain that services and supports are evidence-based, appropriate for youth and that they are culturally sensitive. Catalog these resources, update on an annual basis, and make this information available to the juvenile justice diversion program manager.
      • Facility: Locate unused or underused space that can be re-allocated to the juvenile justice program. Space may be necessary to accommodate diversion staff, to host specific programs, and for youth and/or parent groups.
      • Training: Access free onsite and virtual training available through federal and national organizations on topics necessary to implement the diversion program (e.g., screening, trauma, billing and coding for Medicaid). Secure funds – tribal general funds, federal/state/private foundation grants, fund-raising, cross-agency collaboration – to support training that is not available for free.
    • Think beyond implementation. Identify and secure funding that will not only support implementation, but that will also provide some level of sustainability for the program (e.g., providers able to access Medicaid reimbursements).
    • Work with tribal elders, tribal council, and community members to ensure that the juvenile justice diversion program is culturally sensitive and appropriate for tribal youth.
    • Develop Memorandum of Agreements (MOA) or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between departments or agencies participating in the juvenile justice diversion effort.
    • Know the applicable laws (tribal, state and federal) and implement reform when necessary.
    • Collect data to evaluate the diversion program and communicate the results of the evaluation with the community and funders to market the program.
    • Learn about and work to access alternative or non-traditional resources for funding – e.g., private foundations, Department of Transportation.
    • Provide ongoing, continuous training opportunities for juvenile justice diversion staff and program partners.
    • Keep written policies and procedures that clearly define parameters and guidelines for juvenile justice diversion of youth with behavioral health needs up-to-date.
    • Repurpose the cross-systems collaborative work group to serve as an advisory board for the juvenile justice diversion program.
    • Convene events to support collaboration and networking with community and program partners (e.g., potlucks).
    • Convene a meeting with state and federal agency representatives to review the program goals, identify resources available, and to discuss ongoing support for these efforts.
    • Educate national advocacy organizations and the U.S. Congress about the needs within tribes specific to youth with mental, substance use, and trauma-related disorders.