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Juvenile Justice: Community Treatment - Aftercare

iap youth model intensive

What happens to juvenile offenders upon release from an institutional placement? For some, especially those who have been held until the age of majority, the moment they walk out the door, they are no longer under direct correctional supervision. Many, however, continue under the jurisdiction of parole or aftercare services. Juvenile aftercare may involve various combinations of transitional housing, employment training, school advocacy, mentoring, crisis counseling, behavioral monitoring, and drug and alcohol testing. These services are intended to facilitate reintegration into the community while providing a measure of surveillance and control during the transition. Resembling probation in many respects, aftercare is usually the responsibility of state juvenile correctional agencies, whereas probation is more often run by county courts. As in many probation departments, juvenile parole officers often have large caseloads that make meaningful levels of contact with individual youths impossible. Yet many would point to aftercare as the potentially most critical factor in keeping youths from reentering the system again and again.

Juvenile correctional institutions typically have high recidivism rates. Perhaps spending months or years in the company of other youthful offenders merely hardens individuals, providing them with more delinquent skills and motivations. Yet, even youths who have spent time in the best institutions, with effective rehabilitative programming producing demonstrable short-term improvements in behavior and attitudes, eventually return to the communities in which their delinquency was engendered, where the same influences persist. Moreover, their opportunities for educational or vocational advancement may be even more limited than before. Without adequate attention to aftercare and reintegration, it is not surprising that so many fail.

David Altschuler and Troy Armstrong have developed an Intensive Aftercare Program (IAP) model that carefully blends theory and practice. Key principles of the IAP model are:

  1. preparing youth for progressively increased responsibility and freedom in the community;
  2. facilitating youth-community interaction and involvement;
  3. working with both the offender and targeted community support systems (such as families, peers, schools, employers) on qualities needed for constructive interaction and the youth's successful community adjustment;
  4. developing new resources and supports where needed; and
  5. monitoring and testing the youth and the community on their ability to deal with each other productively (Altschuler and Armstrong, p. 11).

The IAP model begins while a youth is still in a correctional facility, providing preparatory skills and linking institutional and community professional staffs. Following a youth's release, the IAP model employs an intensive case management approach to provide support, surveillance, and community service brokerage. In some cases, IAP incorporates community residential programs as transitional components, like halfway houses. As with intensive probation, electronic monitoring or trackers may be used as additional control mechanisms. But the heart of the model is the individualized case planning and community support that continues when youths are returned to their families or to independent living arrangements. An IAP worker makes home visits, school visits, job visits, and the like as needed.

The IAP model is being piloted in four states, with evaluation results not yet in. Evaluations of other intensive aftercare programs have found mixed results. While some were quite successful (Sontheimer and Goodstein), others that had difficulty fully implementing intensive aftercare interventions had less favorable outcomes than regular aftercare (Deschenes, Greenwood, and Marshall; Greenwood, Deschenes, and Adams).

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