A Safe Harbor For Youths

July 28, 2022 by Allison Catalani

A Safe Harbor For Youths

Increasing involvement of community organizations and ongoing calls for equity are unlocking the potential for better outcomes for youths in supervision programs. In Clark County, Nevada, community partnerships play a key role in the success of The Harbor, a specialized program to help at-risk youth before they even reach the point of entering the juvenile justice system. Since launching in 2016, The Harbor has served more than 20,000 kids, and more than 90% of children referred to the program do not escalate further within the juvenile justice system.

“The more we invest and wrap children in services before they get in trouble, the less likely they are to be involved in the juvenile justice system,” says John “Jack” Martin, director of Clark County Department of Juvenile Justice.  

Unlike typical youth supervision programs that begin after an arrest or detention, The Harbor allows referrals from anyone, including parents or community members, for reasons ranging from truancy and low grades to family issues. Rather than always instructing parents to enroll in parenting classes, if a parent has a genuine concern of not being able to control his or her child, they can reach out to The Harbor for an assessment program that brings in multiple departments and organizations to provide wrap-around services for kids and parents. The Harbor’s comprehensive intake process includes multiple survey and assessment tools. Integrations with case management systems from the juvenile justice department’s parole systems and other justice data continues to improve the program’s ability to track and understand youth needs, providing additional confidence for parents and positive outcomes for youths.

The Harbor staff use validated assessment tools from new case management software to extract data in ways to support evidence-based decision-making and measurement of potential outcomes. For example, if data reflects failure to appear and school attendance for youths, staff can effectively develop a plan of action for what approaches work well to increase school attendance and provide motivation. In addition, family interviews are conducted to identify needed services and make structured referrals to a variety of programs — such as family services and welfare departments, public and behavioral health services, the county school district, and community organizations serving families and homeless youth.

 “Being able to pull out statistics to show outcomes — good or bad — can make sure these partners get a lot of bang for their buck,” says Martin. “If you don’t have a good case management system to collect the right data, you can’t measure outcomes.”

Collaborating with community partners requires both the willingness and ability to share data, and partners with The Harbor are determined to continue to use data to break the community-to-prison pipeline for at-risk youth. Efforts have paid off, as The Harbor has quickly expanded to five centers around Las Vegas and Clark County, each open seven days a week to serve youth and their families. For more information visit https://theharborlv.co

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