Center for Children & Youth Justice Programs
The Center believes that youth forced into prostitution need help and compassion, not the further victimization of arrest, incarceration and a return to the streets only to again be forced into sex acts for the monetary gain of abusive pimps. That’s why we are leading a statewide effort to create a victim-centered protocol to change how law enforcement and the courts treat sexually exploited children.
Models for Change
The Center leads the national Models for Change juvenile justice reform initiative in Washington to ensure that the system not only holds young offenders accountable for their actions, but keeps them from harm, provides for their rehabilitation and increases their chances to succeed in life. In partnership with other entities at the state and grassroots levels, CCYJ advances efforts to effect lasting reforms for youth in Washington and – as programs are proven successful and replicated – for youth nationwide.
Among other programs
Lawyers Fostering Independence trains and deploys volunteer attorneys to provide pro bono civil legal services to youth who have aged out of foster care. The South King County Coordinating Council on Gangs is tackling complex gang issues that span suburban King County by convening local law enforcement, school officials and state leaders to create a unified plan. Promoting Positive Outcomes keeps truant youth out of the juvenile justice system and gets them back into school. In Lawyers Furthering Education, volunteer attorneys are mentors and advocates to youth at risk of being truant. Supporting Early Connections works with families with infants and toddlers referred to court for abuse or neglect, helping families address the mental health and relationship needs of their young children.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
Since the Center was founded in 2006, we have increased our major initiatives six-fold and quadrupled our staff. Because a large percentage of our projects and staff are grant-funded, we rely on private donations to fund our lean and efficient infrastructure. We also count on individual contributions to support new endeavors aimed at ensuring that all children who enter foster care or the juvenile justice system emerge healthier, stronger and better prepared for life as adults.
An evaluation completed in 2011 of Supporting Early Connections, which works to strengthen parent-child relationships in families referred to court for abuse or neglect, showed significant positive results over the first three and a half years of the program. Children’s mental health and families’ relationships showed marked improvements. Less than one-quarter of children resided with their biological parent(s) when they entered the program; 55 percent of the families had reunified after participating. Supporting Early Connections was named a “best practice” in a 2011 national policy agenda released by a group of leading child welfare and early childhood development organizations.
Avanza, a program aimed reducing dropout rates for at-risk Hispanic youth, succeeded in keeping 92 percent of participating students in school (compared to a statewide retention rate of just 70 percent). Students also increased their academic achievement by 67 percent – not just while enrolled in Avanza but the year after as well.
Potential dropouts who participated in Youth REACH, one of CCYJ’s Models for Change projects, were 30 to 50 percent less likely than non-participants to face court involvement for truancy.