Chapter 1: The Technical Assistance Process
Setting the Course: Identifying Problems or Needs

Solving the right problem is as important as finding the best solution. Sometimes technical assistance is not effective because it is not directed at the most important issue or the underlying problem. For example, a juvenile justice administrator who thinks that staff are inadequately trained to do their jobs may seek more training for staff. However, if the program's policies and procedures are not sound, merely training the staff to perform them better may not solve the real problem. Agencies must have both appropriate policies and procedures and well-trained staff. Some condition, issue, or problem has prompted your investigation of technical assistance resources. Start there, but do not stop there.

Conducting a thorough assessment of needs and resources is a necessary early step when making changes in an agency, whether or not technical assistance is needed. A good assessment will sharpen the focus on the problem, its causes, resources for addressing it, and possible obstacles to change. Some of the questions at the end of this chapter will help identify needs and resources.

Sometimes the best strategy is to disregard the immediate problem and focus instead on a vision of the jurisdiction or program at its best. For example, completing sentences similar to the ones in Table 1:b could be a helpful way of approaching the problem.

Table 1:b Examples of Jurisdictional or Program Vision
  • If this jurisdiction or program were doing the best possible job of keeping the community safe from juvenile crime, we would (Example: prevent most crime from occurring in the first place, conduct risk assessments on juvenile offenders so those (and only those) who present a danger to public safety are removed from the community, and empower communities to participate in the process of making their neighborhoods safe and cohesive).

  • If this jurisdiction or program were providing the best possible response to victims of juvenile crime, we would (Example: engage victims, acknowledge the harm done to them, and help youth make restitution in keeping with restorative justice principles).

  • If this jurisdiction or program were helping youth to develop competencies to reach their full potential, we would (Example: conduct individual needs assessments on youth and select program options and services that address identified needs, provide appropriate skills development and socialization opportunities for youth, and work with other youth-serving agencies to develop a continuum of prosocial activities for all youth in the community).

  • If this jurisdiction or program were strengthening families of delinquent youth adequately, we would (Example: increase the percentage of youth involved in juvenile corrections who are able to remain with or return to their families and see improvements in the involvement of families with youth in juvenile corrections programs).

  • If this jurisdiction or program were planning adequately for juvenile corrections in the next 5 years, we would (Example: base our program development efforts on realistic estimates of the number and types of problems of the youth who will be entering our system and reduce present crowded conditions in our programs to no more than 10 percent above capacity).

  • If this jurisdiction or program were providing culturally competent services for delinquent youth, we would (Example: differentiate between the needs of various groups of juveniles and provide culturally competent services for all ethnic, socioeconomic, and gender groups of youth).

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Jurisdictional Technical Assistance Package for Juvenile Corrections Report - December 2000