The Female Intervention Team

Marian D. Daniel is the Baltimore City Area Director for the State of Maryland Department of Juvenile Justice. She is also the founder and Director of the Female Intervention Team (FIT), Chair of the Maryland Female Population Task Force, and Vice President of the National Girls' Caucus. In 1995, FIT placed in the first runner-up category for the Harvard School Award for Innovations in Government.
In 1992, the Department of Juvenile Justice in Maryland developed a task force to assess the needs of female offenders in the juvenile justice system. The female population in Maryland at the time was growing, and State programming for females included little other than commitment to either short-term residential group homes or Maryland's one long-term secure residential program. The task force recommended that a gender-specific program be developed for girls in Baltimore City, which at the time was the largest jurisdiction in the State of Maryland. Thus, the Female Intervention Team (FIT) was born.

Baltimore started FIT in 1992, following an evaluation and assessment of girls in detention and secure commitment facilities by members of the task force. Because this community-based program for girls adjudicated delinquent by the court began without additional funding from Maryland's Department of Juvenile Justice, finding existing staff who were willing to be reassigned to supervise an all-female caseload was a considerable challenge.

Staff support was critical because the program required people committed to the idea of doing something different and unafraid of the unique challenges that supervising females presents.

Once staff willing to work with an all-female caseload were identified, the girls' cases were transferred into the unit and caseloads were reorganized. Because boys represented most of the cases being handled by those who volunteered, their cases also needed to be transferred to other staff. To accomplish this task, the FIT program director offered staff not working in the FIT unit the opportunity to transfer 1 girl's case for every 10 boys' cases they accepted. Within 3 weeks, the staff had transferred more than 300 girls to the FIT unit. At the time, there was little understanding of why case managers were uncomfortable working with female offenders. Was the problem the lack of resources for girls or the lack of knowledge about what drives girls to commit delinquent acts? In an informal survey, many case managers suggested that both factors were involved. Regardless of the reasons for their discomfort, staff made clear their perceptions of working with girls, as they were willing to take 10 boys in exchange for 1 girl.