This program will serve families in St. Lucie County which a youth has committed an act of violence against another family member. Family violence has become an increasingly common occurrence in our society. The State Attorney’s Office reports that there are at least 8 cases a month in St. Lucie County alone that would be appropriate for this program. An alternative to a punishment only response is called for in many cases since mental health, domestic violence, and ineffective parenting practices often contribute to the youth’s violent outburst.
The program will be provided to families only when the violence is an initial incident. The nature of the violent episode will also be considered, with serious violent actions not being referred. A previous history of delinquency by the youth will not rule out the possibility of the youth participating in the program.
The youth will have been arrested and have appeared in court the following day. During the court hearing the family will be referred to our program by agreement of State Attorney, Public Defender and of course the judge. The ultimate decision to accept the case will occur at the intake session after youth and parent have been interviewed and the parties have completed several validated evaluation instruments. Once the assessment information is processed by program staff a treatment plan will be developed and offered to the family. If the family accepts the plan and signs the program contract, services will be provided.
There are multiple components to the program, and specific services will be provided to families based upon their individual needs. The greater the number of problems identified during the intake session, the greater the number of services that will be provided. The full range of services include broker case management, wraparound case management, group counseling for the youth, and restorative justice interventions which might include victim-offender mediation and/or peacemaking circles. The case management component may entail referring families to receive services at other agencies such as mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment and parenting education classes. The length of the program will vary depending upon which services are provided. It is expected that some families will be in the program for maximum of 26 weeks, but many families may receive services for a substantially shorter time frame. The minimal length of service will be 90 days. The intake assessment will be performed by a multidisciplinary panel including the case manger who will be assigned to the case, if not both, either the Teen Court Director or the Administrative Services Manager and two other juvenile justice staff, one of whom is CAP and the other a psychiatric nurse. The intake assessment takes approximately 3 hours and has 4 distinct stages. Initially, all team members meet with all the family members present for the intake. Then there is a breakout stage when separate interviews occur with the victim and offender. If the victim is a sibling there will be an additional separate meeting with the parent(s). Then the committee meets separately to decide what services should be offered. Finally, the committee meets with the family and presents the treatment plan. If the family agrees a contract is signed.
The case manager will be a court administration staff person already providing services in our Juvenile Justice unit. Existing court administration staff will also provide the group support/counseling component. The program is not receiving any additional funds at his point in time, so implementation of the program is restricted to St. Lucie County.