Trauma-Focused Practice Supplement for the Crossover Youth Practice Model


The Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR) designed the CYPM to improve multi-system collaboration on behalf of crossover youth and their families and inspire practice and policy changes aimed at better meeting their needs. The CYPM sets forth a series of recommended strategies and best practices, including but not limited to the identification of the crossover population, assessment and case planning, case management, court-based structures and approaches, and efforts to prevent dual-system involvement in the first place. One practice commonly adopted by CYPM jurisdictions, for example, is the creation of multi-disciplinary or family teams to inform and guide service delivery and case management. These teams can assist with creating open lines of communication among all parties and maximizing consistency between child welfare and juvenile justice agencies, so that expectations for the youth and family are clear and attainable. Multidisciplinary or family teams also create formal opportunities for youth and families to engage in decision-making processes throughout their cases. This supplement explains how the CYPM can achieve a key goal: helping crossover youth recover from trauma.

In everyday interactions with youth and their families, you don’t have to be a therapist to be therapeutic

  • Know that you, and all adults, have the power to help youth recover from the negative impact of trauma by providing them with respect, understanding, and nonjudgmental guidance.
  • Help youth be safe, feel safe, and find safe people and places. This is the most important step you can take. Ask yourself: What can be done to create a safe space? How can I approach this youth and their caregivers in a way that will allow them to share and request information? What attitudes am I bringing that may help or hinder their willingness to trust me and feel safe?
  • Don’t take a youth’s behaviors personally. Instead, recognize how youth are trying to protect themselves and others.When they “act out,” remember they are likely feeling unsafe and, instead of criticizing them, look for ways that you can help them feel safe while also finding ways to achieve their goals in a safe and effective manner.
  • Don’t base your support for the youth and families on your perception of how much they appreciate your efforts. Whether or not youth acknowledge you or make positive changes, which takes time, continue to support them with respect and without giving up on them. This work can be draining and frustrating, but always try to remember that while we can go home at the end of each day, for youths and families there often is no respite and their lives are at stake.
  • Make everything as predictable and transparent as possible. System involvement can be confusing for youth and families, and things often happen without the youth or family’s input or awareness.
  • Explain your role in the system and offer youth and families the opportunity to get more information about the rules,structure, and function of the system. Always clearly explain why you are doing what you are doing, and what youth and families can expect in the moment and moving forward.
  • Regularly provide information to youth and families that they find helpful and meaningful. Reiterating such information and reaffirming that navigating systems is complex can help build rapport and comfort families who may feel confused or overwhelmed. It may be beneficial to ask families to tell you, in their own words, what has been discussed or decided to ensure the information provided is understood.
  • Honor each youth’s cultural background, preferences, and linguistic needs by actively showing respect for their culture and language.
  • Empower youth by noticing and actively creating opportunities to point out the youth’s and family’s strengths and accomplishments. Reframe negative labels as positive qualities (e.g., identifying a youth who negatively influences others as having natural leadership ability), while still holding the youth responsible for their actions. This includes identifying ways to respectfully challenge the youth to make changes in ways they still need to improve.

When helping youth and their family members engage productively in interactions and activities:

  • Help youth understand that the way they “cope with” or “respond to” difficult situations in their home or community may not work well in group homes and congregate care settings, but that they have the ability to change how they cope and respond so they can achieve their core values and goals.
  • Guide youth in adapting their existing coping strategies by being a role model and joining with them in practicing new skills, such as mindfulness, affect regulation, and conflict resolution.
  • Encourage healthy outlets and extracurricular activities that support youth in forming new relationships, learning new skills, and expending energy in positive ways.
  • Show that you are open to hear the youth’s and family members’ views about trauma, oppression, and systemic racism. Prepare yourself to do this respectfully by learning from what is written or taught by people of color about racism and how it has caused harm to people of color for generations


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