Juvenile Justice Bulletin --July 2000 --The Transition Structure and Process

The Transition Structure and Process

A central tenet of the IAP model is the need for a well-planned and coordinated process for transitioning youth from the institutional setting to aftercare. This has been largely accomplished in Colorado, Nevada, and Virginia. There is early and frequent planning for aftercare, multiple people are involved in developing the case plan, and several mechanisms are in place for gradually phasing the youth out of the highly structured institutional environment. The key components of the transition process are summarized in table 3. Although the specific components are quite different across sites, the methods each used to structure the transition constitute a primary strength of implementation.13

Parole Planning

In each site, institutional and aftercare staff begin thinking about and planning for parole shortly after a youth's commitment. Initial plans usually are developed within 30 days of commitment, at the same time that the institutional case plan is developed. Parole plans are then finalized approximately 1 to 2 months prior to release. In Colorado and Virginia, case plans incorporate the multiple perspectives of institutional staff, parole staff, and representatives of community agencies. Although all the sites attempt to involve parents in case planning, their degree of success has differed. Parental involvement in Colorado has been fairly routine, perhaps because of the proximity of the institution to the Denver area—a 30-minute drive away. It has been more sporadic in Nevada and Virginia, however, where the institutions are located several hours away from the target communities.

An important outcome of this early aftercare planning is that parole officers can put needed services in place prior to the youth's actual release. In all three sites, critical services typically begin within the first week (if not the first day) after release. This practice stands in sharp contrast to the traditional parole situation in which arrangements for services often do not begin until the youth is released, thereby creating considerable delays before services are actually delivered.

Parole Officer Contact During the Institutional Phase

One of the transitioning mechanisms common to all sites is the ongoing involvement of the case manager/parole officer with IAP participants while they are institutionalized. Case managers are required to visit the institution at least monthly to begin building relationships with the youth, monitor progress with the case plan, and review the parole plan. Evaluation data show that in Colorado, IAP youth are seen by the case manager approximately 2.5 times per month during the institutional phase; in Nevada, they are seen by the parole officer about once every other month; and in Virginia, they are seen about 1.5 times per month. In each case, this contact during the institutional phase is twice as frequent as among control group youth.

Site-Specific Transition Practices

Colorado. In Colorado, one of the key transition processes is continuity in service delivery. During the institutional phase, community-based providers begin weekly services (including multifamily counseling and life skills services) that continue during aftercare. The extent of Colorado's provider involvement across the institutional/aftercare boundary is unique and clearly represents Altschuler and Armstrong's notion of "backing up" community-based services into the institution to maximize the transition process.

Sixty days prior to release, IAP youth begin a series of step-down measures, including supervised trips to the community and, 30 days before release, overnight or weekend home passes. Upon release to parole, most program youth go through several months of day treatment programming that, in addition to services, provides a high level of structure during the day. Trackers provide evening and weekend monitoring during this period of reentry. As a youth's progress warrants, the frequency of supervision contacts decreases. The planned frequency of contact is once per week during the first few months of supervision, with gradual reductions to once per month in later stages of supervision.

Nevada. Like Colorado, Nevada's transition has programmatic and structural dimensions. Once the parole plan is finalized, all IAP youth begin a 30-day prerelease phase during which IAP staff provide a series of services that continue through the early months of parole. These consist primarily of two structured curriculums on life skills (Jettstream) and substance abuse (Rational Recovery).14 In addition, a money management program (The Money Program) is initiated. Youth are provided with mock checking accounts from which "bills" must be paid for rent, food, insurance, and other necessities. Youth also can use their accounts to purchase recreation and other privileges, but each youth must have a balance of at least $50 at the end of the 30 days to purchase his bus ticket home.

The initial 30 days of release are considered an institutional furlough (i.e., youth are still on the institutional rolls) that involves intensive supervision and service, any time during which the youth may be returned to Caliente Youth Center for significant program infractions. To ensure that community staff have the capability of returning youth to Caliente, two beds are kept open and in reserve. During furlough, youth are involved in day programming and are subject to frequent drug testing and evening and weekend surveillance. Upon successful completion of the furlough, the IAP transition continues through the use of phased levels of supervision. During the first 3 months, three contacts per week with the case manager or field agent are required. This level of supervision is reduced to two contacts per week for the next 2 months, and then to once per week during the last month of parole.

Virginia. Virginia's transition differs from the other two sites in that its central feature is the use of group home placements as a bridge between the institution and the community. Immediately after release from the institution, youth enter one of two group homes for a 30- to 60-day period. The programs and services in which they will be involved in the community are initiated shortly after placement in the group home. As in Nevada, Virginia uses a formal step-down system to gradually ease the intensity of parole supervision. In the 2 months following the youth's release from the group home, staff are required to contact him five to seven times per week. This is reduced to three to five times per week during the next 2 months and again to three times per week during the final 30 days.

Virginia has had limited success in initiating services in the institutional phase that are then continued during aftercare. IAP staff developed a comprehensive life skills curriculum designed for this purpose, but it has not been consistently delivered in both settings. Because State officials frown on contracting for services with community providers for institutionalized youth, this avenue for transition-oriented, continuous service delivery largely has been blocked.

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Implementation of the Intensive Community-Based Aftercare Program Juvenile Justice Bulletin July 2000