Safety, Fairness, Stability: Repositioning Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare to Engage Families and Communities

There is no other relationship with greater significance in our lives than those we have with our families--whether they are our birth or chosen families. They should serve as the anchor in our lives, as the lifeline to everything else we accomplish. As noted by the authors of this paper, Joan Pennell, Carol Shapiro, and Carol Spigner, “for youths to grow into responsible and productive adults, they need a foundation of safety, fairness, and stability.

Further noting that this foundation is especially weakened for youths involved with both child protection and juvenile justice, they make the case for devoting our efforts to maintaining youths' connections to their homes, schools, and communities in an appropriate manner, and by doing so give youth who are too often alienated from their families and our mainstream society a sense of belonging, competence, well-being, and purpose. It is this sense of belonging that many youth involved with child welfare and juvenile justice lose as they and their families experience these systems.

This paper provides a pathway to improving these systems in a manner that will leave children, youth, and families with a different set of experiences. But this pathway requires those working within those systems as agency leaders, supervisors, line staff, or judges and lawyers to adopt a new lens in viewing their work in engaging families.

Socrates once said, I can not teach anybody anything. I can only make them think. That is the challenge undertaken by the authors, and I commend them for tackling this challenge not only with one system of care, but by asking readers to understand the challenge across systems and to think differently about how we work with families that are frequently experiencing multiple systems at the same time. To access the full report, please click on the linked file.